• Mamie Burruss, ND, LAc

The 5 Pillars of Health: Pillar #1 - Get Your Nutrients!

Updated: Jan 23, 2020

These "5 Pillars" are ESSENTIAL to achieving and maintaining health!

When it comes to optimizing health, there are five key areas that matter for everyone.


Although there will be differences in how much an individual needs to focus on any one area and what type of support they need, there is not a single person who can ignore one of these “5 Pillars” and stay…healthy.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be sharing the 5 Pillars of Health with you in easy-to-digest snippets, and I’ll also provide some simple suggestions to help you strengthen these five important areas of health. If you make it a priority to focus on supporting these 5 Pillars using the simple guidelines I will be sharing with you, I know you’ll start to see improvements in your overall health, no matter what you’re dealing with!

Pillar #1 - Get Your Nutrients!

nutritious food is medicine

“The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” ~Ann Wigmore

You’ve probably heard the phrase “you are what you eat”, but it’s actually true (well...it's more like "you are what you digest and absorb"). The food you consume is broken down and used for a variety of important functions in the body, such as building new cells and repairing tissues, detoxification, supporting brain function and cognition, manufacturing hormones, feeding the good bugs in your gut, and much more!

Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with chronic symptoms or disease and inflammation, your nutrient demand is increased, making it even more important that you feed your body nutritious foods.

With all the marketing hype, it’s easy to think a multi-vitamin or other supplement can provide your body with the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. However, these products do NOT take the place of whole foods—they don’t even come close.

Food is a huge topic, and there so many opinions that it can easily become overwhelming...but it doesn't have to be!

The following is by no means an exhaustive list, and I have a lot more information to share on what you should and shouldn't include in your diet! If you’re looking for a good place to start, there are three simple food rules I like to follow to help optimize nutritional status and overall health:

1. Eat a rainbow

Different colored vegetables and fruits have higher amounts of certain important nutrients. By eating a rainbow of vegetables and fruits each day, you provide your body with a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants necessary to achieve and maintain optimal health.

Don’t get stuck in a rut by eating the same plants over and over; expand your options by trying something new, and don’t be afraid to modify recipes to accommodate more color! To get you started, I’ve put a colorful twist on an old favorite—spaghetti and meat sauce!

Tip: If you’re looking for a way to get more leafy greens in your diet, try serving your hot meal (including soup!) over a small bed of spinach, baby kale, arugula, romaine, mache, or other leafy greens. As a bonus, the heat from your food will help warm and soften your greens, making them easier to digest and increasing the bioavailability of their nutrients!

2. Eat 10 servings of vegetables everyday

Most Americans are dealing with chronic disease in one form or another, and I believe one of the root causes is a serious deficiency of nutrient-dense whole foods.

In fact, a meta-analysis showed that consuming 800 grams per day (10 servings) of vegetables and fruits significantly reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, cancer and premature death, but I have seen increased intake benefit all kinds of conditions, including digestive disorders, hormone imbalances and autoimmune disease.


Vegetables: 1 serving = 1/2 cup of vegetables

Leafy Greens: 1 serving = 1 cup of leafy greens

Organic produce is preferable, but it’s more important that you eat plenty of plants! If you're on a tight budget, you can use the EWG's Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen lists to help you prioritize your organic produce purchases.

The Dirty Dozen are the top 12 vegetables and fruits that have the highest pesticide residues, so it's best to purchase organic varieties when it comes to these foods. The Clean Fifteen are the top 15 vegetables and fruits with the lowest pesticide contamination, so these are better options when purchasing conventionally grown produce.

Dirty Dozen (+1):

  1. Strawberries

  2. Spinach

  3. Kale

  4. Nectarines

  5. Apples

  6. Grapes

  7. Peaches

  8. Cherries

  9. Pears

  10. Tomatoes

  11. Celery

  12. Potatoes

  13. Hot Peppers

Clean Fifteen:

  1. Avocados

  2. Sweet Corn

  3. Pineapples

  4. Sweet Peas (frozen)

  5. Onions

  6. Papayas

  7. Eggplants

  8. Asparagus

  9. Kiwis

  10. Cabbage

  11. Cauliflower

  12. Cantaloupes

  13. Broccoli

  14. Mushrooms

  15. Honeydew Melons

3. Drink adequate water

You may be surprised to see water in the same section as nutrients, but water is essential for maintaining health, so I absolutely consider it a “nutrient”.

Approximately 70% of the body is made up of water, and adequate hydration impacts every organ, as well as your ability to detox, regulate your body temperature, and perform many of the chemical reactions that produce energy and maintain other important functions in the body.

Athletic studies have shown that as little as a 2% decrease in total body mass can decrease physical and mental performance by 20%! Studies have also shown that a 1-2% loss in total body mass is needed before you begin to feel thirsty. This means that when you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated, and you are mentally and physically performing at 80% of your capacity!

Needs vary based on the individual, but a good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces each day (e.g., if you weigh 160 pounds, drink 80 ounces of water, preferably filtered), though you should increase that amount if you are exercising vigorously, drinking caffeinated beverages or alcohol, or spending time outside in the heat.

There you have it! Three simple ways to improve your nutritional status and support one of the 5 Pillars of Health!

Remember: every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it. Do your body a favor, and harness the healing power of whole-food nutrients!

Learn about Pillar #2 here.

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