Primary Foods: The Key to GREAT Nutrition


Imagine a shift in perception where you begin seeing how the physical food you eat, albeit important, takes a back seat to all the other things in life that feed you: your relationships, careers, spiritual practices and exercise routines

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to name a few!

At the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), where I became certified as a holistic health counselor, these lifestyle attributes were termed “Primary Food” and the school’s nutrition pyramid symbolizes this philosophy.  In my opinion, IIN’s ideology is a much more accurate portrayal of the things that really keep us healthy, happy and nourished.

SO I would like to explore the concept of Primary Foods in greater detail, and hopefully open your eyes to the idea that there is so much more to “nutrition” than the macronutrients and micronutrients we put into our physical bodies!

What REALLY Feeds Us?

Remember when, as a child, you were playing outside, having fun? Suddenly, your mother announced dinner was ready, but you were not hungry at all. The passion of play took all of your attention.

Sometimes we are fed not by food but by the energy in our lives.  These moments and feelings demonstrate that everything is food. We take in thousands of experiences in life that can fulfill us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. 

We hunger for play, touch, romance, intimacy, love, achievement, success, art, music, self-expression, leadership, excitement, adventure and spirituality.

All of these elements are essential forms of nourishment. The extent to which we are able to incorporate them determines how enjoyable and worthwhile our lives feel.  When you start looking at “nutrition” in this manner, you attain a more complete view of the things in life that truly nourish you.

Concept of Primary Food

The IIN pyramid is one comprised of food groups, like the FDA’s, but has four additional characteristics that are in perpetual motion around them.  These attributes are what IIN calls “Primary Food”, and they are:

• Relationships
• Spirituality
• Career
• Physical activity


Without a healthy balance of primary foods in our lives, it is virtually impossible to be as vibrant, healthy and nutritious as we can be.

Think about it this way:  Jim Nutrition is the healthiest eater you know.  His diet is filled with a balanced variety of whole foods, vegetables, fruits and complex carbohydrates.  Jim is always on top of his eating habits and is meticulous about the foods he puts into his body.

Because of his healthy eating you are surprised that Jim is constantly in a bad mood, frequently ill, or even depressed a lot of the time.   How could this happen to such a healthy eater?

The answer lies somewhere in the matrix of primary food—Jim probably lacks significantly in some area of his relationships, career, exercise routines or spiritual practice!  Therefore delving into what you are missing in the area of primary food should become the first place you look when you are not feeling well. 

I am aware this concept is probably not blowing your socks off, and sounds somewhat obvious, but I assure you that really implementing this mindset can be a life-changing event.  Your nutrition is not just about the food you eat, it’s about everything going on in your life at the present moment.

OK, So What about the Actual FOOD

The concept of primary food, IIN’s pyramid, and this overall representation of health is much more encompassing than vague symbol and guidelines the FDA puts out there. 

If you take a closer look at the pyramid above (I am sorry the image is not that great) you can see the base is comprised of equal portions of grains and complex carbohydrates, vegetables, and fruits.  Smaller components include oils (fats) and proteins.  Underneath the pyramid is water, the elixir of life.  Here are a few more related stories that will explain this nutrition theory in greater detail:

Why Whole Grains Should Be a Staple In Your Diet

6 Practical Tips For Increasing Energy Using Food

Why Phytonutrients in Food May Be Key To Preventing Disease

I hope this article helps you adopt a greater understanding of how primary food affects you, and how it is part of the greater nutrition of your life! 

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2 Responses to “Primary Foods: The Key to GREAT Nutrition”

  1. Brad Baggett says:

    Amazing article! Our health is all about the whole not just what we eat or think. It is all meshed together. I’m so glad I found your blog, keep up the great work!

  2. Todd says:

    Thanks so much Brad…I really appreciate it!

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