We talk a lot about nourishment around here in the form of food and nutrition, but today I’d like to focus on a lesser-known category of nourishment known as: Primary Foods.
Despite what the name says, these are not foods per-say, rather the things that bring us nourishment and peace at a spiritual and emotional level.
You could say they’re the “soul foods” of emotional well-being, and if this is the case, most of us are seriously malnourished.
In today’s article, we’ll look at what primary foods are, what health benefits they offer us (beyond just pleasure) and how you can discover your unique primary foods to nourish your heart, spirit and emotions.
What are Primary Foods
As mentioned above, primary foods (a concept coined by The Institute of Integrative Nutrition) are the people, activities, spiritual practices, hobbies, traditions, places, laughter, prayers, etc.—that bring us nourishment, happiness, and purposeful fulfillment on a spiritual or soul level.
As the name suggests, these Primary Foods take precedence over consumable food, as when your spirit and soul are balanced and satisfied, you will naturally nourish yourself accordingly.
What a refreshing concept given our country’s obsession with food, dieting and eating…could it be that a key component to overcoming food addiction and overeating, is to focus more on our passions, relationships and life’s purpose?
The science says, yes! Let’s look at some of the research now.
The Health Benefits of Consuming Primary Foods Regularly
When we focus on consuming enough Primary Foods and living a purposeful, intentional, and spiritual/soulful life, it naturally produces a state of satisfaction, happiness, and gratitude.
You know this intuitively, and there’s substantial research to back it up.
For example, studies like this review of over 160 human and animal studies from the University of Illinois, have shown that happiness and satisfaction leads to better health outcomes including increased longevity(1).
On the spiritual side, research has shown that those with a spiritual practice, be it religious or otherwise, have significantly reduced mortality rates. The evidence was so compelling that the importance of a spiritual practice has been deemed as important to your health as consuming enough fruits and vegetables (2).
And then there’s hobbies, activities you enjoy such as crafting, exercising or playing a musical instrument. It turns out, these are incredibly beneficial to both your physical and mental health.
In an article published by Forbes, Howard E.A. Tinsley , professor emeritus of psychology at Southern Illinois University and author of Psychological Benefits of Leisure Participation explained that adults who engage in leisure hobbies or “play” report greater satisfaction in life and function better in society.
He goes onto explain that this is due to the relaxation state leisure activity puts your brain in, which offers much-needed stress relief while enhancing cognitive function(3).
So even though it may appear you’re being unproductive by “indulging” in leisure activities, the truth is you’re actually nourishing your spirit while reducing stress and enhancing your brain power.
This is just a small sampling of the research done on the importance of nourishing your soul with Primary Foods.
How to Discover Your Primary Foods
As mentioned in my book: “Bloom”, the easiest way to discover you unique recipe of Primary Foods is to ask yourself the following questions:
- “What did I love to do as a child?”
- “What do I love to do for fun?”
- “What’s something I’ve always wanted to do and never tried?”
- “What was the last thing I did that made me feel accomplished?”
- “What was the last activity I engaged in that made me feel alive?”
When I asked myself these questions several years ago (after a grueling few years of medical school, residency, and working myself to a pulp), I discovered my primary foods are gardening, reading, and playing the cello.
I had played the cello years ago in school and never picked it back up until recently, now it’s one of my favorite ways to get centered and relieve stress.
Gardening was a new activity I started two years ago as a way to de-stress while reconnecting with my family. And this brings up an important point: Primary Foods, like edible foods, are meant to be shared!
After all, hobbies and leisure activities must be done in “real-life”, so why not include your children, husband, partner, friends, pets, etc.?
The point is to make time to nourish your spirit every day, either solo or with friends and family.
I hope this article has made you more aware of the importance of nourishing your spiritual side when it comes to good health. It can be so easy to get myopic when it comes to “the perfect diet” or “perfect exercise program” for good health, when what is most important is the health of your heart and soul.
1: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Happiness improves health and lengthens life, review finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110301122156.htm>.
2: Lucchetti, G., A. L. Lucchetti, and H. G. Koenig. “Impact of Spirituality/religiosity on Mortality: Comparison with Other Health Interventions.” Explore (New York, N.Y.). July/August 2011. Accessed May 26, 2017. doi:10.1016/j.explore.2011.04.005.
3: ABCnews.com, Kate Rice for. “Can Hobbies Make You Healthier?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 6 June 2013, www.forbes.com/2004/02/10/cx_0210health.html#149fc880171d.