Did you ever want to improve your health but didn’t really know how to go about it? Today, health and wellness are amongst the hottest topics worldwide. Being healthy means being fashionable and trendy. But, do you really know what healthy is? Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t.
The World Health Organization defines “health” as a “state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. A healthy lifestyle is a way of living that lowers the risks of illness and increases life expectancy. While many diseases cannot be avoided, a large number of deaths due to heart diseases or certain cancers can be avoided. However, health is not only just about avoiding diseases, it is also about physical, mental, and social well-being. When a healthy lifestyle is adopted, it creates a positive model for other people in the family, particularly children.
This article aims to help readers change their behavior and improve their lifestyle in order to live healthier, longer lives. As a certified health coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I studied closely the traditional aspects of nutrition and exercise, but also, other crucial factors that impact wellbeing. In order to thrive, we need what we call “primary foods” and “secondary foods”.
What are primary foods?
When we talk about food, we directly think of the actual food that we consume, the food on our plate, i.e. the food that we need in order to nourish our bodies. However, food goes beyond what is on our plates.
In reality, primary foods do not involve any food at all. Primary foods are what fuels off the plate: Healthy relationships, a fulfilling career, a spiritual practice and regular physical activity. Basically, anything that fills our soul and that we feel passionate about. All of these ‘primary foods’ nourish us deeply and help us live a more fulfilling and balanced life. According to the Institute of Integrative Nutrition “when primary food is balanced and satiated, your life feeds you, making what you actually eat secondary”. So, if we’re in toxic relationships or if we hate our jobs, we are more inclined to eat unhealthily.
So, what are secondary foods?
Secondary foods are what we actually eat. The risks of obesity, cancer and cardiovascular diseases are increased by an unhealthy diet characterized by a low intake of fruits and vegetables and a high intake of salts, fats, sugars and processed foods. Unhealthy eating habits also lead to micronutrient deficiencies. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as: “one-fits-for-all-diet”. As we have learned more about the human body, it has been concluded that the right food for one person might not be the right food for another person.
A “healthy diet” is specific to each individual, this is known as bio-individuality. Bio-individuality is a new approach to health which means that no one diet works for everyone. Each and every person has unique needs. Just like we all enjoy different trends in fashion or different types of music. Many factors play a role in this bio-individuality principle such as age, sex, culture, lifestyle and exercise. However, almost all dietary theories agree on some basic general nutritional guidelines giving everyone a clear path to follow in terms of general wellness. Some elements remain constant, and here are some basic tips for catering a proper diet to a specific bio-individuality:
- Eating more foods that make you feel good.
- Reducing or removing sugars and processed foods from your diet.
- Prioritizing fruits and vegetables.
- Changing your diet if it’s not working.
- Limiting your salt intake.
- Prioritizing unsaturated fats over saturated and trans-fats.
To summarize, both primary and secondary foods are important for a good overall health. However, we can eat all the broccoli and kale in the world and have a very good secondary food intake, if the primary foods are not there, we won’t be healthy individuals.
So, here is the advice that I can leave you with: Find what truly nourishes you, outside of food. Is it volunteering, a job, a hobby, exercise? Whatever it is, fill your life with it and remember, these are your primary needs (foods) as a human. The foods we actually eat are important too, but secondary to the primary ones that feed us. Find the right balance for both foods together, as this is your key to optimal health, overall happiness and life satisfaction.