Are You What You Eat or Absorb? The Basics Of Bioavailability


They always say ‘you are what you eat’. But I disagree. If that were true, we could all just eat a salad each day and be in perfect health, no matter what else is going on! The way that I put it is ‘you are what you absorb’.

Consuming food is only the start of the process. There are so many things that can affect how your food nourishes you from the moment that it reaches your lips.

To break it down, there are four major factors that impact on your nutrient status. They are:

  • Intake – how much of a nutrient you consume through food
  • Absorption – how much of that nutrient passes from the digestive tract into the body
  • Use – how much of that nutrient is used up in body processes
  • Excretion – how much of it is removed from the body

Some of these factors we can change, and some we can’t. For example, women will lose iron through blood losses – that can’t be changed. But we can increase the intake and absorption of iron to balance out that loss.

Nutrients can also be more or less bioavailable, depending on what you consume them with. Some foods have anti-nutrients or competing nutrients that reduce absorption. Others have cofactors that boost absorption.

How To Make Your Food More Bioavailable

Want to get the most out of your food, and up your nutrient bang for buck? Here are a few simple tips to get you started.

Chew your food

The digestive process starts in the mouth. There are enzymes in your saliva that will start to break down the carbohydrates in the food you eat. The more broken down food is by the time it reaches your gut, the easier it is to absorb nutrition from it.

So chew your food well, and take your time with eating. If you chew complex carbs such as rice for long enough, it will start to taste sweet!

Space out your water intake

Water is an amazing nutrient. But too much, particularly at the wrong times, can impede digestion and absorption of nutrients from your food. It can dilute your stomach acid if you drink too much with a meal.

Try to stick to one glass of water with your meals, and drink the rest in small amounts throughout the day. This will help to optimise your hydration and your nutrition as well.

Combine your foods right

Some nutrients compete with each other, such as the minerals iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium. So if you have cheese on your burger patty, you’ll be absorbing small amounts of the iron and zin from the burger and calcium from the cheese.

On the other hand, some nutrients support each other. A common example is iron and vitamin C. That’s why I’ll recommend a squeeze of lemon juice over the side salad with your steak, as an example.

Tannins are a type of anti-nutrient found in tea that can inhibit your mineral absorption. This is why I recommend you drink your tea away from meals, especially if you’re depleted in minerals such as iron.

Focus on your food

Digestion and absorption take time. It takes time for the body to produce all of the enzymes and break down the food. That’s why focusing on your food is important if you want to get the most out of it.

When you focus on your meal instead of your Facebook feed, you’re engaging with more senses. Ever felt yourself salivating with anticipation with a tasty meal? This is because your body is responding by producing more enzymes, so you can get the most out of it. We were designed to enjoy tasty food!

This is only the basics of food and nutrient bioavailability. If you want to learn more, head over and check out The Real Lifestyle Collective. You can learn more about it here.

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