Absorbing nutrients for dummies

There are many foods that have plenty of nutrients that our bodies need. Some of these foods are well-known for containing high amounts of a nutrient.

Take spinach, for example – it’s prized as being an excellent source of iron.

Although spinach is healthy and has many nutrients that our bodies can use, the iron in it is not easily accessible – our bodies simply can’t absorb it properly.

That means that we don’t actually retain much of the nutrient at all.

It’s important that we combine food properly to make sure that we get the most of the nutrients that we need.

Here are some of the best ways to ensure that your body can use the most of the nutrients found in the food you eat:

• Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron.

Pair whole grains with fruit such as strawberries and oranges, or with vegetables such as tomatoes and red pepper. Cook whole wheat pasta or whole grain rice with sautéed vegetables for dinner. Try whole grain rolled oats with berries or whole grain bread with a glass of orange juice for breakfast.

• Cooking vegetables causes a chemical reaction that releases some of their nutrients, such as calcium and iron. Cooking is one of the best ways to access the nutrients from spinach and broccoli – steaming vegetables or adding them to a stir-fry are easy ways to get those nutrients.

• Wait a couple hours between drinking coffee or tea and eating a meal; coffee and tea block nutrients’ absorption into the bloodstream.

• Vitamin D enhances the absorption of magnesium and phosphorous in the body. Good sources of vitamin D include egg yolk and salmon – eat them with foods rich in magnesium (whole grains, almonds and tofu) and phosphorous (lentils, sunflower seeds and poultry).

• Consume different kinds of nutrients throughout the day. Drinking three glasses of milk in quick succession will not allow your body to absorb as much calcium because it will trick your body into thinking that you already have high amounts of calcium. Drinking one glass with breakfast, one with lunch and one with dinner will give yourself time to absorb the calcium so that your body will be ready for more the next time that you drink milk.

Understanding which foods are best for absorbing nutrients will help the body be healthier and more efficient.

Remember that you don’t always need to combine foods and eat them in this way – there are some nutrients that are better absorbed by the body when they are raw rather than when they are cooked, for example – but try to eat food with these kinds of combinations more frequently.

Your body will thank you for it.

Sagan Morrow is a freelance writer and editor. Check out her health blog at www.livingintherealworld.net/healthy.

Published in Volume 65, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 16, 2010)

Related Reads