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You Are What You Eat


By Sandra Silva, J.D.


You are what you eat! Most of us have heard that phrase from time-to-time. The wisdom of those five words has great bearing today given we continue to become more acutely aware that to be fit and healthy we must eat good food: food that is good for us. When and where did this thought first emerge? The phrase has been attributed to one of the most influential food writers of all time, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, who in 1826 wrote in his book, Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante, “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.” [Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.] In 1963/4 Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach, a German philosopher, reinforced Brillat-Savarin’s idea in his essay, Concerning Spiritualism and Materialism:  “Der Mensch ist, was er isst.” [Man is what he eats.]

The phrase entered the English language in the 1920’s primarily through the work of nutritionist Victor Lindlahr who developed the Catabolic Diet and went on to publish the book, You Are What You Eat:  How to win and keep health with diet. The notion became a central theme of the 1960’s as the young people of that period of significant cultural transformation championed macrobiotic wholefood and the slogan, “You are what you eat” became associated with the growing organic food movement of the era. 

Fast forward to the 21st century and the increasing awareness that daily life-style choices have a tremendous impact on our overall health and longevity, i.e. sleep, exercise, social connections, and, yes, what we eat. Further, science continues to explore the complex, interdependent relationship between the gut and the brain. 

Dr. Dan Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and founder of the Mindsight Institute, informs us via his books and lectures that throughout our body there are networks of neurons that serve as information processors. Not the linear processors with which we are familiar like our computers, etc. These neurons are arranged in a spider-web like network referred to as a parallel distributed processor. We have this web-like set of connections in our skull; we refer to it as our brain. And we also have these sophisticated processors around our heart and intestines, i.e. our gut.  

These sophisticated processors around the heart and intestines send information directly to the brain, not through the blood stream; rather through the Vagus nerve and the spinal cord into various areas of the brain for processing and, ultimately, decision-making. When you have a “heartfelt response” to a circumstance or experience a “gut reaction,” neither are mysterious or simply poetic. Your parallel distributed processors are sending information to your brain.  

Simply stated, your gut and brain are connected and the health of your gut directly affects the health of your brain. The health of both your gut and your brain influences your day-to-day life; your relationships, your productivity, your ability to care for yourself, your loved ones and your ability to contribute to your community. Apparently, Brillat-Savarin and Feuerbach were on to something in the 19th century.  

Sources abound both digitally and in print to help guide anyone who wants to support both their gut and their brain. The following are a few general considerations to include in a healthy gut-brain diet:


  • ï Omega-3 fats:  found in oily fish and can increase good bacteria in the gut

  • ï Fermented foods:  yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and cheese

  • ï High-fiber foods:  whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables all contain fiber (good for the gut and can help reduce stress)

  • ï Polyphenol-rich foods:  cocoa, green tea, olive oil, and coffee

  • ï Tryptophan-rich foods:  turkey, eggs, and cheese contain the amino acid tryptophan that is converted into the neurotransmitter serotonin. 

Lastly, here is but one recipe (yum!) from Alexa Federico, a nutritional therapy practitioner, real food and autoimmune blogger, Girl in Healing. 

Spaghetti Squash in Avocado Basil Dressing


For the main dish:

1 spaghetti squash

1 lb. cooked chicken breast

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1 bundle asparagus, steamed and chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 tsp. sea salt

1 tbsp. olive oil

For the sauce:

2 avocados

1/4 cup and 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 cup fresh basil leaves

3/4 tsp. sea salt

1 clove garlic


Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Slice the spaghetti squash in half (I do it the long way but both ways work) and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Place face down on a baking sheet.

Put into the preheated oven for 45-60 minutes or longer, until the skin is easily pierced and you can shred the insides.

While the spaghetti squash is cooking, steam and slice the asparagus, cut the chicken breast, and halve the grape tomatoes.

To make the sauce, add the avocado and 1/4 cup of olive oil into a food processor or blender. Blend, then add the basil leaves, sea salt, garlic, and more olive oil by the tablespoon as needed.

When the spaghetti squash is done, shred the insides and add to a large serving bowl. Add the ingredients you chopped, plus 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon sea salt and toss.

Drizzle over the sauce before enjoying. 



Evolving Magazine

Kansas City

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Sandra Silva, J.D. is the Store Manager of GreenAcres Market in the Village at Briarcliff.  Sandra has a deep commitment to healing and healthy eating.  She and her staff are available to speak at community gatherings, small or large. Contact Sandra at the Market, 816-746-0010 or  

Good health! 

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