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Hierarchy of Nutrients

The purpose of this document is to present a unique, but simple way of looking at nutrition as it relates to experiencing a healthy lifestyle. As a naturopath, my emphasis is looking to nature as the provider for both nourishing and healing of the human body. This naturopathic model attempts to categorize nutrients in a way that will both clarify many of the popular  myths and misconceptions about foods, as well as, empower you to make the best choices of the options available.

First, we will look at a health  continuum, with some general definitions of the various levels of health and how they relate to the general population. Then, we will look at the hierarchy of  nutrients (the most important to the least important, and even harmful), and show its relationship to the health continuum.

Dynamic Vitality
( ~ 5%)

Optimum Health
( 15-20%)

Health (70-75%)

Debilitating Illness
( ~ 5%)

Perfect Health

Good Health
Few Symptoms

Chronic Conditions
Advanced Symptoms

Advanced Illness
Dependent Care

Explanation of the Health Continuum

Dynamic Vitality... This category comprising approximately 5% of the American population represents those that are genetically well endowed and tend to be more resilient to compromises in diet and lifestyle. They rarely get sick, tend to recover easier from sickness and tend to live long and fairly productive lives in spite of their diet and lifestyle. Of course, following the  basic principles of natural health will generally enhance the quality of life in  this category.

Optimal Health... Experienced by 15 to 20% of the  population, this category represents those who are generally in good health and are usually pursuing good dietary and lifestyle habits. This group can live long and productive lives due primarily to their application of the essentials of  natural health.

Sub-optimal Health... This is the largest group with 70  to 75% representation. This is the category experiencing any of the long list of  chronic degenerative conditions including allergies, asthma, AIDS, headaches,  PMS, fibroids, cancer, digestive conditions, skin conditions, obesity, arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes and over a hundred primary and  secondary conditions.

Debilitating Illness... The final group comprises  approximately 5% like the first category and represents those who have very serious illnesses including advanced degenerative conditions, structural problems and genetic deficiencies. This group is generally bedridden and/or experiencing major compromises in their function and performance.

Diet and lifestyle factors (lifestyle medicine) have the greatest impact and exerts the most influence in the first three categories. It plays more of a complementary role in the last category where conventional protocols are generally the most effective and may even be necessary. Traditional medicine, in the form of prescription drugs and antibiotics, is the primary approach for many in the last two categories.

Now let's look at the nourishment hierarchy and see how it relates to this health continuum.

 The Nourishment Hierarchy

The guiding principles underlying the nourishment hierarchy is the following:

. God, through nature, placed us on this planet to thrive and not to just survive.
. This planet provides the nutrients we need most in the highest quantity.
. This planet provides the nutrients we need most in the easiest available form.

So, let's look at our nutritional requirements from this alternative, and perhaps new, perspective which categorizes all nutrients into five food groups:


Group  1:



Group 2:


Group 3:


Group 4:


Group 5:




Explanation of the five food groups according to nature's hierarchy:

Nourishment Group 1: Basic Nutrients

The first four nutrients are the most basic nutrients for all life forms on this planet. They fit the formula of abundance and availability so well that we tend to take them for granted. They are so abundant and available that we generally tend to take them for granted without realizing their significance to experiencing high vitality and optimal health. The nutrients in this category are air, water, sunlight and the earth's magnetic field. We can live without food for several months, yet these basic nutrients will severely impact general health and well-being at significantly shorter periods of deficiency. Let's take a brief look at each of these from a nourishment standpoint.

Air … Air is the most important nutrient since as little as three to five minutes of deprivation will have very apparent and serious affects on not only our health but our very existence. Every cell in our body needs life-giving oxygen. High quality fresh air is actually electrified. The oxygen molecule is negatively charged or "negatively ionized." This negatively charged oxygen gives rise to a number of benefits including:

. Improved functioning of the lungs
. Improved Relaxation and ability to deal with stress
. Improved mental clarity
. Improved healing of wounds
. Decreased survival of bacteria and viruses
. Stimulates a good appetite and aids in digestion
. Induces a sound and restful sleep

We will show how this important nutrient is related to our ideal diet as we continue our evaluation of the nourishment hierarchy. Clearly, air is the first and most important nutrient and it behooves all of us to get as much fresh air as possible.

