Nutrients and Bioavailability: How much do we absorb?
Bioavailability is the percentage of nutrients that our body absorbs after they are digested. These nutrients have to survive the GI tract and make it into your blood stream and your cells, thus we do not absorb 100% of what we consume.The amount of nutrients our bodies absorb can depend on the source of the nutrient, other nutrient interactions, and our body’s needs. For example, a women with anemia will absorb more iron from her diet than a healthy male. If you eat a wide variety of whole foods, you probably don’t need to worry about your nutrient absorption. However, if you consume a strict diet or have known deficiencies, there are some nutrients that can improve bioavailability of other nutrients when consumed together. Examples:
- Consuming Vitamin D with calcium increases absorption of Calcium.(**note: too much vitamin D consumed with calcium may cause kidney stones. Talk to your doctor before starting any new supplements)
- Consuming Vitamin C with non-heme iron increases iron absorption.
- Consuming healthy fats with fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E, &K) increases vitamin absorption.
- Consuming black pepper with curcumin (phytochemical found in turmeric) increases absorption of curcumin.
There are also nutrients that interfere with nutrient absorption. These include:
- Oxalates- interfere with absorption of calcium, iron and other minerals, but do not block them completely. Oxalates are highest in dark leafy greens such as spinach and chard. These leafy greens are also high in iron and calcium. Don’t they contradict each other? Slightly, however a good portion of the minerals still get absorbed.
- Tea, coffee, dark chocolate.
- Phytates- antioxidant compounds found in nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes. While phytates may interfere with absorption of minerals, the benefits of these foods strongly outweigh the negatives.
What is the difference between free-range, cage-free, and pasture raised eggs?
A picture is worth a thousand words, right? ALWAYS get pasture-raised!
What is the difference between organic and non-organic?
Labels these days can be very misleading. Let me provide some definitions for you:
Organic: Produce, dairy products and meat grown without added pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and dyes, and must not be processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, genetic engineering, and antibiotics/growth hormones for livestock. However, you may notice some labels say USDA organic or certified organic. This means 95% of the ingredients follow the above guidelines. Other labels say 100% organic (which means 100% of the ingredients follow the above stated guidelines), and furthermore, some say “made with organic”. “Made with Organic” means 70% of the ingredients must be organic, and the other 30% may not be. The downside to purchasing organic products is the cost. Find out what produce is in season and that will help lower your costs!
Non-organic: Also known as conventional, non-organic foods are grown with pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and antibiotics to prevent disease in livestock, as well as growth hormones to speed up production.
If you cannot afford to buy all organic food items and you consume animal products, I highly encourage you to at least purchase organic animal products (all meats, dairy and eggs). Produce that comes from the ground is best purchased organic as well, and always make sure to wash your produce thoroughly after purchasing.
What is the difference between Low-Fat, Fat-Free, Reduced Fat, and Light?
Low-Fat: 3 grams or less of fat per serving
Fat-Free: Less than .5g of fat per serving
Reduced Fat: The product contains 50% or less of the fat found in the regular version
Light: The product contains 50% or less of the fat found in the regular version
HOWEVER: Just because a product says fat-free does NOT mean it is better for you!!! Often times when products are labeled as any of the above categories, the fat content is replaced with substitutes and other processed chemicals. If you are going to splurge on something, get the real deal and then get back on track right after. Buying these overly processed, chemical loaded products is not any healthier. Plus, even if the fat content is zero, the sugar and carb content is likely still high. Read the ingredients in what you are buying. If you cannot pronounce it, or don’t know what it is, you probably shouldn’t buy it.
How do you get enough protein on a plant-based diet?
The biggest misconception people have about plant-based diets is protein. Let me start by explaining how much protein our bodies actually need. Take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2. This will give you your weight in kilograms. Take your weight in kilograms and multiply it by .8 to 1. This is how many grams of protein your body needs. Unless you are aggressively weight lifting, or are an olympic athlete, your body does NOT need any more than this. More protein than this will lead to kidney damage down the road. Example: 120lb/2.2 = 54.5kg. 54.5kgx.8=43g 54.5×1=54.5. So this particular person needs 43-55g/protein per day. If you are elderly, lean toward 1gram/kilogram of body weight.
Now, what about complete proteins? Yes, animal products have all 9 essential amino acids we need to consume because our bodies cannot create them. Soy beans are also a complete protein, and many other legumes, nuts and seeds contain all 9 essential AA’s in combination. It is not necessary to consume all 9 in every single meal, as long as you get them all throughout the day.
Sources of plant protein: Soy, Lentils, Quinoa, Brown Rice, Buckwheat, Oats, Beans, Seeds, Nuts and Nut Butters (there are too many to list!)
Isn’t Soy bad for you?
Soy seems to be under fire lately because people believe it contains estrogen that will give them cancer and man boobs. Soy contains a phytochemical group called isoflavones. Phytochemicals are compounds in plants that have nonnutritive benefits and are studied extensively for their role in chronic disease prevention. Isoflavones are called phytoestrogens because they bind to some estrogen receptors in the body, but their activity isn’t the same as estrogen; in some cases they have anti-estrogenic effects. If consumed in extremely large quantity, (e.g. 14 cups of pure soybeans/day) then yes, you may experience negative effects of soy products. However, new studies show that when consumed in correct portions (1-2 cups daily), soy has many beneficial compounds, for men and women. Dr. Michael Greger, creator of nutrition facts.org, describes it perfectly: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/who-shouldnt-eat-soy/
What is the difference between sprouted grains/legumes and non-sprouted?
Sprouted grains are easier for the body to digest and allow for more absorption of vitamins. The sprouting process involves soaking grains in water until the grain grows a sprout. It then can be ground and used in sprouted bread, or it can be cooked and eaten like a normal grain. This process releases enzymes which begin to break down carbohydrates and protein. This allows nutrients to be immediately absorbed into the body and also allows for easier digestion since the grain has already begun to break down. Traditional grains are much harder to digest and much of the nutrients from the grain are lost because of this. Overall, sprouted grains are high in fiber, higher in protein, higher in vitamins, and have a low glycemic index.
How do you meal prep?
Meal prepping can be overwhelming for someone that is just starting out. I like to use a protein source, a complex carbohydrate and/or a healthy fat, and then add in whatever vegetables I have on hand. So when you do your grocery shopping, buy enough of your protein source for 5 meals (if you work 5 days a week.) Then buy 5 servings of brown rice, sweet potatoes, avocado, lentils, or whatever you want your carb source to be (those are my favorites). Cook a large batch and then proportion it into 5 containers. Add in your favorite veggies (mine are broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and carrots. Using just one of these is ok! I like variety 😋). Top with your favorite seasonings and your ready for the week! My favorite seasonings are garlic, red chili flakes, turmeric and pepper. This will save you so much time AND money in the coming week. Eating out for lunch every day REALLY adds up.