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Optimal Brain Function & Nutritional Neuroscience with Dr Delia McCabe


Optimal Brain Function & Nutritional Neuroscience with Dr Delia McCabe

Felicity Cohen: Hello, I’m Felicity Cohen. I’m so excited to introduce you to my Wellness Warriors podcast. For over 20 years, I’ve been a passionate advocate for helping thousands of Australians find solutions to treating obesity and health-related complications through surgical intervention and holistic managed care.

My podcast is dedicated to all the people past, present, and future who have helped shape my journey and continue to inspire me to work consistently to achieve a healthier Australia in both adults and future generations. I hope you enjoy. Welcome to the Wellness Warriors podcast. Today I’d like to introduce to you Dr.

Delia McCabe. A fascinating background, and I think you have so many different areas that you work in Delia, as a stress resilience consultant, as a neuroscientist, but started first of all, as a psychologist in your professional pathway. Tell me a little bit about where did you first start and how did you actually move on to become a stress resilience consultant. Where did that all come from?

Dr Delia McCabe: It’s kind of a long story, Felicity, because I’ll age myself, 25 years ago, I had to make a decision because I was working with a group of very smart school children. Many of whom were failing at school. Now these are the children whose parents are always throwing up their hands about, you know, the teachers are saying these children are really capable, but they’re failing.

So what’s the problem? And I was looking at the psychological variables that underpinned their under-achievement. And as fate would have it, I had a little bit of extra space on one of my questionnaires that I developed. And I just said to them, what’s your favourite food?

And all the children in the experimental group, the kids who were smart, but doing badly, love the junk food. And all the children in my control group, the smart kids who were doing well, didn’t have the junk food. So I was like, wow, that’s really amazing. Because very seldom in research, do you find such a clear distinction.

And once again, fate played a role because I was very pregnant with my first child, my daughter. And I thought let’s take a little break and figure out if what we eat really affects the brain. Because there wasn’t a lot of research into that field at that point in time and I hadn’t found the people who knew about that. And all my peers spoke about that story people better. And I was like, maybe there’s something else.

So I stepped away and I couldn’t go back to the talking cure because I wanted to say to people, what did you have for breakfast? And what are your food cravings? And what’s your relationship like with food? I didn’t want to speak to them about all the other variables.

Now, 25 years later understand that psychology has a huge role to play in mental health, but you want to make sure the foundation’s right. So if you’re going to speak to someone about changing their thoughts, you want to make sure that their brain is well-nourished.

So the stress resiliency part of the question, about six -seven years ago, I was feeling really stressed. My kids were, were at the teenage stage and I was feeling kind of overwhelmed.

And I looked around me and I saw there were a lot of women who were feeling the same way. And I thought, is the stressed female brain different to the male stressed brain. And you know, what does a stressed brain actually look like? And what are the negatives of having a stressed brain for a long period of time? So I dived into that topic in my PhD.

So I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to be stress-resilient.

Felicity Cohen: Oh, I’m so fascinated. But I just want to go back a step because you’ve tapped into something that is really valuable and part of everything that we believe in here.

I’ve got a program that we run here called GRIT – growth resilience, insights and thrive. It’s our childhood obesity prevention program, working with kids aged 9 to 15, mostly. And one of the biggest things that we were able to impact was their choice of discretionary foods and moving them away from those junk foods by teaching them good health habits around food. One of the things that is so important for me personally, that I think I see as such a big issue is that these children who are overweight and not performing at school, it’s setting them up on a pathway where they potentially are not going to succeed well in life. Not just at school, but then there’s also the bullying and other issues that they’re dealing with. So impacting their diet to impact their performance, their self-esteem, is so important.

And two of the most significant things that we learned out of our first study with grit was not just the discretionary food choices, but that their self-concept scores went right up. So, so fascinating that you could see that. And I can confirm that with our small amount of research that we’ve dived into in that space that it is so important. And in that childhood prevention program, so valuable and so important to continue to work in that space as well.

