cover image Eat and Flourish: How Food Supports Emotional Well-Being

Eat and Flourish: How Food Supports Emotional Well-Being

Mary Beth Albright. Countryman, $27.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-68268-690-4

Albright, who writes about food for the Washington Post, debuts with a fun and illuminating look at how food affects mental health. Examining neuroscience studies on the connections between the brain and how people eat, she describes how the brain adapts to the pleasure felt after eating ultra-processed food and requires increasing amounts of stimulation to achieve the same level of pleasure, but she notes that cooking for oneself offers a healthier way to enhance enjoyment of a meal. Albright covers research linking changes in the gut microbiome and the enteric nervous system with depression, as well as associating omega-3 fatty acids with levels of aggression and inflammation with emotional stability. Her gift for making science accessible and entertaining is on full display, whether she’s delving into “hangry neurons,” recounting the time she consumed wine and kale juice inside an fMRI machine, or describing a study in which students wore sensory deprivation gear and tried to “track the scent of chocolate from one point to another.” Her four-week plan for building a diverse microbiome, reducing inflammation, and boosting nutrient intake and pleasure includes eating fermented food, legumes, and lots of produce, as well as “eating with another person at least once per day.” The research is eye-opening, and Albright’s genial tone makes her an ideal tour guide. The result is a first-rate program for eating better. (Nov.)