There is a popular saying, “You are what you eat?” but it is not entirely true because, “You are what you absorb.” Proper nutrients are needed for proper functioning of the body. Intestine is a highly specialized organ, responsible for digestion of food and absorption of its nutrients. With a balanced and nutritious diet, a person might still fall short of nutrients if the body can’t absorb them properly.
According to research at Southern Illinois University, different bacteria like lactobacillus and bifid- bacterium helps to stimulate digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. But unfortunately, beneficial microbes are under daily attack from things like over usage of antimicrobials and antibiotics, frequent consumption of processed and unhealthy food, exposure to toxins in the environment and other life style habits like high intake of caffeine and inactive routine.
A person might absorb, around 10% to 90% of the nutrients from a given food. Following are few different ways to improve nutrient absorption in the body:-
1. Repair the digestive tract – About 90% of nutrient absorption takes place in small intestine and then they enter the blood stream. If a person is suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), intestines will more likely struggle with absorption. Probiotics are very important to improve digestive health. It can help improve almost every function of the body. It includes yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, traditional buttermilk, cheddar and mozzarella cheese.
2. Food pairing – Combination of food can play a major role in the absorption of nutrients. Pairing of food wisely increases the nutrient absorption and also facilitate in improving overall health.
- Iron and Vitamin C – In order to absorb non-heme iron present in plant based food, we need to pair it up with vitamin C rich food items because it helps to break down the non-heme iron which is absorbed and used by the cells. Try to squeeze a lemon to bowl of spinach salad. Add Vitamin C rich food like oranges, capsicum, guava, chilli, Brussels sprouts in your diet.
- Calcium and Vitamin D – An appropriate amount of calcium is required for strong and healthy bones. Vitamin D is required for the absorption of calcium from diet. Thus, the combination of vitamin D and calcium is important to ensure the absorption of dietary calcium in the intestine.
- Fat and fat-soluble vitamins – A person needs fats for absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E, K. This is the main reason, why we should eat food rich in these vitamins that can provide good amounts of fat through nuts, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, avocado etc.
3 . Chew your food properly – Chewing of food properly is important aspect for absorption of nutrients. During proper chewing, it not only activates the enzymes present in the mouth but also aid in the digestion process.
4. Stress free – It is not only just what you eat but also how you eat can affect the process of digestion. Stress not only affects the eating habits but also affects the metabolism, slows down the gastric emptying process and intestinal transit time and affects the digestion, absorption and metabolism of nutrients present in food. Always eat mindfully by savoring each and every bite, which helps in proper absorption of nutrients. Make a habit to avoid distraction such as using phones or watching TV while having meals. Relish every bite of your meal.
6. Proper Hydration – Keep the body well hydrated by drinking 4-6 litres of water a day.
7. Avoid liquids – Drinking water or any liquid while eating is not a healthy choice. Liquid consumption during meals reduces absorption of nutrients.
8. Regular physical exercise – A good workout regime helps reducing body fat and thereby improving the metabolism of body.
By making these simple tweaks in the diet, a person can make most of the nutrients available through
food and stay healthy.