Dr Delia McCabe: Absolutely. I think when people understand that the way you eat in your childhood actually impact you until your last breath, because there’s research to show that if you eat a lot of sugar in childhood, it actually increases your risk of getting dementia. So we know that those foundations are extremely, extremely important.

And then of course, as you’ve mentioned, you know, the self-efficacy that the person has – their confidence. How they go into the world and face the world. All of that is impacted by the choice of food and because of what they’ve looked like and their exercise level. And again, exercise also determines brain development.

So when children are overweight and they don’t feel comfortable in their bodies, they’re much less likely to go and exercise. So we have a huge, it’s kind of like a perfect storm when they’re young and those issues aren’t addressed. We need to be able to address them. And then across the lifetime, a lot to tell people that neuroplasticity is a wonderful thing because our brains can change at any age.

When we are young, we’ve got a bit of a head-start to be able to make sure that we entrenched really, really good habits in the young, very plastic brain. Because those carry on through a lifetime and then can serve us or the opposite. If we don’t know what to do.

Felicity Cohen: Absolutely. I’m really concerned about the increase in volume of sugar that people are consuming from a young age and how that does equate to dementia, Alzheimer’s and other conditions in an aging population. Trying to educate the young, I think, is so important in terms of prevention. So you’ve obviously done quite a bit of work in that space as well.

Dr Delia McCabe: I didn’t go into that because I looked at it and I thought, wow, that’s fascinating. I thought it would take me a couple of weeks to figure out, you know, what we eat and how it affects the brain. But it didn’t, it took me years and years to figure that out. Because there were very few researchers in that environment.

So I didn’t, unfortunately, go and influence otherchildren in that. But when I wrote my book, I had so many parents say how grateful they were for that. Because now they could say to their children, look, this is what the science says, and this is how we must eat because now you can eat yourself smarter. And so that was the way I gave back by writing my book about this very important topic.

Felicity Cohen: Fabulous. I can’t wait to hear more about the book.

Let’s dive into mood and women. You, obviously, from your first personal experience started to look into what were some of the things that were impacting stress in women and how you could actually look at becoming more resilient.

So tell me about that phase of your life and what did that lead towards?

Dr Delia McCabe: It was fascinating, Felicity, because I firstly figured out it wasn’t me alone, that lots of women were feeling this way. And then our thought, well, let’s ask them about that. But the problem was when I got into my research is that these women were feeling so stressed and overwhelmed.

They didn’t have time to answer these questions. So I had to get really creative about how I found these women. I did find them and I spoke to them. And what a lot of them were doing, they were using dietary supplements to make themselves feel better. And so my research dived into wasn’t really helping them. But that’s a bit of a different discussion.

So I just want to point out why women experience so much stress today. I think a lot of women aren’t aware of the fact that we are already quite primed to be stressed because of our environment, firstly. So we call the factors that impact women in relation to our environment and our psyche psychosocial factors.

So these are related to juggling. We all know what this is like, you’re juggling the children, you’re juggling the home, you’re juggling your job and you’re forever juggling. So women have this feeling of stress and overwhelm. Like they can never take a deep breath because there’s too much to do.

So that’s the first aspect. The second aspect is our hormones. We live in a world where people don’t like to talk about hormones and differences between men and women. But the truth of the matter is that we are different. And we are different, not just physically, because women give birth and men don’t. But also those differences, those hormonal differences impact brain function.

So just let’s take oestrogen as an example, oestrogen works with serotonin. So women’s oestrogen fluctuates during the month, compared to men’s testosterone that doesn’t. So when a woman’s oestrogen fluctuates, it impacts serotonin, which means it’s going to impact our mood. It’s going to impact our appetite and our level of satiation when we eat.

It’s going to impact our ability to sleep and basically just mood modulation. So when women are experiencing challenges in those areas, it’s because of oestrogen. Now, if there’s a challenge and the woman has a real fluctuation, then they will notice it certain times of the month. They feel a little crazy and they just want to eat chocolate.

