One helpful way to think about taking an individualized approach to your diet and nutrition is to use the metaphor of a car. Different kinds of vehicles require different kinds of gas. For example, if I put 87-octane fuel into a car that takes only diesel, I can destroy the engine. Some cars do better with lower octane and some higher octane; the right fuel ensures the smooth running of the vehicle. This does not always mean that a vehicle will not run, but more that it will not run optimally in the way it is meant to.
The importance of using the right gas for a car is analogous to how we treat our own “engine.” Each of us has an engine that requires a different mix of “fuel.” Fuel in the form of food is made up of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. The correct fuel mix, meaning the correct ratio of protein, carbohydrates, and fats for the individual will ensure smooth healthy functioning. The concept that a healthy diet must be adapted to the individual, which is based in science, thus sheds light on all the confusion about the various diets that are out there and also the confusion about research on diets, all of which can show both positive effects and negative effects. It is not the diet that determines well-being, but the individual’s alignment with the dietary “fuel.” To continue the analogy between a car’s fuel—and the combustion that moves it forward—and human fuel, such as food, then what we are looking at scientifically is called oxidation. Oxidation is the rate at which we burn carbohydrates or glucose. Some of us burn carbohydrates more quickly, and some burn them more slowly; the speed at which we burn carbohydrates can be considered our nutritional type.
Let’s continue the car metaphor to examine the body-mind connections involved in our dietary choices: Daily, one has to ensure the engine (the brain-digestive system) has the proper fuel mix (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats). If the octane is too low, there’s backfiring (fermentation and gas). If it is too high, it goes unused and is a waste, leaving waste deposits (gout). At periodic intervals, one has to change the oil filter (flush the gallbladder), tune the engine (take a rest), do a lube (ingest fish oils or hydrate), and of course, wash the car (detoxify).
A car may perform well when it is new (young), but as it reaches the 50,000-mile mark (40–50 years) it begins to break down—if it hasn’t already. The clutch goes, the brakes give out, and under extreme stress, such as cold wet winters, the bottom rusts out (adrenal foundation) and the paint (skin) cracks. The truth is that people often take better care of their cars than their bodies!
Brain Bolt Dressing
One of the essentials of mental health is to make your own salad dressing. It can be simple or elaborate, but homemade can be medicine for the brain whereas store-bought dressings will never be. Nearly any dressing will do, but this is one of my favorites. You can make a jar of it and then add some different herbs each day so it is varied for your week of salads. This recipe makes about 2 cups of dressing.
- 3⁄4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1⁄4 c. organic hemp oil
- 10 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 8 tbsp. raw apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp. dark agave, pure maple syrup, or raw honey 1 tsp. sea salt
- 2–3 minced cloves garlic, finely chopped Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Whisk all the ingredients together and store in a glass jar. Will keep for 1 week. Optional add-ins: 4 tsp. Dijon mustard, 2 tsp. curry powder.
Learn more about how to improve your mood based on what you eat, by reading my book “The Good Mood Kitchen: Simple Recipes and Nutrition Tips for Emotional Balance”.