You are What you Eat … and Absorb!
We all know the saying “you are what you eat,” however, an often forgotten component of eating, is absorption. The ability of your body to properly absorb and assimilate essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients from your food is an important part of good nutrition.
Did you know that there are certain ways to eat that can help your body absorb the components of your food and enhance your overall health and wellbeing? While the human digestive system is highly sophisticated in its ability to assimilate nutrients, you can help the process to be more efficient and effective.
Chew your food: Digestion starts in the mouth. It sounds simple, but it is often challenging to remember to properly CHEW your food. Saliva activates the enzymes (primarily amylase and lipase) that begin the process of digesting starch and fat. When your food is properly chewed, it will be close to a liquefied state. The size of the food particles that you swallow can have an effect on how your body chooses to use them. The smaller the particles, the more your body can use the nutrients for all of its biological needs. Larger particles are often harder to digest and can cause digestive distress. So, if you suffer from gas, reflux, pain or bloating, try slowly and thoroughly chewing your food. It just may help!
Combine iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods: This tip particularly applies to non-heme iron (which is the iron that is found in non-animal based foods). If you follow a plant-based diet, or consume animal products and are still low in iron, you want to ensure that you are efficiently gleaning iron from the food you eat. Here are some ideas of how to combine non-heme iron food sources with foods high in vitamin C in order to increase iron absorption: lentils cooked with tomato sauce, oatmeal with berries, tofu or tempeh with bell peppers, hot water with black strap molasses and freshly squeezed lemon. If your bloodwork has revealed that you are low in iron, it is best to speak with a dietitian or nutritionist to make sure that your dietary choices boost your iron status.
Consume foods that are high in fat-soluble vitamins with healthy fats: Vitamin A, D, E and K are all fat-soluble vitamins. Restricting good quality fats in your diet makes it harder for your body to absorb these essential vitamins. To help your body properly absorb and assimilate these vitamins, it is best to eat them with healthy fats. For example: sweet potatoes cooked with olive oil, spinach salad with slices of avocado, kale sautéed with grass-fed butter.
Enhance your phytonutrient intake – Eat garlic: Garlic is one of the most antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-cancer foods you can consume. Make sure the way you eat garlic is the most beneficial for your health. Here’s how: prior to cooking with garlic or eating it raw (for example, in salad dressings), crush or slice the garlic and allow it to sit for 15 minutes before consuming. This allows the beneficial phytochemicals (predominantly allicin) to develop before
Eat cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, etc. are all part of this family. The best way to activate the exceptional anti-cancer benefits (sulforaphane being the superhero phytochemical) of these vegetables is to chop them and let them sit for 30 minutes before cooking. Then, when you’re ready to cook, it’s ideal to steam them or use a light cooking technique.