And this is because of oestrogen is direct impact on serotonin. The other thing is progesterone. Progesterone is linked to GABA. GABA is a calming and soothing neurotransmitter. So when oestrogen peaks and goes into a trough. We feel wired, but tired. We can’t feel relaxed and that’s the role of progesterone. GABA, once again, challenging when it reaches the extremes.

So hormones are the second aspect of why women experience stress differently to men. The third aspect is because women’s brains are actually busier than men. Any woman will say, oh no, that’s true because you’ll be thinking about five or six things at the same time. Whereas your partner or the male in your life, or your son will go, why are you worrying about that? That’s happening next week. And you go yeah, but I’ve got to keep it in mind.

So our brains are a lot busier than men. Also very busy in what we call the limbic area, which is the area of the brain that deals with emotions, fear, concern and worry. So those three areas are why women are much more vulnerable to experiencing stress.

And also then emotional eating because women tend to eat from an emotional perspective, not just because of the hormones and the neurotransmitters impact. But because we’ve learned that highly processed food actually dampens the HPA, the hypothalamus pituitary, adrenal access, stress response. It actually dampens it because it causes the release of what we call endogenous opioids.

So when a woman has that chocolate bar or that packet of crisps for a few minutes afterwards, she feels really calm and she feels sooth. Then she feels that everything. You know, under control, but it’s because of this release of opioids, which is dampening that stress response. So that’s another thing to keep in mind that our society with its prevalence of all these highly processed foods have taught us that we can actually reduce the stress response a little bit if we consume them.

And that’s something that needs to be changed because that’s a neural pathway that gets established. So that actually means that our brain has both a pathway for that and now we’ve also got the psychology behind that. And then we’ve got the actual neurochemistry underlying that. So there are a few layers that we have to tease out to be able to get rid of this knee-jerk reaction that women have to stress.

Felicity Cohen: Yeah. Wow. It’s amazing. I’m so interested in that impact around how we self modulate or how do we correct that serotonin response so that we can remain a bit more stable. What are some of the answers around how to manage that without resorting to choosing those foods like the chocolate and the chips.

In fact, one of the things that I hear a lot from patients when they get to that realization, that they really need to have something to change that they’ve tried all the diets and everything else before they’ve actually made that phone call. I need that missing piece of the puzzle to make this work.

One of the things that I will hear them say, My hormones, it’s the hormones that have created the problem. So learning how to deal with that’s a massive conversation to have, but I guess it start with the serotonin balancing and how do we get that right?

Dr Delia McCabe: Well, the thing about serotonin is that 80% of our serotonin is produced in our gut and we call that peripheral serotonin. That’s different to the serotonin in the brain.

So now we need to talk about gut health a little. Because when our gut health improves, our serotonin synthesis improves as well. Once again, there are a few levels here because when we very stressed, our gut and digestive challenges are exacerbated. Women have significantly more rights of irritable bowel syndrome than men because of that.

So we need to find a way to reduce our stress so that our gut doesn’t become impacted and that doesn’t impact our serotonin synthesis. But just to go back a step, the oestrogen production is extremely important because when women are still in their childbearing years, that oestrogen can be heightened because of fake oestrogens in our environment.

So consuming food that is organic is extremely important, making sure that we’re not putting on chemicals that actually act as a obesogens because they also impact our endocrine system. Making sure that the water that we drink is pure water, making sure that we exercise and sweat to get rid of toxins that are actually fat soluble and therefore linked to pesticides.

So those are a number of things to do to make sure that our oestrogen is balanced. When we go into menopause, it shifts a little because in our oestrogen basically falls off the cliff and then we may need help in keeping our oestrogen levels up. So that’s a different conversation. But that oestrogen maintaining it and making sure we’ve got the perfect balance for ourselves is extremely important.

Women can turn to bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, which is definitely better than the artificial hormone replacement therapy. But there are many things that they can do before they get there to make sure that the oestrogen is balanced both ways.