Water … We can live without water for perhaps a week or two at the most and deficiencies in this area are very well understood and appreciated by many. A wealth of information has been published on the subject of water and its impact on a variety of disease states. The implications of this research is that adequate water combined with other aspects of a healthful lifestyle may help postpone or prevent a variety of diseases and their complications. Some important factors relating to water include:

. The planet is 70 to 75% water and our bodies our 70 to 75% water - we are an exact template of the planet.
. Thins and increases the blood volume
. A natural diuretic
. Helps eliminate accumulated waste form your body
. Manages body temperature during exercise
. Water is the universal solvent
. Aids in digestion, assimilation and elimination

The many benefits of water, including both internal and external uses, are beyond the scope of this document. It is the second most important nutrient.

Sunlight … We can live without sunlight for extended periods of time, longer than both air and water, but not without serious consequences. It is true that excessive ultraviolet light from the sun can increase the risk of skin cancer and cataracts, but judicious amounts of sunlight can be extremely beneficial. For example, sunshine can play a critical role in helping to prevent osteoporosis. Some of the important benefits of sunlight include:

. Converts cholesterol into vitamin D, an essential factor in maintaining good bone health. As little as 15 minutes exposure provides minimum requirements of vitamin D.
. Improved vitamin and mineral absorption and overall improvement in metabolic function and efficiency.
. Stores energy in muscles and nerves.
. Overall improvement in metabolic function and efficiency.
. Boosts the immune response and kills bacteria and viruses.
. Controls chemistry of the blood.
. Increases sense of well-being and energizes the personality.

Sunlight supports all life and is necessary for the synthesis of all plant nutrients.

Earth … It may seem strange to classify "earth" as a nutrient. The earth, however, plays two important roles in the context of nutrients:

1. Magnetic Field that the earth emanates
2. The food it produces

Like sunlight, magnetic field deficiency can be compromised longer than air and water, but we have learned quite a bit, especially from the experiences of astronauts traveling in outer space about the serious consequences of long-term deficiencies of the earth's magnetic field. The earth after all is a large magnet with a north and a south pole, has a metallic core, spins and puts out a low-grade magnetic field. This magnetic field provides several health benefits including improved immune function, energy, bone density, brain and nerve function.

The obvious benefit of the earth is the nutrients it provides in various forms for the nourishment and optimum performance of our metabolic and systemic functions. Here is where we connect the basic nutrients discussed above to all other nutrient intakes.

The relationship between these basic nutrients and all the remaining categories is that all the remaining nutrients are categorized based on their manifestation and presentation of these basic, life-giving nutrients. Let's now turn our attention to the remaining categories in this hierarchy, and then show how they relate to the health continuum.

Nourishment Group 2: Natural Raw Foods

The natural raw foods - fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds - are the second category of essential foods. These foods are abundantly supplied, requires very relatively little effort in producing and are in the most efficient form for human consumption. All can be eaten in a natural way without preparation of any kind. These foods provide the basic nutrients in nourishment group 1 in the most integrous form. Fruit in many respects is the most efficient and nourishing of all foods. It can be thought of as a cocktail of air, water, sunlight and the earth's nutrient resources. Key characteristics of fruit and to a lesser extent the remaining foods in this category are:

. The leaves of trees provide all our breathable air - they are the lungs of the planet.
. They are higher in water content than other foods.
. Sunlight is locked into every atom.
. The roots reach down to absorb both the earth's magnetic field and the earth's micronutrients - vitamins, minerals, and other plant-nutrients.
. All the foods in this category can be eaten in their natural, raw form with no preparation required.

Plants, with the aid of microorganisms and an adequate supply of the basic nutrients, have the ability to synthesize minerals and other nutrients it has affinity to in the soil. They effectively can eat dirt. Mineral and other plant-synthesized nutrients are then organized for optimum human consumption and assimilation.

