The Six Core Foundations of Health

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When it comes to feeling our best, what are the most important factors that help lay a solid foundation for health? In this handout, we will cover the six most important factors everyone needs for optimal health. Even though I say “everyone”, the truth is, we are all unique and bio-individual and will each have varying needs within the six foundations. That said, these foundations are important for all of us. 

1 – Eat a Properly Prepared, Nutrient Dense Diet 

While there is no one-size-fits-all diet, everyone can benefit from eating food that is properly prepared and nutrient dense. A diet rich in a variety of these foods is one of the greatest ways to support overall health because it provides many nourishing nutrients our body can use to function optimally.

Nutrient-dense foods are foods that are packed full of nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, protein and carbohydrates. These foods are also low in manufactured, industrial, or highly processed ingredients. Consuming whole foods that are close to how they appear in nature is usually the best approach to supporting our overall health. 

Properly preparing these nutrient-dense foods allows the body to make use of them in the most effective way possible. 

Some examples of nutrient-dense, properly prepared foods include:

  • Fruits and vegetables (especially those that are local and in-season)
  • Soaked or sprouted nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes
  • Grass-finished meats, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, and wild-caught seafood

Nutritional Therapy Association, p. 1 (2021) 

2 – Digestion 

Digestion breaks down the food we eat and makes it usable for our bodies. If our digestion isn’t working well, we won’t get all of the value out of the food we consume. We may also feel great discomfort.

Even the most nutritious meal is limited in its ability to support our wellbeing when digestion is impaired. For this reason, it is wise to prioritize optimal digestion. That is one of the best ways to get the most out of the food we eat and support our overall health. 

For optimal digestion, implement a few of these tips:

  • Pause and breathe before a meal (this aids in getting the body into a relaxed state, which is needed for the digestive system to work well)
  • Support digestion by supporting sufficient stomach acid – try adding a splash of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to water and supping before meals. You can also support digestion by adding bitter foods to each meal, such as dandelion greens, kale, radicchio, arugula, and endive. 
  • Eat slowly and chew sufficiently. Aim to chew food 15-30 times for each bite.

3 – Blood Sugar Regulation 

Balanced blood sugar is essential to a healthy body. It also has a big impact on our mood!

Our bodies use glucose as fuel. We get this fuel from the food we eat and it circulates in the blood as “blood sugar.” Many parts of the body are involved in maintaining balanced blood sugar levels, including our brain, central nervous system, and peripheral organs. These work together to keep our blood sugar steady, raising and lowering it as needed. This is essential for our survival!

The problem is, when our blood sugar is too low and/or too high on a regular basis, we end up on a rollercoaster ride with the body working overtime to try to keep us balanced. 

According to the Nutritional Therapy Association (2021), when blood sugar is too low we may feel cranky, tired, and incredibly hungry; when it’s too high we put our cells and tissues at risk of damage (p. 2).  The good news is, our diet and lifestyle play a HUGE role in keeping blood sugar in check. 

Try the following to support optimal blood sugar:

  • Eat a balance of fats, protein, and carbohydrates at each meal
  • Reduce stress levels
  • Get enough sleep
  • Move your body regularly

4 – Fatty Acids 

Fatty acids come from fats and aid in proper hormone function, cardiovascular function, and immune function and may also lower inflammation. Besides these supportive actions, fatty acids also make food taste good and bring about that nice satisfied feeling after a meal (and keep us full longer). Fatty acids also help us absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamins A, D, E, and K (Nutritional Therapy Association, 2020a)

A great source of energy, fatty acids also have a powerful role as building blocks for cell membranes and hormones (Nutritional Therapy Association, 2020a).

All of these functions make fatty acids an important part of our foundational approach to health and wellness. 

Two fatty acids in particular are essential to our wellbeing and must be obtained from food. These are Linoleic Acid (Omega 6) and Alpha-linolenic Acid (Omega 3). Omega 3 fatty acids come from foods such as fish oil, walnuts, pumpkin (Nutritional Therapy Association, 2020b)
as well as cold-water fish, flax seeds, grass-fed beef (Nutritional Therapy Association, p. 3, 2020c)

Omega 6 fatty acids can be found in sunflower oil, sesame oil, and evening primrose oil (Nutritional Therapy Association, 2020b).

