Primary Foods

What is unique to the training I received from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) as opposed to other dietary or nutrition course available is the concept of “Primary Foods”.

Primary Foods refer to our lifestyle factors that help create optimal health. They can be broken down to four core groups: relationships, physical activity, career and spirituality.

In 2010, following a change to dietary guidelines, the USDA replaced their food pyramid (MyPyramid) with a food plate (MyPlate) identifying that the following food groups that need to be incorporated in your diet: fruits, grains, vegetables and proteins, with some dairy added too. IIN incorporates the same concepts in their plate (fruits, vegetables, protein, whole grains) but also makes some variations: replacing dairy with water, adding healthy fats and oils and the most important variation, inclusion of the four core groups of your Primary Food. As Joshua Rosenthal, founder of IIN, explains: “The food you eat plays a critical role in your health and happiness…. But the four forms of primary food truly nourish you and make your life extraordinary.”

Healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career and a spiritual practice can fill your soul and satisfy your hunger for life. When your primary food is balanced and satiating, your life feeds you, making WHAT you eat secondary food. The more primary food we receive, the less we depend upon secondary foods. The opposite is also true. The more we fill ourselves with secondary foods, the less we are able to receive the primary foods of life.

Let’s explore the primary foods in more detail:

Relationships – relationships come and go and during the course of our lifetime we have relationships with our parents, grandparents, siblings, partners, children, friends, colleagues, the list goes on and on. The quality of these relationships plays a large part in the quality of a person’s life. We need to surround ourselves with people that will help us grow and develop and be the best that we can. Establishing relationships with people we enjoy being around that make us smile and laugh. Spending time and energy in relationships whereby the person does not support us and does make us feel good can truly be toxic to not only our minds but also to our bodies and can impact on the quality of our health. All relationships take a lot of work, but they can be extremely rewarding.

Physical Activity – Our bodies were made to move. If we think of our ancestors they were constantly on the move, they had to hunt and gather to live. In today’s society not only do most of our jobs involve sitting down all day, but at the end of the day we can also have all our groceries and meals delivered to our front door. Unless we are consciously moving, we forget that we need to. Physical activity does not necessarily entail training for a marathon or going to the gym 2 hours a day, it is simply about moving around. Perhaps you can take the flight of stairs instead of the lift, or get off the tram one stop earlier or just take your children to the park. Physical activity can be simple and different forms or exercise will give you different types of energy and will nourish your body differently.

Career – if we calculate how we spend the hours in our day, most of the waking part of our day is spent at work. Now let’s be realistic and how many of us can say that we absolutely love the work that we do and look forward to waking up and going into work each morning? I know I can!

But this took many years of trying different career paths to really find where my passion is and what drives me. Feeling helpless and unhappy in our jobs definitely is not a nourishing lifestyle. Finding work that you love is essential to living a healthy, balanced life. So many of us complain constantly about what we do but feel powerless to make a change, I strongly urge you to have the courage to make your job a more positive place to be. Discover what work means to you and what you need to achieve to be happy and nourish you. Feeling happy and productive in the place you spend most of your time will dramatically increase your sense of well-being.

Spirituality – Joshua Rosenthal says “Spiritual nutrition can feed us on a very deep level and dramatically diminish cravings for the superficial rewards of life”. We all search for the meaning in our lives and spiritual practice has a different meaning for everyone. Some people may find it in religion, or through meditation or yoga and others through the universe. Embrace synchronicity, believe that things happen for a reason and that you end up meeting people at the right place at the right time, things happen for a reason. Learn to read the signs, feel the direction in which life wants to go and then use your intelligence and creativity to make it happen.

It’s easy to overlook all of the things that contribute to our sense of nourishment and fulfilment. It’s not just the food we eat that affects our health, but all of the other factors present in our daily lives. Healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career, and a spiritual awareness are essential forms of nourishment. I will support you in achieving all of your goals, from eating the right foods for your body to living an inspired, fulfilling life.


Keren is the founder of Vital Assurance, and hopes to bring to you her passion for healthy eating and living.