Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Uma Naidoo

Alumni Spotlight:  Dr. Uma Naidoo

Michelin-starred chef David Bouley described Dr. Uma Naidoo as the world’s first “triple threat” in the food as medicine space: She is a Harvard trained psychiatrist, a Professional Chef with a diploma from Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, and Nutrition Specialist. Her niche work is in Nutritional Psychiatry and she is regarded both nationally and internationally as a medical pioneer in this more newly recognized field. Featured in the Wall Street Journal, ABC News, Harvard Health Press, Goop, and many others, Dr Uma has a special interest on the impact of food on mood and other mental health conditions. In her role as a Clinical Scientist, Dr. Naidoo founded and directs the first hospital-based clinical service in Nutritional Psychiatry in the USA. She is the Director of Nutritional and Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) & Director of Nutritional Psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital Academy while serving on the faculty at Harvard Medical School.

Dr Naidoo graduated from the Harvard-Longwood Psychiatry Residency Training Program in Boston during which she received several awards, some of which included a “Junior Investigator Award” (American Psychiatric Association); “Leadership Development for Physicians and Scientists” award (Harvard), as well as being the very first psychiatrist to be awarded the coveted “Curtis Prout Scholar in Medical
Education”. Dr Naidoo, has been asked by The American Psychiatric Association to author the first academic text in Nutritional Psychiatry.

In addition to this, Dr Naidoo is the author of the upcoming title, This Is Your Brain On Food, to be released August 4th, 2020. In her book, she shows the cutting-edge science explaining the ways in which food contributes to our mental health and how a sound diet can help treat and prevent a wide range of psychological and cognitive health issues, from ADHD to anxiety, depression, OCD, and others.


Dr. Naidoo’s new book is extremely timely due to the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has created.  From a recent article from the Harvard Health Blog,  Dr. Naidoo explained,  “With people eating more at home than ever before it is important to understand the connection between food and our health.  It’s hard to cope with being quarantined and not reach for your favorite salty, crunchy snack because of boredom or feeling on edge. A few pretzels or chips are okay, but many people may not be able to step away from eating the entire bag once it’s open. Also, if you’re already feeling blue, the quick fix of cookies or cake will ultimately make you feel worse. Processed foods and shelf-stable items like baked goods contain a lot of simple carbohydrates that create a yo-yo effect on our blood sugar, which can drive anxiety and worsen mood.”

Dr. Naidoo went on to offer some helpful tips to aid us in making better decisions at home.

How then can we mindfully make good food choices?

  • Make a schedule or a daily meal plan. A schedule is more predictable for you and for everyone in your household.
  • Consider apps to stay connected around a meal. Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime with family and friends. Share recipes or even cook virtually together.
  • Plan for groceries. Try to buy fewer processed, high-salt or high-sugar snacks.
  • Load up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins.
  • Save money. Skip the high-sugar soda and juices; instead flavor water with edible citrus or berries.
  • Plan and enjoy an occasional comfort food for a weekly treat — pick a day and enjoy whatever you want, just not all your favorites on the same day!
  • Manage your environment. If candy is simply not in the cupboard, then you can’t eat it.

Eating during COVID-19: Improve your mood and lower stress

Did you know that blueberries can help you cope with the after-effects of trauma? That salami can cause depression, or that boosting Vitamin D intake can help treat anxiety?

When it comes to diet, most people’s concerns involve weight loss, fitness, cardiac health, and longevity. But what we eat affects more than our bodies; it also affects our brains. Now more than ever our food is something we can control. Foods can boost our immunity which is also linked to levels of depression and anxiety; studies also show a link to insomnia, dementia and beyond.

This Is Your Brain on Food is the definitive book on eating for mental health, from the go-to expert on how food impacts the brain. It will help you use your diet to fight depression, anxiety, trauma, OCD, ADHD and more by teaching the science behind the gut-brain connection.

In This Is Your Brain on Food, she draws on cutting-edge research to explain the many ways in which food contributes to our mental health, and shows how a sound diet can help treat and prevent a wide range of psychological and cognitive health issues.

During her time at CSCA, Uma juggled her studies with her day job at the hospital, yet still managed to graduate from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts Professional Chef’s Program in 2012 with the MFK Fisher award for innovation.  Uma has found a unique way to combine her passions for food, nutrition, medicine, and science into an impressive career that continues to soar.  You can order Uma’s acclaimed book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other booksellers!

Congratulations Uma on your continued success!

For more on Dr. Uma Naidoo, please visit

Would you like to be featured in our next Alumni Spotlight?  Fill out a Submission Form for consideration.

Related Posts