So that’s part of the conversation. But gut is extremely important and I think we’ve got a lot of control over that because the more good fibre we consume, the better our gut function is. Women have a little bit of a challenge because our transit time is a little bit longer than men’s transit time. And that we think is because of the oestrogen influence on serotonin.

So that means that if we don’t eat enough fibre, it actually impacts us more than it impacts men. Because that means our transit time from when we eat the food, digest it and eliminate the toxins and the waste is longer for us. So that means you’ve got a longer time to reabsorb some oestrogens, and that’s a problem.

So making sure that our gut is functioning optimally, make sure that we’re not reabsorbing toxins, reabsorbing oestrogen, and that our transit time isn’t longer than it needs to be. Because that’s also an important part of it, the gut discussion.

Felicity Cohen: So fibre, obviously, super important for women and important for all people.

I think an organic diet, absolutely. I’m really a great fan of making sure that we’re careful about all the things that we’re ingesting and that we’re putting on topically. I think something that’s been a bit of an issue in the last 12 months is the use of hand sanitiserer because we know that it is an endocrine disruptor.

What is your take on what’s appropriate and how do we manage that? And if we’re conscious and self-conscious about how much hand sanitiserer we’re using I see that as a bit of an issue in our society, because it’s something that we’ve all had to adopt, adjust and adapt to.

It doesn’t matter where you go these days, there’s going to be hand sanitiserer on the desk or at the counter or walking to a store. Sometimes you’re going to be asked to use it before you can even walk through the door. What do you think about that?

Dr Delia McCabe: Look, it’s a huge challenge and I don’t think there’s an easy answer to that.

I use a hand sanitiserer that’s doesn’t have any bad chemicals in it and I had to go and source that. So I made a point of doing that. I try to show people that I’m using my own before I walk in. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. So one can try that. The other option is to wear a pair of gloves. And then if you’re wearing the pair of gloves, then you put the hand sanitiserer on the gloves and you’re not getting it onto your skin.

The other thing to keep in mind is that if we really are healthy and our body is functioning the way it should, those toxins will be dealt with adequately. Which means that if your cell membranes are made up of the right kinds of fats. For example, they will quickly be able to detect toxins in your environment and in your tissues, and we’ll be able to expel them with ease.

So once again, we come back to kind of like an innate immunity to those toxins because we can’t avoid the toxins in the world. It’s really difficult to do that, but obviously the hand sanitiserer brings it really, really close to home. So those are the two things that I suggest people do. And then of course, the third one, if we make sure that our cells are as healthy as possible, we will be able to deal with the excess toxins that we are unfortunately being exposed to. We can do the best that we can.

Felicity Cohen: Yeah, absolutely. So tell me more about stress resilience. I think that’s something that is such an important concept. First of all, to think about that, we do need to deal with stress. We’re all going to have stress in our lives every single day.

Whether it’s dealing with the positive and the negative stressors, it’s part of life. And yes, women are exposed to so much more. I totally agree that juggle of the perfect life balance equation, managing work, children, whatever else is in that mix, it is really hard. So what are some of the things that we can learn to become more stress resilience?

Dr Delia McCabe: I think this is a big conversation but it’s an important one. I think one of the things that social media has really damaged woman in is women thinking that you have to be perfect. So we see women who look like they are living a perfect life. You look at them, they’ve got a perfect home. Their children are perfect. They’re a perfect marriage. They’ve got a perfect business. They eat perfectly. They’re showing you this facade. And many of these women are, unfortunately, not living that perfect life. They are drinking more alcohol than they should. And they’re not telling anyone they’re using anxiolytics, they’re using sleeping tablets. But they need to portray this.

Unfortunately, the women that are battling, which is all of us basically are looking at that image and saying, why can’t I obtain that? Now there’s a challenge here because we actually have to step back and say, well, what is perfect for me? And I think that’s the first thing that women need to ask.

