8 Tips to Maximize Nutrient Absorption

1. Soak Grains, Legumes, and Nuts/Seeds

This reduces phytic acid, which can inhibit absorption of certain nutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. Each type of grain, legume, or nut/seed requires a different minimum soaking time necessary, but it is easiest to soak them overnight

2. Pair Vitamin C with Plant-Based Iron

Pairing non-heme iron (the type of iron found in plant-based sources) with Vitamin C helps break the iron down into an easily absorbable form. One of the easiest ways to do so is to squeeze some lemon or lime juice over a iron-rich dish. Other ways include adding tomatoes to a sandwich or salad or having an iron-rich meal with a side of Vitamin C-rich fruit such as oranges, kiwi, or strawberries.

3. Pair Vitamin D with Calcium

Vitamin D helps increase the absorption of dietary calcium. For those on a plant-based diet, such as myself, Vitamin D sources come from fortified products such as certain nondairy milks, yogurts,and breads, certain mushrooms (wild ones and those exposed to UV light), certain cereals, and certain tofu. Plant-based calcium sources include soy products (tofu, tempeh, soybeans), legumes, certain nuts/seeds like almonds, and green leafy vegetables like spinach, collard greens, broccoli, and kale.

4. Pair Fat with Fat-soluble Vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E, and K) cannot be properly absorbed without a fat source. You can find Vitamin A and K is leafy green vegetables, Vitamin D from orange and yellow vegetables and tomatoes, and Vitamin E in nuts/seeds. One of the easiest ways to do this is to add some nuts/seeds, avocado, or a fat-based dressing to a salad.

5. Pair Turmeric with Black Pepper

Turmeric is a spice that has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and pairing it with black pepper makes its beneficial compounds more bioavailable. Add some turmeric and black pepper to curries, stir fries, roasted vegetables, soups/stews, or as a latte with some nondairy milk and maple syrup.

6. Chew Food Mindfully

Chewing food thoroughly activates digestive enzymes in the mouth and breaks down the cell walls of foods to access nutrients. According to a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, certain vitamins were more easily absorbed when participants chewed almonds 40 times in comparison to 10 times. This is because chewing breaks down the cell wall of the almonds thus helping in the absorption of nutrients.

7. Eat Fresh and Local

Fruits and vegetables start to lose nutrients as soon as they are picked, and eating locally-grown fresh produce maximizes vitamin and mineral content. The best way to do so is to buy from a local farm or farmers market, and consume produce soon after buying. In addition, pre-cut produce rapidly oxidizes, but if necessary, adding lemon juice helps slow decay.

8. Consume Probiotics and Prebiotics

Probiotics contain microorganisms that help break down food and maximize nutrient absorption. Probiotic sources include fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, and tempeh, and yogurt. Prebiotics are food for these helpful gut bacteria found in probiotics that help their numbers grow. Sources include legumes, potatoes, oats, garlic, onion, and bananas.

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