Optimize Nutrient Absorption from Foods

By CourtesyMarch 31, 2023

Optimize Nutrient Absorption from Foods
National Nutrition Month is an annual campaign created 50 years ago in 1973 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. During the month of March, everyone is invited to learn about making informed food choices and developing healthful eating and physical activity habits. (photo by Registered Dietitian, Sean Soderman) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

Written by Registered Dietitian, Sean Soderman, Womack Army Medical Center.

FORT BRAGG, N.C--As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of National Nutrition Month, remembering to ‘Fuel for the Future’ is a healthy way to meet our nutrition needs without compromising our food principles.

The proverbial saying, “You are what you eat,” reminds us to eat and appreciate heathy foods. Did you know it’s possible to eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods, but not get the full benefit from their nutrients? If you focus on eating nutrient-packed foods, but you’re not absorbing all the wonderful nutrients, how helpful is that? A more accurate version of the famous saying is “You are what you eat and absorb”, since absorption is key to getting the most out of the foods you choose. Here are a few easy techniques to get more nutrition from the foods you eat.

Vitamin A, D, E and K (also known as ‘ADEK’) are all fat-soluble vitamins that have high bioavailability on their own, but by adding enough fat to your day, you can enhance absorption even more. Consider cooking your vegetables with healthy oil or fat to help the absorption of these essential fat-soluble vitamins.

Plant foods rich in vitamins, A, D, E, and K: Carrots [A], Kale [A/K], Mushrooms [D], Nuts [E], Collards [K], Broccoli [A/K], Seeds [E]

Vitamin C is mostly found in fruits and vegetables and can be eaten fresh or raw. If you cook these fruits or vegetables, do so minimally by light steaming or a short microwave time.

Foods rich in Vitamin C: Bell peppers, citrus, cauliflower, strawberries, kiwis, broccoli.

Iron is found in animal products as well as plant foods. To enhance the absorption of iron in plants, combine with Vitamin C-rich foods. Do not consume with tannin-containing drinks like tea and coffee.

Plant sources of Iron: beans, lentils, spinach, tofu.

Calcium is well utilized and absorbed by the body, but can be increased with adequate Vitamin D levels.

Foods rich in Calcium: Milk and dairy products, kale, spinach, broccoli, tofu, and collard greens

Lycopene is not considered an essential nutrient and is often similar in function to beta-carotene and acts as a powerful antioxidant. Lycopene absorption is enhanced the same way the ‘ADEK’ vitamins are with just a little healthy oil or fat added while cooking.

Foods rich in Lycopene: Tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, sun-dried tomatoes, papaya, apricots.

The nutrients above are just a few! There are many more ways to help the foods you eat be absorbed. If you are a TRICARE member and want to learn ways to improve your overall health through nutrition, contact the Nutrition Clinic at 910-907-DIET (3438) and schedule your appointment.