Implement the following steps to ensure you are getting enough fatty acids:

  • Eat a variety of good quality fats, including animal and vegetable sources 
  • High quality fats include coconut oil, avocado oil, salmon, butter, ghee, nuts, sesame seeds and sesame oil, fish oil, and beef tallow, duck fat. 
  • Avoid industrial fats such as soybean, corn, canola, and cottonseed oils (consuming these can lead to increased inflammation and essential fatty acid deficiency) (Nutritional Therapy Association, 2020c).
  • Avoid hydrogenated oils such as margarine, imitation butter spreads (these can interfere with the “synthesis of important fatty acids in the body..” (Nutritional Therapy Association, p. 6, 2020c)
  • Support digestive function to ensure proper digestion and absorption of fats

5 – Mineral Balance 

There are at least 103 minerals that we know of; at least 18 of these minerals are needed for optimal health (Nutritional Therapy Association, p.4, 2020d). Some minerals necessary for our health are calcium, magnesium, iron, iodine, and zinc.

Minerals play a variety of important roles that contribute to the proper function and health of the body. Some of the useful ways minerals contribute to our health include transferring nutrients across cell membranes, supporting growth and development, formation of tissue, facilitating muscle contraction and relaxation, proper nerve conduction, and mineralizing bones and teeth (Nutritional Therapy Association, 2020e) That’s a lot of good stuff!

If we want to be recipients of these wonderful things, we need to consume enough minerals and make sure they are absorbed. 

Minerals must be obtained from our food (Nutritional Therapy Association, 2020d). So we are very much in the driver’s seat when it comes to mineral balance! 

Knowing that minerals cannot be produced by the body, and being aware of just how important they are for our proper functioning and overall health, helps us to better understand the inherent value in eating a wide variety of nutritious food and how it contributes to our well being. 

Try these tips for improving your mineral balance (especially calcium absorption):

  • Ensure you are properly hydrated (see below)
  • Support healthy digestion
  • Consume sufficient fatty acids
  • Eat a variety of mineral-rich foods, such as almonds, brazil nuts, sea vegetables, salmon, lentils, kale, potatoes, and yogurt. 

6 – Hydration 

Much of the time we think about hydrating as simply quenching our thirst, but the truth is, hydration is foundationally important for optimal health and proper functioning of the body. In fact, the Nutritional Therapy Association (2020f) states that water is the most important nutrient in the body…” (p. 4). We can survive weeks without food, but only a very short time (days) without water!

Water does so much more than quench our thirst! It supports the digestive process, helps transport nutrients around the body, aids in toxin and waste removal, lubricates and absorbs shock to joints, and can even make breathing easier by moistening oxygen! Besides all this, water helps our cells communicate with one another. 

It may seem like drinking a decent amount of water is enough, however, we actually need to ensure the water we drink is being absorbed properly. The best way to do this is to include electrolytes in our water. Electrolytes are minerals that help shuttle the water to our cells; they can be easily added to drinking water by sprinkling in a pinch of sea salt or a few drops of trace minerals. 

Even though water is so vital to our health, getting enough water can be challenging for many of us. In fact, the majority of Americans are chronically dehydrated. This means a lot of us are dealing with hydration-related issues on a daily basis! Some common signs of chronic dehydration include heartburn, joint pain, back pain, constipation, colitis, and exercise asthma (Nutritional Therapy Association, 2020g).

Want to improve your hydration? Try the following:

  • Drink sufficient water (this varies by age, activity level, elevation, current state of health, and more)
  • Make sure there are adequate electrolytes in your water (add a pinch of sea salt or a few drops of trace minerals
  • Keep a bottle of water with you at all times so you can sip throughout the day
  • Drink pure water whenever possible

In closing, 

These foundations forgo fad diets and embrace the innate wisdom of our bodies. Focusing on these six areas will lay the foundation for health. These are areas we can each work on to support proper function and give ourselves the best opportunity for optimal well-being. 


Nutritional Therapy Association (2021) Basics of Nutrition Student Guide. Nutritional Therapy Association.

Nutritional Therapy Association (2020a) Fatty Acids Introduction Student Lecture Slides. Nutritional Therapy Association.

Nutritional Therapy Association (2020b) Fatty Acids Function Student Lecture Slides. Nutritional Therapy Association.

Nutritional Therapy Association (2020c) Fatty Acids Dysfunction Student Lecture Slides. Nutritional Therapy Association.

Nutritional Therapy Association (2020d) Mineral Balance Introduction Student Lecture Slides. Nutritional Therapy Association.

Nutritional Therapy Association (2020e) Mineral Balance Function Student Lecture Slides. Nutritional Therapy Association.

Nutritional Therapy Association (2020f) Hydration Introduction Student Lecture Video Slides. Nutritional Therapy Association.

Nutritional Therapy Association (2020g) Hydration Dysfunction Student Lecture Video Slides. Nutritional Therapy Association.

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