Eat all the colors of the rainbow. That’s the best way to ensure you get a wide variety of nutrients in your diet. Society focuses on the value of the foods we eat without paying attention to how much of the nutrients we are absorbing from them. Nutritional absorption is sometimes more important than the quality of the foods you eat since you can eat very healthily, but if your body isn’t absorbing the vitamins and nutrients, there is no benefit gained or realized. Every food has a bioavailability factor. Bioavailability is the scientific term used to measure the number of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in our food that our body absorbs. Many things impact nutritional absorption, such as the types of foods we eat, our current state of health, and our age. Sometimes eating for maximum nutritional absorption may look slightly different than eating for overall health and wellness.
What is bioavailability?
The scientific term bioavailability measures the number of nutrients available in the foods we eat and how easy it is for our bodies to absorb them. This has a significant impact on our nutrition and health. There are many factors to consider when talking about nutritional absorption. Foods that are complex and hard for our bodies to break down have low bioavailability because it takes a lot of work to digest those foods. Let’s look at protein. Protein comes in many forms, e.g., fish and chicken or cruciferous greens, such as broccoli. Our bodies have a more challenging time digesting and absorbing the nutrients in broccoli since it’s harder to break down the thick cellular walls of the vegetable. That means that although broccoli is nutrient-dense and healthy, the amount of nutrient absorption and its bioavailability factor is low. On the other hand, foods high in protein, chicken, and fish are easily digested. They would have a high bioavailability score.
Another factor affecting the bioavailability of food is our age and overall health. The older we get, the harder it is for the stomach acid to break down certain foods. The more digestible foods we eat, the higher the bioavailability factor. A way to hack the system would be to parboil or steam denser foods, such as cruciferous vegetables.
There are things we can do to increase nutritional absorption from the foods we eat, such as:
- Chop, dice, or mince vegetables with rigid cell structures, to make it easier for our bodies to break them down, as you would do with spinach to maximize Iron absorption.
- Eating certain foods together with others can also aid in absorption. For example, eating foods high in Vitamin C and foods high in Iron increases the body’s ability to absorb the mineral Iron.
- Eating fat increases the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K, so enjoy that extra serving of avocado, that handful of nuts, and that splash of olive oil on your salad.
- Vitamin C improves the absorption of Iron, especially from plant sources, an important fact if you eat a plant-based diet.
- The phytic acid and oxalates found in plants can decrease the absorption of calcium and magnesium (vitamins and minerals found in most dairy products). If your body craves milk, add it to your protein shake and not your green smoothie.
- Caffeine may keep you alert during that mid-day slump, but it decreases nutritional absorption of all vitamins and minerals, so enjoy your coffee on its own.
- Carotenoids and lycopene are super antioxidants and are absorbed best when eaten with fats. There are two components involved in the bioavailability of foods we eat, digestion and absorption. Digestion is how the body breaks down the food we eat into molecules, which then sets off the absorption mechanism. Absorption is the process of transferring the food molecules from the digestive juices through the lining of our small intestines, allowing them to pass to the proper destinations in our bodies. Here are five tips to help your body be more efficient at nutritional absorption:
When you aren’t feeling your best or know that you’re not eating the proper foods to get the right amount of nutrients your body needs to feel energized, schedule an appointment for IV Drip Therapy at Longevity Care Clinic. Alternatively, If you want to learn how to eat for optimal health and nutritional absorption, you can schedule an appointment with one of our on-staff nutritionists.