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An illustration of a brain sitting on a plate with anthropomorphic facial expressions, surrounded by various foods like nuts and grapes. Text on the right reads "Eating for Mental Health" with an icon of 10 almonds in the bottom right corner, emphasizing the 6 pillars of nutritional psychiatry.

The 6 Pillars Of Nutritional Psychiatry

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Dr. Naidoo’s To-Dos

This is Dr. Uma Naidoo. She’s a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, professional chef graduating with her culinary school’s most coveted award, and a trained nutritionist. Between those three qualifications, she knows her stuff when it comes to the niche that is nutritional psychiatry.

She’s also the Director of Nutritional and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) & Director of Nutritional Psychiatry at MGH Academy while serving on the faculty at Harvard Medical School.

What is nutritional psychiatry?

Nutritional psychiatry is the study of how food influences our mood (in the short term) and our more generalized mental health (in the longer term).

We recently reviewed a book of hers on this topic:

This Is Your Brain On Food – by Dr. Uma Naidoo

The “Six Pillars” of nutritional psychiatry

Per Dr. Naidoo, these are…

Be Whole; Eat Whole

Here Dr. Naidoo recommends an “80/20 rule”, and a focus on fiber, to keep the gut (“the second brain”) healthy.

See also: The Brain-Gut Highway: A Two-Way Street

Eat The Rainbow

This one’s simple enough and speaks for itself. Very many brain-nutrients happen to be pigments, and “eating the rainbow” (plants, not Skittles!) is a way to ensure getting a lot of different kinds of brain-healthy flavonoids and other phytonutrients.

The Greener, The Better

As Dr. Naidoo writes:

❝Greens contain folate, an important vitamin that maintains the function of our neurotransmitters. Its consumption has been associated with a decrease in depressive symptoms and improved cognition.❞

Tap into Your Body Intelligence

This is about mindful eating, interoception, and keeping track of how we feel 30–60 minutes after eating different foods.

Basically, the same advice here as from: The Kitchen Doctor

(do check that out, as there’s more there than we have room to repeat here today!)

Consistency & Balance Are Key

Honestly, this one’s less a separate item and is more a reiteration of the 80/20 rule discussed in the first pillar, and an emphasis on creating sustainable change rather than loading up on brain-healthy superfoods for half a weekend and then going back to one’s previous dietary habits.

Avoid Anxiety-Triggering Foods

This is about avoiding sugar/HFCS, ultra-processed foods, and industrial seed oils such as canola and similar.

As for what to go for instead, she has a broad-palette menu of ingredients she recommends using as a base for one’s meals (remember she’s a celebrated chef as well as a psychiatrist and nutritionist), which you can check out here:

Dr. Naidoo’s “Food for Mood” project


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