What is perfect for me? What do I need? Do I need to have a perfect home? I think these are questions that relate to our values. When I speak to women and our work with them that’s one of the first things I say to them, what are your values? What is really important to you? If your children’s health and wellbeing is your top priority, then don’t try and make your house look perfect.

I’m not saying live in a pigsty, not at all, but it doesn’t have to look as if it’s going to be photographed by a decor magazine every day. These are the reasons that women feel like they need to be because they spending too much time on social media instead of looking at themselves and say, what’s perfect for me? What do I need with my children?

I think something else that happens to us as women and as humans, we don’t realize that life is finite. The years with our children are very precious and they go by very quickly. And if you spending your whole time during that period and that stage of your life trying to make everything look perfect, you’re missing the opportunity to actually just be with your children. Because you never get it back.

So I think discussing values, discussing what’s perfect for me is very important. Sometimes this is confronting for women because they have really bought into the story that everything needs to be perfect. I worked with a woman a while ago and she was so distressed because she saw all these other women around her having a perfect laugh. I said, look, they’re only showing you the best parts. Then we ended up having a long discussion about what her values were. So she realigned herself. She’s focused now on what’s perfect for her and she feels better. She feels like she can take a deep breath. She feels like every day is manageable now because she’s only focusing on the things that are her values that are the priorities for her.

This is where we come back to the psychology of stress. As far as the nutritional stress goes, making sure that our blood glucose system, it’s an extremely important part of managing stress. Because when our blood glucose goes up and down, a few things happen. The minute our blood glucose goes up and down regularly, there’s a mechanism in the body that says you could be in trouble here I’m going to store any excess carbs as fats.

So women have said to me, can I put on a weight because I’m stressed? Of course you can because of this particular mechanism. So that’s the first thing. The second thing that happens when blood glucose goes up and down is that you separately set up the stress response in the body. Because the brain is saying, hold on a second, you’re running out of food here. There’s no fuel for me. I have no place to store fuel. There’s just this tiny place that’s a very busy place. Eat quickly. And to do that, a shot of adrenaline is sent into the bloodstream. So just that on its own creates stress by itself. So making sure that our diet is really optimal to keep our blood glucose stable is an extremely important way to manage the stress response.

Because just by doing that, you’re making yourself more capable of coping with whatever comes up. As the last 14 plus months have taught us, we need to become capable of dealing with whatever appears. Because we now know that we don’t know what to expect. If someone says, X, Y, Z is going to happen, you can prepare yourself with that however you do so you can. One of the worst stresses for the brain is not having any control over a situation, which is why so many people have felt so stressed. So becoming capable of looking after our body, becoming capable of knowing what our values are. All of these things are ways to keep ourselves in a state of coping with whatever is coming up.

Felicity Cohen: So interesting. Thank you so much. One of the other areas of your work that I find fascinating is learning how to manage our nutrition to get better creativity, to be able to think more clearly, to be more capable through the day, to have a great brain function.

How do we actually get ourselves to be better performers? What are some of the things that we should be thinking about so that we can have greater brain function? What are some of the things that you actually have focused on in that space?

Dr Delia McCabe: Well, it’s a great question because being creative and innovative is one of the things that we need to do as a specie, especially now with everything changing as it is.

The part of the brain that is responsible for that is the prefrontal cortex. So the prefrontal cortex is the most recent development in the human brain. It doesn’t have any automatic workarounds, like other parts of the brain have developed. So it’s the part of the brain that really uses a vast quantity of energy.

So if we can put it into context, the brain uses 20% plus more ,when we’re stressed, of the carbohydrates as energy that we consume. If you think about that, it’s a very small organ that is very greedy. So it’s our greediest organ. Of that, the prefrontal cortex uses 20% plus of that energy. So it is really the greediest part of the brain.

And it’s only really capable of functioning optimally between three and four hours a day. For most people it isn’t even that because they haven’t trained their brains to be able to function optimally for that period of time. Because in that period of time, you have to get rid of all distractions so that you can focus on one thing. So your focus and concentration is very important using that part of your brain. It will be accessing your memory to access information that you have previously come across. But because it’s the creative and innovative part of the brain, it’s going to be taking some of the memory. Taking some of the information from your working memory and putting it together in unique ways.

