Highlights from Jonathan Otto's interview with Ocean Robbins, for the Depression & Anxiety Series. Ocean discusses lifestyle and diet practices for enhancing mental health. He expounds on how a plant based diet can help depression and anxiety, and how GMOs and pesticides are dangerous for consumption.
Ocean Robbins - Part 1
Jonathan: Ocean, with Depression and Anxiety, what do you know about it? I know that you’re certainly a pioneer in what you refer to as the Food Revolution. And so I’d like to start there because certainly that’s a foundational piece. What we eat matters. What are you seeing when it comes to mental illness, depression, anxiety. Obviously, we’re taught a lot about brain chemistry and that people might be deficient in this or that pharmaceutical drug. Do you think that diet plays a role, do you think that there’s a way to prevent or even come against these challenges using food as that medicine, is that possible?
Ocean: Depression and anxiety are a spectrum. You know, we think of it as a diagnosis like you’re mentally healthy or you’re mentally ill, you’re depressed or you’re not. But the reality is that we take it as normal today that most people, they are feeling fundamentally unsatisfied with their lives, feeling like they don’t have the vibrancy and the energy that maybe they had when they were kids. Feeling like there’s something missing, some gap in their life and their aliveness and their vitality. And a lot of people don’t even know that that norm that they take for granted is actually not how it has to be.
So, one of the things I’m passionate about is helping people discover that when you eat the right foods, when you nourish your body well, when you think the right thoughts, when you create the right ecosystem for your spirit to inhabit your life and to live fully and passionately, suddenly you have so much more energy. You have so much more joy, you have a bounce in your step, you skip when you’re moving around the house. You find yourself just filled with an ebullience and a joy and a peace that you didn’t even know is possible. And I love helping people have that experience.
We think of it as if depression was a symptom of a brain imbalance or maybe something genetic that was wrong with the way people were wired. But I think that in many cases, it can be a symptom that’s actually the predictable outcome of a longterm life in which we don’t treat our body right and we don’t feed it right and we don’t take care of ourselves in the way that we need to. Now, some people are going to probably do everything right and still experience certain challenges.
But for very, very large numbers of us, when we optimize our health and our nutrition and we get exercise and we get good sleep and we take good care of ourselves and we surround ourselves with positive influences, life will have a sparkle, a vibrancy, a joy, a dynamism, a beauty that’s extraordinary. You know, you weren’t just meant to cope and survive and mope and struggle and somehow make it through another day. You were meant to love your life. You were meant to thrive. And that’s what I want for everybody. And food helps us accomplish that possibility.
We have a lot of anecdotal evidence and some studies which indicate that a whole foods plant-based diet with little or no animal products may be optimal for fighting depression and for brain health. There are a few possible reasons for this. One is that you’re getting a lot of fiber in a whole foods plant-based diet. And there is no fiber in any animal parts. No meat, dairy or eggs have any fiber whatsoever. So in terms of feeding the good bacteria in your gut, you’re gonna wanna have lots of plant foods in your diet. But we also know that when arteries are clogged, then they’re more likely to restrict the flow of some of the nutrients that we need for our body and for our brain.
And we know there’s a link between animal product consumption and saturated fat consumption and clogging of the arteries. There are a lot of studies backing this up. So eating a whole foods, plant-strong diet means you’re getting more of the vegetables and the foods and the whole grains and legumes that provide the fiber you need and you’re getting less of the animal products that not only don’t provide that fiber but that also may be associated with impinged blood flow to the whole body. So that’s one of the ways that I think a whole foods plant-strong diet can be beneficial for depression fighting purposes.
We also know that most whole food plant-based eaters are lighter. The average vegan is about 15 or 20 pounds lighter than the standard American. And so in general, if you wanna lose a little extra weight and you wanna feel lighter and more limber and have better exercise patterns then a whole foods plant-based diet is probably a good direction to go as well.
Jonathan: Ocean, you’ve been at the forefront of awareness when it comes to understanding the important of genetically modified foods. I think that you understand from a scientific and you know, all the case studies that are coming out on GMOs and you’re well aware of lawsuits that are happening over this and diseases that are reportedly by being caused by genetically modified foods and as well as the efforts that some companies are going to to have accurate labeling.
And I’m really curious if there’s anything you’d be able to share on your experience with that ‘cause it’s quite interesting. But, you know, is it relevant? Does it matter, genetically modified foods, does it make a difference when it comes to brain health and I’m saying this in regards to all things brain related whether it’s depression, anxiety or neurodegenerative disease.
Ocean: When we’re talking about GMOs, we need to understand what they are. Some people think it means God Move Over but GMO actually means Genetically Modified Organism. And GMOs have been promoted as a solution to world hunger, that they would lead to more drought resistant crops and bigger yields, that they would lead to better nutrition and flavor and less pesticide consumption. But in reality, they haven’t accomplished any of those things. What the vast majority of the GMOs on the market today have done is one or both of two things.
Number one, they are pesticide producers which means they produce the insecticide Bt in every cell of the plant. So certain bugs take a bite, their stomachs split open and they die. Number two is that they are herbicide resistant which means you can spray them with Roundup or 2,4-D or certain other toxic herbicides and they’ll kill the weeds but they won’t kill the plant that we’re growing. So now, we are eating plants that are living pesticide factories, they produce pesticide in every cell of the plant and we’re eating plants that have been sprayed with herbicides. Now Roundup is a probable carcinogen, the state of California declares that it is known to cause cancer, it’s linked to a lot of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancer cases. And it’s also an endocrine disruptor and it’s an antibiotic. Monsanto actually patented it as an antibiotic.
So we know that it can impact gut bacteria. We are now eating large amounts of Glyphosate. In the United States alone, we spray about 300 million pounds of it on our crops every year, about a pound for every American. And that’s going directly on the food that we’re eating. So, what’s the impact of all this Glyphosate? Well, we don’t exactly know because we’re all kind of like guinea pigs in an uncontrolled mass experiment. But, we do know that since Glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in Round Up has been sprayed on our crop lands, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in rates of depression as well as autism and ADHD and all sorts of other health problems that we’re facing today.
Now, we’ve also seen a big rise in Chinese GDP and all kinds of other metrics, correlation doesn’t equal causation. But, when you see a correlation this strong and you recognize that there is a lot of data showing that this herbicide could be toxic to human beings, then you gotta wonder, is there a connection? And I for one wanna steer clear of the foods that have been sprayed with Glyphosate because I don’t wanna eat that stuff.
So how do you avoid it? If you wanna steer clear of Glyphosate and GMOs in general, go organic is the best way to go because all certified organic foods are non-GMO and are not sprayed with Glyphosate. You can get foods that are certified non-GMO and in the case of corn, soy, cotton which is used for cotton seed oil, canola, and sugar, specifically sugar beads. Those are the crops that you wanna particularly avoid if you’re wanting to avoid GMOs.
But, Glyphosate and Round Up are being used as a desiccant now on particularly the wheat harvest but also barley and oats and a few other crops, staple crops, cereal crops on a large scale to dry out the crop before harvest. So with all of those crops, if you want to void Glyphosate, you now have to go organic.