When we eat a meal, our thoughts don’t often go beyond how it looks or tastes, but eating is much more than just putting food in our mouth. What we do outside of eating our food, can actually have an impact on the way our body absorbs its nutrients.
Fortunately, there are ways to boost the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, helping us to get the most out of food and supporting optimal body function. Why are nutrients from foods important?
Nutrients are required for important biochemical reactions within the body which are vital for our health and wellbeing as our bodies function from a combined intake of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water.
By eating a balanced and well-rounded diet, we nourish the body, providing our bones with calcium to keep them strong. Our muscles need protein to stay strong and grow, and our organs need vitamins and minerals derived from fruits and vegetables in order to function properly.
If we do not eat a broad variety of nutrients then we are at risk of becoming low in certain nutrients, which can affect biochemical reactions in the body. Symptoms of nutrient deficiencies may be subtle, such as fatigue, dull hair or skin, but if left it may manifest into more serious ailments.
What factors can adversely affect nutrient absorption?
There is a whole range of different factors which can affect our body’s digestion and nutritional absorption from foods, including gastrointestinal issues such as IBS and coeliac disease, as well as a diet high in sugar and processed foods.
Certain medications such as antacids, blood pressure medications, antidepressants and hormone medications can interfere with nutrient levels in the body, as can our stress levels and alcohol consumption.
How to boost nutrient absorption
Providing you don’t have underlying medical conditions, there are a few simple ways to improve your nutritional absorption. Eat a variety of foods in one meal to get a combination of nutrients. We should eat a variety of different healthy foods every day and avoid eating the same foods all the time.
Eat foods rich in vitamin C with iron, eating vitamin C-rich foods such as oranges, sweet peppers, chilli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, with iron-rich foods such as legumes. Red meat increases iron absorption.
Include healthy fats with each meal. Vitamins such as A, D, E, and K need healthy fats to efficiently absorb as they are all fat soluble. You can use oil-based salad dressings such as olive oil to enhance the absorption of fat-vitamins from your vegetables. Take a probiotic
You can also nourish your gut by populating it with healthy bacteria either via probiotics or probiotic-rich foods. Avoid drinking tea at mealtimes. Although tea contains healthy polyphenols and other compounds which may reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases, these compounds are also known to inhibit iron absorption.
Take a break from caffeine and alcohol. Alcohol and diuretics like coffee, not only reduce the number of digestive enzymes in your system, in excess, it can damage the cell linings of the stomach and intestines, making it harder for the nutrients from digestion to enter the bloodstream.
Also, drink plenty of water. Our digestive system is reliant on our level of hydration, as our blood cannot transport nutrients without enough water in our system. We must ensure we drink enough water every day.
Poor nutrition absorption can also be attributed by us eating too quickly and not chewing our food properly. Two things that are basic, but easily achievable. Also, good nutritional absorption starts with what we eat. We can’t expect a bad diet to provide our bodies with the right nutrients to survive.
If the body doesn’t get the right nutrients or isn’t able to absorb those nutrients through a bad lifestyle, then we will be susceptible to illness.