And that takes a lot of energy to do that. I love to tell people that stress is very expensive from a nutritional perspective, because to make adrenaline and cortisol, it doesn’t just happen. We use all of the same nutrients to make those hormones as we do to create energy in the brain. So you can’t be calm, creative, thinking about the consequences, thinking about patents, thinking about creating new solutions to problems when you are stressed. You don’t have enough nutrients and you can’t focus. I think a lot of people felt this in a very real way during working from home while they were trying to teach their children. Because they’ve got the children there, they’ve got the boss there, they’ve got the team meeting, and they’re trying to do work.

And their brains going no, no. And at the end of the day, they were shattered and they couldn’t make decisions anymore, which we actually have a term for called decision fatigue. The brain goes no more stop. So it’s extremely important for people to understand that this part of the brain is not just a never-ending ongoing resource. It demands from us. It demands optimum nutrition. It demands optimum focus and concentration. In essence, we need to respect it as being the most sophisticated part of the brain that really needs us to be on top form and to step up to serve it.

Felicity Cohen: So what is optimum nutrition for the brain and what does that look like? Is that something that we can actively work towards?

And also brain training. Can we actually work on training our brains? I know that for me personally, I can have days when I’m highly productive and I get to the end and I think, oh that was amazing. My output, my energy levels and what I’ve achieved today was fabulous. But then the next day I’ll be disappointed because I can’t perform at the same level. I guess that’s normal. What are some of the things that we can look at for optimum brain nutrition?

Dr Delia McCabe: The things that we can do to make sure that we have more good days than bad days are making sure that we take care of our macronutrients and the most important one is fats and oils.

This was an interesting thing for me because when I decided to step away from just trying to talk people better, I stumbled upon the fact that 60% of the dry weight of the brain is made up of fat. I thought, well, this will take me a couple of weeks to figure out, and I can promise you 25 years later, I’m still learning. It’s the most complicated area of nutritional science. Because most people don’t understand that there are very important differences between saturated fat, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. And of that 60% of the dry weight in the brain, 20% to 25% needs to be made up of essential fatty acids.

That’s the polyunsaturated fats, omega-three, and omega six is what most people know them by. Because those fats, because of the specific molecular structure allow neurons to be very flexible and malleable with information and communicating with each other. If you don’t have those particular fats in your cell membrane, what happens is that those neurons can’t respond very quickly to the environment.

They don’t synthesise and release neurotransmitters across the synapse with as much ease as they could if they had the right fats in them. So this is a very complex area of neuroscience, but it’s really simple to understand. Because if you eat the right essential fats, you allow those neurons to work optimally.

They can then check beautifully with their neighbours. You can easily make neuronal pathways to establish increased focus and concentration, the increase and the capacity to respond to the environment, optimally. So that’s the first thing, the essential fats. They kind of like the structure of how the brain functions and when the structure’s working really well, then the function obviously steps up as well.

Now to be able to allow the function to work well, we need to make sure that we have the right amount of protein that’s clean. Because protein is the building block of our neurotransmitters and the neurotransmitters are the way our neurons speak to each other through an electric chemical impulse. So if we not consuming the right kinds of protein and it’s got a lot of toxins with it, and also our digestive system, isn’t working optimally to break down the protein, which is hard to break down.

Then we don’t get the building blocks for the neurotransmitters. So that’s an important thing to ensure we’re getting enough of. The third thing of course is carbohydrates. Now we live in a world where low carb, keto, paleo, all of them that has made people very confused about carbohydrates and how they actually work in the body and the brain.

So I’m just going to say this; carbohydrates are the preferred fuel for the brain. The brain operates optimally when it’s consuming carbohydrates or using carbohydrates as a source of energy. However, I’m not talking about chips and lollies. I’m talking about the kind of carbohydrates we get in very colourful, fresh produce.

