Master The Pillars Of Nutrition

Thursday, January 25, 2024


Master the Pillars of Nutrition: Unlock The Right Food Foundation

When it comes to choosing the right foods, knowing where to start can be confusing and overwhelming. The reality is that every one of us is unique when it comes to the right foods for our one-of-a-kind genetic makeup. What works for one person may not work for you. 

​With that being said, there are some basic nutritional guidelines that will simplify the process of choosing the right foods each day. Let's take a look at some of these foundational principles of proper nutrition.


The most important aspect of nutrition to understand is that food is fuel. Like your car, the right fuel keeps the engine humming, the wrong fuel can lead to damage and malfunction. Imagine putting diesel fuel into a regular gas engine. The engine would eventually become too damaged to operate. Our bodies are incredibly complex with countless systems working together to keep you alive and energized. The foods we eat provide the nutritional building blocks and resources that these systems use to do their jobs. When it has all the nutrients it needs, then the body will operate at a high level. If its lacking certain nutrients, then it will not perform nearly as well. The term that is important to know here is synthesize, which is the body's ability to create or produce essential substances, compounds and molecules from nutrients it gets through our diet. Its kind of like going to the grocery store. The body will to see what is on the "shelves" and use those items as best it can. It will then "MacGyver" those items together to make the right elements so it can keep you alive. Examples of these elements are hormones, antioxidants, and amino acids.

So I want you to start asking yourself before every snack, meal or beverage you consume, "is what I'm about to put into my body good fuel or bad fuel?". I ask that question every time. Sometimes I indulge and enjoy food and drinks that I know isn't what my body needs, but for the most part I stay consistent with what I eat on a daily basis.  


​Macronutrients, aka macros, are the comprehensive nutrient categories that we as humans need to eat in order to live. These are carbohydrates, proteins and fats.  

Carbohydrates, or carbs, are foods composed of sugars, starches and fibers. Carbohydrates serve as a primary source of energy for the body. This is because carbs are broken down into glucose, which is a simple sugar. These simple sugars are what provide energy to your cells so that they can perform their many processes each day.

There are two forms of carbs: simple and complex. Simple carbs can be broken down for a quick burst of energy by rapidly raising blood sugar levels. However, this energy is short lived and can cause wild peaks and valleys in blood sugar. These simple carbs are mostly found in some fruits, candies, honey and sugary beverages. Most of your processed or refined foods will fall within the simple carb category. Complex carbohydrates are those that take longer to break down and provide a more steady level of energy. These would be found in foods like grains, legumes and vegetables. Complex carbs are also rich in fiber, which supports digestive health and helps to control your appetite. 

Proteins are nutrients comprised of building blocks known as amino acids. Different amino acids are linked together to form a chain, which determines their function within the body. Proteins support many processes in the body, including: 

*Structural support of the body (ex. Collagen, which forms the structural framework of skin, bones and connective tissue)
*Enzyme function which aids in processes such as digestion and metabolism
*Antibody production, which supports immunity defense
*Cellular communication 
*Muscle contraction and movement
*Metabolic functions such as energy production
*Tissue maintenance and repair
*Nutrient storage for later use 

Fats, also known as lipids, are primarily a way for the body to store energy. When the body needs energy, such as between meals, it can break down fats (in the storage form of triglycerides) and convert them into fatty acids and glycerol, which is the form that cells can then use for energy. Fat also aids in regulating body temperature by providing a layer of thermal insulation. Your organs are protected by fat which is in the form of adipose tissue. This fat helps to cushion your organs and absorb shocks that could occur through physical impact. Fats also help us to feel full after a meal. Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and omega-3 fatty acids, are vital for brain and hormone function.

​As I mentioned, each of us has a unique genetic makeup. Because of this, the way our bodies process carbs, fats and proteins can be different. This is based on the way our body oxidizes foods, which is the process of breaking down nutrients for energy. Each person will either be a slow oxidizer, fast oxidizer or in some cases, a mixed oxidizer. A slow oxidizer is one that takes longer to break down food for energy and a fast oxidizer will break down nutrients more rapidly. 

​So how you can you know the best macronutrient ratios for you? I always tell me clients to keep a daily food log. Its easy to go through a week and not remember what you ate and when you ate it. By logging every meal, snack and beverage, you'll start to paint a picture of the right foods, and timing of foods, for you. For example, if I eat a hearty bowl of oatmeal in the morning but feel fatigued after, then I know that I either need to decrease my portion size OR go for something else. This could be a sign that my body doesn't respond well to a heavy carb meal. I could then try eggs and avocado for breakfast and see how that feels. Its really a trial and error process. Once you start to dial in the right foods for how your body operates, you'll then have a list of foods and meals that are going to energize and satisfy you. Its awesome eating a meal and feeling GOOD afterwards, not tired or sluggish. 


