The “healthiest diet in the world” if you ever were to reach this point (good luck) wouldn’t matter much to your health and body if your body cannot even absorb the nutrients. Why would your body not be able to absorb nutrients? Nutrients are necessary for life, energy, proper organ function, endocrine function, and so many other functions in the body.
You could be eating plenty of organic whole foods, taking nutrient rich supplements and still have health challenges that you can’t seem to figure out. Aches, pains, excess belly fat, headaches, whatever it may be. Nutrients aren’t in your body until they are absorbed by the intestinal tract. Nutrients can pass through your entire body and out of your body, not all of them are absorbed. If your body has a difficult time absorbing nutrients (whether a few, or many) it is important to focus on absorption (bio-availability) of nutrients to the body first and foremost.
How much of the nutrients in any given food is actually absorbed by your body? Let’s use an example.
I cup of spinach contains about 24 mg of magnesium. How much of this magnesium is actually absorbed? That’s the smart question to ask, the next best question is how can I increase that absorption rate? The body absorbs anywhere between 10-90% of the nutrients in any given food! That range is huge and if you’re only absorbing 20% of that magnesium (in this case a little over 4 mg) when you could be absorbing 50 or 60% ( 12-14 mg) of that magnesium you would be doubling or tripling your nutrient benefit from the same food, same price, all factors being the same!
The topic of nutrient absorption can get very complex very quickly. Nutrient absorption can be tied into many different factors and co-factors such as the quality of the food, when it was grown, the conditions it was grown in etc. Then there’s the factors that you control which is what we will discuss today. Your current gut and digestive conditions, the time of day you eat, what you’re combining the food with, whether the food is raw or cooked.
There are many factors that can influence your body and it’s ability to absorb nutrients. Today we’ll talk about 3 ways that have been proven to increase bioavailability and absorption of nutrients in the body.
4 Ways To Get More Nutrients From Your Healthy Food
- Integrate And Eat More Healthy Fats:
Foods like avocado, nuts, seeds, olive, coconut and hemp oil are all great sources of healthy fats. By pairing healthy fats with vegetables your body is better able to absorb the nutrients in those vegetables. One study found that coconut oil improved carotenoid absorption better than safflower oil. The researchers believe this to be due to the rich source of Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFA’s) in coconut oil. Coconut oil is the richest source of MCFA’s and is believed to be one of the best healthy fat absorption things you can add to your food. Next time you cook, cook with coconut oil!
- Eat Raw Food More Than Cooked Food In Most Cases:
We’ve all heard this before, but it’s just a friendly reminder! Raw food contains the live enzymes and nutrients that are reduced when cooked. Eat raw whole foods more often for better absorption of the nutrients in these foods. Make a salad, make a smoothie, a green juice, etc. There are a few exceptions to this rule though! Tomatoes for example are better able to give your body lycopene (an antioxidant) when they are cooked. Certain foods are actually more nutritionally available when cooked, so do your research and know which foods those are. Spinach also makes that list because of an antinutrient it contains known as oxalic acid. This antinutrient is reduced in the cooking (or steaming) process which then makes the nutrients more available. Here’s a list of 5 foods that I actually recommend cooking over eating raw.
- Include Black Pepper in Your Diet:
Black pepper is a magical spice! It contains a medicinal compound known as piperine which helps the body absorb nutrients up to 25% better and more efficiently. Simply adding a little black pepper to your next salad or cooked dish is a quick, simple and easy way to allow the body to better utilize the nutrients in the food you’re eating. Black pepper helps the digestive enzymes in the pancreas as well as to reduce gastrointestinal food transit time, which basically means that the food travels through the intestinal tract quicker. The most interesting study I have found on black pepper was one that found that when black pepper was taken with turmeric, or in this case piperine (the active compound in black pepper) with curcumin (the active medicinal compound in turmeric) it was found that curcumin absorption increased 154% in animal studies with rats. With humans? A 2,000% increase in absorption! Talk about a match made in heaven. Black pepper is a spice to include in your diet more often.
- Get Prebiotics & Probiotics in Your Diet:
The word ‘biotic’ literally means ‘life’ so when you hear the word ‘antibiotic’ it means anti-life, prebiotics and probiotics are pre-cursors (prebiotic) and pro-life (probiotic) substances that influence gut health but also other areas of health as well. Prebiotics and probiotics can be found in specific foods. These are foods that help good bacteria form in the gut, which improve and enhance digestion and absorption of nutrients. Synbiotics (the combination of prebiotics and probiotics) are effective as well. Foods that contain prebitoics include bananas, arthichoke, dandelion greens, raw garlic, raw leeks, raw onion and raw asparagus. These foods help to get the gut healthy and produce good bacteria that enhances digestion. Probiotic foods on the other hand already contain these beneficial microbes. There are probiotic supplements you can take or you can get them in your diet from foods like sauerkraut and kimchi. Drinks like kombucha and water kefir also contain probiotics as well.
By simply adding black pepper, healthy fats such as coconut oil and avocado, drinking or eating probiotics and understanding which food are best to cook and which are best to eat raw you can dramatically increase the absorption of the nutrients in the food you consume. If you just integrate these more often in your diet and life it can make incremental changes over time that you will feel and benefit from.
Why this isn’t being discussed by other health bloggers and nutritionists is beyond me, but that’s why i’m here I guess! To talk about counter-intuitive health ideas that make an impact.
Recommended Reading: Turmeric Does These 4 Amazing Things For Your Brain & Body
Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9619120, articles.mercola.com,