Nourishment Group 3: Grains and Legumes

While the general view is that grains and legumes (beans and peas) are the foundational foods of a health-producing diet, all generally require some form of preparation for consumption. In addition, they are not as hydrated as the primary foods and should be eaten in moderation. Their clear value is that they contain high concentration of nutrients (primarily complex carbohydrates and proteins), and can be stored for long periods of time in the event of flood, famine, warfare or other factors affecting the availability of nature's primary foods noted in the previous category.

Nourishment Group 4: Flesh Foods and Dairy Products

Flesh foods which includes fish, meat, poultry and dairy products are surprisingly low to most people on the nourishment hierarchy. These foods provide the most concentrated nutrients (primarily fats and proteins), but they also place significant stress to our bodies. They are difficult to digest, are highly acid and/or mucus-producing and puts a considerable strain on the kidneys and liver in breaking them down for assimilation and elimination. It's important to note that the flesh food we consume are generally "vegetarians". When we eat flesh foods we are receiving our plant-based nutrients second-hand. The commercial production of flesh foods, along with the comprised environments and conditions they are exposed to, further impacts the integrity of this food source. The liberal use of growth hormones, antibiotics, genetically-engineered feed and exposure to other environmental hazards and conditions, make consumption of flesh foods significantly more problematic than fifty to a hundred years ago.

There is much misinformation and many misconceptions in this area primarily due to brilliant marketing rather than valid scientific evaluation. They should be eaten in very limited quantities, if at all. They are not essential for your optimum health.

Nourishment Group 5: Refined and Processed Foods

All of the above categories of nutrient sources come from nature. Processed and refined foods are not provided by nature in its natural, high integrity form. They are generally made by the food industry and are really junk foods. These are most of the foods that come in a box, plastic containers or cans and generally contain preservatives, additives, stabilizers, dyes, colorings, artificial flavoring and other nourishment compromising ingredients. Plant analogues, refined sugar, food isolates, isolated vitamins and minerals, synthetic drugs and even poorly cooked foods, all fit in this category. They are low in essential nutrients and/or leach essential nutrients from your body.

For centuries, our planet provided all the essentials for human nourishment. No company can improve on the integrity of naturally produced, planet-based foods.

Now let's look at the hierarchy of nutrients in relation to the health continuum.

Group  1:


Group 2:


Group 3:


Group 4:


Group 5:


Relationship of Hierarchy of Nutrients to Health Continuum

Those experiencing higher levels of health tend to be at the higher categories of the nourishment hierarchy. Conversely, those experiencing health at the lower ends of the health continuum tend to receive a disproportionate level of their nourishment from the lower end of the nourishment hierarchy. As a naturopath, I spend a considerable amount of time evaluating diet factors as they relate to degenerative conditions. I encourage those at the lower ends of the hierarchy of nutrients to consider dietary modifications that include the appropriate foods in the upper end of the hierarchy. The amount and concentration of the foods are evaluated based on their individual requirements and capacities.

The hierarchy of nutrients is not cure-all for all conditions. As a naturopath, I recommend that my clients consider additional lifestyle factors including exercise and rest, stress management, prayer and meditation, and other important natural remedies. I also understand the important role pharmaceutical and surgical approaches can play, especially in acute conditions.

Diet and lifestyle factors have a long-term record for producing the best results for most chronic degenerative conditions. I believe that by applying the dietary principles implied in the hierarchy of nutrients, based on individual requirements and capacities, with the appropriate application of lifestyle factors, is the most effective approach for experiencing optimum to radiant health. From a nutrient standpoint, the aim is move as high up on the scale as required for meeting your desired health goals, as depicted in the final graphic.

Health is a precious gift and most of us can experience major improvements in our health by making the best choices of the options available. This may require some effort on your part and generally requires working health professionals and educators for guidance in this lifestyle endeavor. This unique perspective on evaluating food choices is provided to help you in this exciting endeavor to take charge of your life and achieve your goal of health and happiness. The choice is yours.

Good Health and God's richest blessings!

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