So for example, broccoli, capsicums, butternut, all of these kinds of foods contain carbohydrates. Plus a lot of other really important nutrients we do of course have carbs like rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, quinoa, mullet and so on. Now, some people can consume those without a challenge.

Some people find that their metabolism isn’t fast enough and they put on weight when they consume too much of it. But no one wants to feel deprived. So we have to find a way to include those foods in people’s diets, without them feeling deprived and excluding them all. And you do a lot more about that than me, but those carbohydrates are extremely important for allowing the brain to function because there’s no place to store fuel in the brain. We know where we stored on our body, but there’s no place in the brain. So when that blood glucose drops because we eating very refined carbs and not eating carbs to sustain our blood glucose and we have the stress response and the domino effect that, that comes from there.

So those are the first three things; the macros that’s the fats and oils, the protein and the carbs. If you concentrating on those foods and the right kinds of foods, they’ve got enough of all the nutrients you need. That’s all the vitamins or the minerals, all the co-factors that are required to keep the brain functioning optimally.

It’s not complicated to do that if you eat as close to nature as possible. You take into account your activity level and you take into account some genes which do impact the capacity for the brain to use some nutrients. So some people may need to use activated forms of some vitamins to be able to allow the body and brain to use them optimally.

But that’s basically the kind of diet, let’s call it a nutrient dense, seasonal diet that takes into account a wide variety of produce to be able to give us the best chance of all the nutrients; macro nutrients, minor nutrients, and also the fibre that we need to keep our gut healthy.

Felicity Cohen: So with the variation in oils, the mono, the unsaturated, the saturated and all of these different oils that we need to consider in our diet.

What’s the best oil that’s going to really fuel your brain?

Dr Delia McCabe: It’s a complex answer. I think the most important thing to remember is that if we never ate any saturated fats again, or we never ate any mono unsaturated fats again, we’d be fine. It’s not that we have to cut them out but if we did cut them out, the body makes them. That’s where the whole fat-free dilemma disaster came in because people said, oh, let’s cut out all the fat. But then I didn’t understand that excess carbs get turned into saturated fats and mono. The essential fats that are omega six and omega three we can get from seeds so we can get them from flax seeds. We can get them from chia seeds. If we eat a lot of greens, we’re getting good omega six.

The omega six to avoid are the shelf stable ones in plastic bottles, down those golden aisles in the supermarket. Those are toxic oils. So when the media tells us that omega six is bad for us, and we shouldn’t be consuming omega six, they don’t actually know what they talking about. But they’re giving a little bit of the truth because those omega six oils we talking about things like canola oil, sunflower seed oil, all the oils that are stored in plastic are already toxic by the time they get into the plastic and the plastic makes them more so. So we have to find other ways to consume omega six and omega three without consuming those.

So things like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and as I say, chia and flax, but always ground up, give you omega six and omega three that your body and brain will then use, to be able to make sure that that 20 to 25% in the brain is made up of those essential fats.

Felicity Cohen: Fabulous. I love all of that. I’m so interested to hear about the books that you’ve written, Delia.

Tell me about when you started to write your books and tell us a bit about the book that you’ve actually launched. What was that? When did you first do that?

Dr Delia McCabe: I started writing the book a very long time ago, documenting what I was finding out. So it turned into a book by accident. The first book is Feed Your Brain: Seven Steps to a Lighter Brighter You.

And it’s a play on words, obviously, but I wrote that so people would understand the science of feeding their brain optimally because when your brain is fed optimally, you also naturally just by default are also feeding your body optimally. So it’s kind of like whatever you’re doing for your brain filters down and you’re getting the benefit.

The second book I wrote was because people say, well, that’s great. There’s some recipes in the first book, but I want to know more about how to take the science into my kitchen. And then I wrote, Feed Your Brain: the Cookbook, which is taking all that science and taking the, the information about the oils, especially not heating the oils and making sure that you have really nutrient dense meals and meals that kids will love and enjoy.

