Ever get a craving for an orange when you know you haven’t had enough Vitamin C or a fresh spinach salad when you feel low on iron?
How do you eat with purpose like that all the time?
Drew Ramsey, MD is a believer in food as the key to health. Eat Complete: The 21 Nutrients that Fuel Brainpower, Boost Weight Loss and Transform Your Health (Harper Collins 2016) is an important book for anyone who wants to eat in a healthier, smarter way. The emphasis is on “smart” because Dr. Ramsey is a psychiatrist and he cares about healthy brains:
For the first time in centuries, doctors are prescribing food….My work as a psychiatrist is all about brain health, which means helping people care for and protect their biggest asset: the brain. And it turns out that brain health is directly influenced by the food we eat. (p. 3)
Nutritional psychiatry is all about choosing the best foods for brain health. Dr. Ramsey points out that the brain consumes 20% of all we eat. Eating brain-healthy foods makes sense for everyone, not just those who are facing mental health issues. It’s especially important for people trying to loose weight – dieting smarter and protecting and enhancing brain health is what Eat Complete is all about. Much of it will be familiar advice, but it is helpful to know the science behind your mom telling you to finish your vegetables or eat more fish.
The core of the books is a chapter on The Essential 21 Nutrients. Study this well before you go on to the recipes that are recommended for each nutrient. “Focus on eating the most concentrated sources of the most important nutrients for your brain. (p 29)” Dr. Ramsey has lots of principles to guide Compete Eaters (Compleaters) that largely mirror the rules of other informed eaters like Michael Pollen. He includes and defines terms like: Plant Based, Complex Carbohydrates, Sensible Seafood, Microbiome Cultivation, Whole and Fermented Grains, etc. The Essential 21 are further categorized: for Foundation, for Protection, and For Ignition. The first under 7 for Foundation is Fats. He describes in detail the importance of Omega 3-Fats like Alpha-Linolenic Acid and others. There is a list of recipes that include these fats, and a recommended daily amount (Women 1.1g/Men 1.6 g) (p. 43). Next are Vitamin B12, Magnesium, Vitamin B9, Prebiotics and Probiotics, and finally Complete Proteins.
Turning to the recipes, for breakfast you might want to whip up a Kiwi Green Smoothie (p. 113) with yogurt, kale, spinach, kiwis, almonds, and chia seeds. You’ll get a boost of Magnesium (80%) and plenty of Vitamin K (one of the 7 for Protection). You could also make Chocolate Hot Amaranth Breakfast Cereal (p. 129) that also has a big helping of Magnesium along with Zinc, Iron, Fiber, and Protein.
If you want to put together a meal with high Vitamin B9 then lunch on Citrus Scallops (p. 148) with a side order of Pancetta Brussels Sprouts (p. 151) or you could choose Artichoke-Leek Carpaccio (p. 141) for a helping of both B9, Probiotics and Prebiotics, as well as Magnesium, Vitamins K and C.
It isn’t hard to create a satisfying, brain-feeding menu, that’s also part of a good diet. Dr. Ramsey includes anti-inflammatory ingredients like turmeric in dessert: Turmeric-Mango Gratin (p. 265) so that your body will ache a little less after you exercise. There are even gluten-free recipes, like Cashew-Banana Bread (p. 270) so the whole family and your gluten-free neighbor can enjoy getting Magnesium, Fiber, Vitamin E, Thiamine, Calcium and Protein with their tea.
Eat Complete is a wonderful resource for anyone wanting to get healthy, stay healthy, and eat with more purpose. Armed with the ample scientific knowledge Dr. Ramsey provides, you can make better decisions on what to eat and what to cook and what craving to give into.