What important fact is often left out of eating healthy? Bio Availability. Bioavailability means how easy (or able, at all) it is for your body to use nutrients in foods. If you’re reading ingredient lists, watching for fresh and raw foods and making healthier choices, you’re on the right track for better health. However, foods and ingredient lists can only publish the amount of nutrients in the foods…NOT how well your body can use them. This can create a pitfall for consumers looking for better health.
Educate yourself on bioavailability with this article for the healthiest choices!
The most common example of misleading nutritional content (what’s on the label doesn’t match what your body can actually use) are milk products. Everyone’s heard over & over that “milk is a great source of calcium”…why, just look at that nutrition facts label. There can be up to 30 percent of your daily value in just one serving. However, that’s not the whole story.
The calcium in animal products, including milk, isn’t very bioavailable. There may be more total calcium in milk than there is in spinach, but if you don’t have the ability to absorb or process it, it won’t do you any good. So if you’re looking for calcium, reaching for dark leafy greens offers your more easily available calcium than plain milk.
Why don’t products mention bioavailability in numbers on their labels, if it’s so different and important?
Because it’s too hard to pin it down. Each person has a different selection of enzymes, helpful bacteria, harmful bacteria, a different level of acidity in the stomach throughout the day, and many other factors that can improve, inhibit, or just change the bioavailability of the nutrients they eat. To add even more unpredictability, some nutrients are more bio-available when consumed with others, like fat-soluble vitamin E requires a healthy fat for your body to use it. No fat? No E. That’s why the best thing to do is educate yourself independently, and know what foods generally have a better shot at the nutrient you want being maximally bio available. When you know what you want and you know the bio availability, you’ll know what to eat and how to eat it.
Quick tips include:
Mincing garlic or onions for recipes and waiting 10 minutes before using it to release all the healthy allicin. (Allicin is good for cholesterol, blood pressure and reducing heart disease risk factors)
Cooking tomatoes releases & makes more bioavailable the carotenoids, so go ahead and enjoy red sauces, soups and stews with tomato.
Cabbage & related vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli are best raw. If you must cook broccoli, a light steaming can work because boiling these veggies makes the healthy glucosinolates come out into the water where they’re not consumed. Also, cooking can deactivate the enzyme myrosinase, which is a cancer-fighter.
Some foods work together to boost bioavailability.
For example, E and A are fat soluble vitamins. They’re also found in lots of tasty salad ingredients. To get the most out of your salad, add a little healthy plant fat at the same meal. Avocado slices, crunchy nuts, chia seeds, or olive oil based dressings are all good ideas. (Skipping low fat dressing is recommended) Oatmeal and orange juice at the same meal activate phenols for heart and artery health. Berries and grapes also increase the useful amount of free-radical fighting anti oxidants you can use. (Various berries like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries etc all also enhance each other when eaten together.)
Other foods already have the combination of nutrients that boost bioavailability inside them from the start. A good example of this is the chia seed. It has calcium, but also magnesium and boron. The trace mineral boron helps your body get the calcium where it needs to go: into your bones. Micro-nutrients such as trace minerals are substances you only need a tiny bit of, but they are important none-the-less. Magnesium is very important for good health, getting the right amount of magnesium in your diet from foods can help with bone health, diabetes, heart health, nervous system health, 300 different enzymes use it, and helping to digest protein.
Keeping your beneficial bacteria (probiotics) healthy increases bioavailability in many foods.
Probiotic bacteria, the “good-guys” always getting press in yogurt ads, help you break down foods for use as energy, kill off bad bacteria that would harm you & help move food through the digestive system. Probiotic bacteria eat something called ‘prebiotic fiber’. This is soluble fiber. Soluble fiber does not add calories to food because your body cannot break it down…however good bacteria can. By feeding them this specific type of fiber you can encourage all of their positive activities. Chia seeds are the only seed with so much soluble fiber you can see it with the naked eye. When you soak chia seeds in filtered water at a ratio of 9 parts water to 1 part seeds, you’ll see they make a thick clear gel within 15 minutes. Because the gel has no flavor, you can add it to yogurt, oatmeal, soup, dressing, smoothies, jelly, pudding, ice cream, or anything you already like to eat. Was the food low in fiber? Add some chia gel and the fiber content is taken care of.