You may have heard the phrase "eat the rainbow" before. If not, then what it means is that to give our bodies a full spectrum of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, we should be eating a diverse color range of fruits and vegetables. Remember, food is our fuel, so providing a wide array of different vitamins, nutrients and minerals allows our bodies to have more resources to do their job more efficiently. 

It is ALWAYS better to get our vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food we eat and not from a vitamin or pill. Our bodies are programmed to know how to break down foods like fruits and vegetables so that they can extract and absorb as much of the nutrients as possible. Let's say that you feel a cold coming on and want to boost your immune system. You could reach for a Vitamin C pill. However, there are several forms of Vitamin C available, which plays a factor in how this nutrient is processed and absorbed.  There are different delivery methods, such as a hard pill or a liquid, which also are absorbed differently. Also, Vitamin C pills are notorious for causing gut discomfort if taken in high doses.  Instead, let's have you reach for an orange. Not only will you be getting a highly bioavailable (meaning your body can absorb and utilize at a high level) form of Vitamin C, but you'll be getting some other key nutrients that will help give you best result. For example, an orange contains fiber, which can help the slow the digestion of Vitamin C and allow for more of the nutrient to be used by your body. That slower digestion from the fiber will also help to prevent gut discomfort. 

"Eating the rainbow" can have far-reaching positive effects on your health in both the short-term and the long-term. You'll give your body a rich supply of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients such as antioxidants, which help to fight inflammation while also protecting your cells. Phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables have been shown to reduce your risk of chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and neurodegenerative conditions. Eating the rainbow allows for a robust immune system, which will keep you thriving in any season. You'll also improve your gut health by strengthening your healthy gut bacteria, which are key in digestion, absorption and waste removal. There are many other benefits, such as improved eye health. Fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids (i.e. beta-carotene, lycopene, zeaxanthin) have been shown to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Eating a diverse range of fruits and vegetables has also been linked with positive mood and well-being. Our society has begun to shine a spotlight on mental health, and I believe our generally poor diets lacking in fruits and vegetables play a massive role in the mental health crisis we currently face. 

I'll be honest. It can take some time to adjust your taste palate to enjoy the full range of fruits and vegetables. The processed foods we eat have been "frankensteined" to have extreme taste and texture. These processed foods can create a desire to eat high salt and high sugar foods, where the lack of that extreme taste may cause us to "not like it". I can tell you this. The way you feel after eating natural, whole foods will make the switch completely worth it. Just keep eating the right foods and don't give up! I've noticed that any time I choose a processed version of a food, I can now taste the chemicals and fake ingredients in those foods. It kind of grosses me out!

So, have fun at the grocery store trying all kinds of different fruits and vegetables. It will allow you the chance to really explore and break out of the normal foods you've been eating. Over time, you'll create a master list of fruits and vegetables that you enjoy. I also recommend looking up the nutrients that are found within each fruit and vegetable you choose to try. I think its cool seeing what all is in each one!  


I'm not going to tell you to go vegan or vegetarian. In fact, I've tried this myself and enjoyed parts of it but also struggled with others. I will recommend, however, that you lower the frequency of meat consumption. Overconsumption of meat, especially processed and red meats, has been linked to several chronic diseases such as heart disease, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes. While there is protein and some good nutrients in meats, the majority of what you should consume should be plant based.

When you do consume animal protein, I'd go for the leaner options. This would include fish, turkey and chicken. These are lower in unhealthy fats and are overall easier on the body in terms of digestion and utilization. Our family typically consumes meat 2 days a week. ​We make sure to pack the rest of our plates with fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. In addition to choosing lean meat, I'd also recommend purchasing organic and grass fed whenever possible. Other meat options can contain some pretty unsavory hormones, chemicals and other elements that can cause more harm than good if consumed. For example, livestock in a processed environment are often given hormones to help them grow faster and speed up the process of turning them into meat. Residue from these hormones makes its way into your body and can disrupt your body's natural hormone production and cause detrimental health issues. 

​We use a company called ButcherBox for most of our meat, which delivers high-quality organic, grass fed and humanely processed meats to our front door. There are other options out there, so please research to find what would be best for you and your family. You can also ask the butcher at your grocery store if they have any of these clean options. 


​Nuts, seeds and grains (NSGs) are plant-based powerhouses that should become a staple in your daily food regimen. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other vital compounds that will help your mood, body and wellbeing stay in top shape. 

How are some ways they do this? One is that they help keep a healthy heart by providing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids. Consuming nuts, seeds and grains has shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, improve cholesterol levels and improve overall heart function. ​

NSGs also help keep you strong as they contain high quality plant-based protein. I mentioned that you should strive to limit your meat intake. Consuming NSGs will help provide the protein you need on the days you are meatless. 

They also are rich in dietary fiber, which will help maintain your digestive health as well as help you maintain a healthy weight. The dietary fiber in NSGs helps you to feel full, supports regular bowel movements. In addition, NSGs are digested more slowly, which can prevent big spikes in blood sugar and insulin. Because of this, NSGs have been shown to reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes. 

