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The Food Mood Connection: what we eat directly affects our mental health, a nutritional psychiatrist says

The real comfort foods are those that help keep our bodies and minds healthy, says Uma Naidoo’s book The Food Mood Connection

By | Olivia Potts |

It’s cold and dark, and we’re staring down the barrel of at least a month confined to our homes. As both a food writer and an inherently anxious person, this means one thing: comfort eating.

As the early US election results rolled in, I found myself writing a list of recipes that might bring me some small comfort, from pasta bakes to sponge cakes. But a new book by a nutritional psychiatrist suggests that I’m approaching comfort eating in all the wrong ways.

The Food Mood Connection, written by Harvard nutritional psychiatrist, Dr Uma Naidoo, charts the effect that what we put in our mouths can have on how our brains work, and the direct influence it may have on our mental health.

As someone who turns to Marmite-y toast and Diet Coke whenever I’m feeling fragile, I panicked when I started to read Naidoo’s book. If I’m honest, I don’t really want to give these things up for sardines or kale. But of course it’s more complicated than that.

Naidoo certainly has strong views about which foods support our health and wellbeing, but she also acknowledges the wider context – how things like heritage and our childhood can make certain foods powerfully soothing.

Uma Naidoo Author Provided by
Uma Naidoo, author of The Food Mood Connection, is a nutritional psychiatrist and also a trained chef

Comfort food

We have a complicated relationship with food. It soothes us, and transports us. But sometimes, the food we deem comforting is a sticking plaster for the problem.

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