And even chocolate I put that all in my second book. So if people want to know the science, they can read all about the science and then they can take it into their kitchen. If they’re not interested about the science, they can just ignore it and just start making the foods that will support optimal brain health.

Felicity Cohen: I love that. I can’t wait. I’m fascinated by the cookbook. If you’ve got a favorite recipe there that you use a lot?

Dr Delia McCabe: That’s a good question. I actually have a gift that you can give people that watch this video and listen to the podcast and I’ll make it available for you with my far favorite recipe.

One of them is what I call artichoke hommus. So I make ordinary hommus, but I’d put artichokes in it because artichokes are fantastic prebiotic food. So they actually are feeding your good bacteria. So you making sure that you proliferating the good bacteria by eating this hommus and it tastes delicious.

I also got a really good ice cream recipe that I love. And I’ve got a coconut beans recipe, which is a good one, and I’ll make a lot of salad dressings, because what a lot of people don’t know realize is that flavour molecules disperse optimally in fat, not in water. So when and people don’t trying to consume a diet and they’re limiting their fat intake, what’s happening is that their food doesn’t actually taste flavourful.

So they eat more of it because it’s not satisfying. So I have a lot of salad dressings. I think I’ve got 25 pages of salad dressings and sources in my second book because of that. So you can take roasted veggies and you can put wonderful sources on them. And have glorious salads with a wide variety of salad dressings and get the nutrients from the dressing as well as from the food and enjoy it more.

Those are some of my favorites.

Felicity Cohen: Fabulous. Because so often if people are going on a new style of eating plan, they feel that they’re going to be deprived because you can’t have the sources that they feel like there’s not going to be any flavour. So that sounds fabulous. I can’t wait to try them.

Dr Delia McCabe: I’ll make a tahini salad dressing, which is really, really high in magnesium and calcium. That’s good for you. It’s so delicious and it makes everything tastes yummy. So I think people are confused because I know that fat contains more calories than carbohydrates does.

But if you consume the right kinds of fats and you’re consuming them with the right carbs, then you’re getting all that satisfaction and you don’t feel a need to over eat. Fats are extremely important.

Felicity Cohen: Well, I’m so fascinated by your books and I’d love to be able to make them available to all of our weight loss warriors. So if I can, I’m going to put them up so that they can access them through our online shop.

Dr Delia McCabe: With pleasure.

Felicity Cohen: There’s a lot more that I’d love to learn from you, but I think we might save it for another episode if that’s okay with you.

It’s just been fascinating and I’ve absolutely loved having you here today. I do have a question that I like to ask all of my guests on the podcast. For you personally, how do you see wellness or what does wellness mean to you?

Dr Delia McCabe: That’s a good question. And I think a lot of people have been thinking about that through the last 14 plus months.

For me, wellness means that you don’t feel your body. And for me, I’ve always felt that that’s a real blessing because you know, when people get older, they start creaking and they can’t bend down. And for me being flexible and not being able to feel my body is a great, great blessing. And I’ve worked to, to make that the case.

So I think not feeling my body is one aspect of that. But I think also being capable of living your best life. Because when your mood is stable, when you’re at the weight that you feel good at, when you have lots of energy, when you don’t have cravings, when you can think clearly and creatively, you have the capacity to live out your dreams.

That’s what I wish more people could experience, because those are the things that hold people back or all the things that I’ve mentioned when they don’t experience that. That’s the answer, not feeling my body, no X, no pains. I can move. I can exercise, I never have pain or irritation, which is great. And I think being able to live my dreams.

Felicity Cohen: Love that. I think we should all be able to live our dreams.

Please thank Delia for joining me today. It’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much.

Dr Delia McCabe: It was a delight. Thank you for the invitation.

Felicity Cohen: Thank you for joining the Wellness Warriors podcast. It’s been a pleasure to have you online with us.

If you enjoyed the series, please leave your review, subscribe and follow. And we look forward to sharing many more stories with you in the future.

Nutritionist & Dietitian

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