NSGs are packed with antioxidants, which help boost your immune system and fight inflammation. This is because they contain nutrients such as vitamin E and polyphenols, which work to neutralize free radicals in your body and help your cells stay strong. 

NSGs also help keep your bones healthy. There is a misconception that calcium really only comes from dairy products. I find it interesting that a cow, which is our main source of dairy products, eats a mostly grass-based diet. The truth is NSGs promote bone health because they contain several key minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. Dairy digestion can be hard on a human body, so its important to make sure and find healthier alternatives.  As a daily coffee drinker, I found it challenging to switch from my half and half to plant-based creamers. However, there are some great options out there so you can enjoy your daily Cup of Joe! Cheese is probably the hardest dairy item to let go of. Many of us have a true love affair with our cheese! If you venture into the non-dairy world, then I'd recommend trying several options of dairy replacements (i.e. plant-based cheeses, etc.). They all taste different and have different textures. You'll need to find the products that you like best. 

So what are some options for nuts, seeds and grains that you could start to incorporate daily. In terms of nuts, some of the healthiest options include almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews and Brazil nuts. When it comes to seeds, you could try chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds (save the seeds from your Jack-O-Lanterns and roast them!), and sesame seeds. Lastly, are the grains, which includes oats, barley, quinoa, brown rice and buckwheat. 

A final element of NSGs is how they allow you to be more creative in the meals you make.  Incorporating nuts, seeds and grains into your daily meals will allow you to develop more enjoyment from cooking. You can add them to salads, smoothies, eat them as a snack or work them into your main meals. 


The last piece of the nutrition puzzle is hydration. As Americans, we actually have a hydration problem. It's believed that almost 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. There are several reasons for this. One is that we consume high sodium foods. Chronic high sodium intake has been linked with high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. It can also lead to bone density loss because calcium may be pulled in an effort to balance electrolyte levels. Another reason for our chronic dehydration is in the beverages we consume. Energy drinks and coffee have a diuretic effect, which means that they stimulate urine production. Next time you drink caffeine, pay attention to how many times you urinate, especially within the few hours after. Its wild how much urine your body pumps out! Because of this increased urination and loss of fluids, the body will also lose valuable electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium. Many of the energy drinks and other beverages we consume are also high in sugar. This also leads to a loss of fluids as urination is increased to remove the excess. 

To stay properly hydrated, you will have to be intentional. First, don't reach for the coffee or caffeine when you first wake up. Most  people sleep 6 to 8 hours a night. Think about the time when you are awake. Could you make it 8 hours without consuming any water? Since your body has been without any hydration, reaching for caffeine first thing in the morning will only make matters worse. Remember, caffeine and coffee are diuretics. They increase urination and fluid loss.  In fact, most of the time we are tired in the morning not because we haven't had caffeine yet, but because we are dehydrated! When you first wake up, go for at least 16 ounces of water before you have caffeine or eat breakfast. I also like to add some lemon juice to my water, as it helps to pull any waste or toxicity that may have accumulated in your body from the night before. 

The next thing to do is to limit your sodium intake throughout the day. The World Health Organization (WHO) makes a recommendation of 2000 mg of sodium per person each day. Most processed foods and meals are packed with sodium. I guarantee that if you are eating processed foods, including deli meats and boxed/frozen dinners, then you are most likely blowing past the 2000 mg/day. When you are at the store just look at the nutrition labels of the foods you buy. Its insane to see the amounts of sodium that are in these foods! 

Lastly, don't just get your hydration from water. Water is an important part of our body's makeup, but it shouldn't be the only source of hydration you get. Eating fruits and vegetables will help you stay hydrated by providing key electrolytes as well as the water that they contain naturally. I think you'll find that once you start eating more of these foods, you'll start to notice that you are reaching for water less and less. 


I hope that this information helps you to get on the right track when it comes to your health. As The Hell to Healthy Coach, I always recommend that my clients start with their diet. There are other elements to transform your health, but the foods and beverages we eat and drink play a massive role in our health today and into the future. 

If you'd like to take things to the next level, then I encourage you to schedule a Discovery Call with me. This will give you the chance to learn more about how I can help you create lasting health change in your life. Just click the link to schedule: 

Schedule Your Discovery Call

I look forward to taking you from Hell to Healthy!

Micah Lucie
Hell to Healthy Coach 

Micah Lucie, "Hell to Healthy Coach" 

Micah Lucie is a Functional Health Coach and a certified Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner. He coaches clients to learn how to take control of their own health and live life without the limitations that poor health can create. 

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Micah Lucie, FDNP

Hell to Healthy Coach 

Hi there! I'm Micah Lucie, the Hell to Healthy Coach. My passion is to uncover the reasons behind someone's health issues and put the power of restoration back in their hands.