Are you concerned about getting adequate vitamins and minerals from your food? Do you take a multivitamin or other single vitamin/mineral supplement?
If so, you’re not alone! Vitamin and nutritional supplements are a thirty-six billion dollar industry in the United States!
Supplements can be tricky since they’re not regulated by the FDA. What does this mean for you? Well, unfortunately, what's on the label may or may not be in the bottle. High quality supplements can be useful when you’re working with a qualified health professional that has identified a deficiency, but as an advocate for food first, I’ve got some tricks you can use to make sure you’re getting the most nutrition out of your food, supplement free!
Certain vitamins, minerals, and other nutritive compounds can actually work together to increase their absorption in our bodies. Check out these power duos below to get a leg up on your next meal!
Vitamin C helps with iron absorption. So, the next time you're chowing down on some iron (beef, oysters, chicken, turkey, beans, lentils, cashews, and dark leafy green vegetables like spinach) make sure to add some high vitamin C foods like kiwi, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lemon/orange juice, or strawberries. One of my favorite tricks is adding a squeeze of lemon juice to foods which adds some of that vitamin C, and also helps with digestion.
Vitamin B12 and folate are one of the most admirable nutrition duos with their key roles in processes such as cell division, replication, and red blood cell health. Folate though, needs B12 to be absorbed, stored, and metabolized. All sources of B12 come from animal foods such as meat, eggs, and milk, while folate comes mostly from plants sources like leafy greens, beans, and legumes. This means making sure you're always eating a variety and including lots of plant as well as animal protein in your diet. If you're a cereal eater you may have an upper hand on the folate part as cereal grains are fortified by law with folate.
Fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A, D, E, and K all need fat along the ride to be absorbed. Additional players in this game include our omega-3 fatty acids and co-enzyme Q-10. Though many foods that contain these vitamins and nutrients already contain their own fat, just be sure you're not avoiding fat or you'll be missing out on these valuable elements!
Foods high in vitamin A: salmon, goat cheese, eggs, liver, sweet potato, winter squash, kale, collard greens, carrots, sweet red peppers, and spinach.
Foods high in vitamin D: salmon, herring, sardines, canned tuna, oysters, shrimp, cage-free egg yolks, mushrooms, and fortified foods.
Foods high in vitamin E: sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, pinenuts, peanuts, walnuts, salmon, avocado, rainbow trout, and brazil nuts.
Foods high in Vitamin K: kale, mustard greens, swiss chard, collard greens, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, beef liver, chicken, and prunes.
Foods high in omega-3 fats: salmon, sardines, mackerel, herring, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, cage-free egg yolks, and hemp seeds.
Foods high in co-enzyme Q10: cage-free eggs, free-range chicken, strawberries, herring, sesame seeds, pistachios, mackerel, cauliflower, oranges, and broccoli.
As you can see, there are lots of foods containing all these vitamins! So, the easiest thing to do it just make sure you're including some healthy fat at each meal. Good fat sources are:
Butter or ghee from grass-fed cows
Extra Virgin Olive oil and olives
Seeds, nuts and their butters (i.e. peanut butter, almond butter, etc)
The anti-inflammatory compound, curcumin, found in turmeric is absorbed, according to some, up to 2000% more when taken with black pepper! The key here is the compound piperine found in black pepper which is known to enhance the bioavailability of many compounds, including curcumin. Additionally, fat aids in the uptake of curcumin by affecting the four major processes of delivery by solubility, dispersion, digestion, and absorption.
In Ayurveda, turmeric is often included in curries which always include black pepper and fat. Ghee is the recommended fat by Indian standards, but any healthy fat will do the trick!
On the other end of the spectrum, some nutrients work against each other!
Iron is one that, although good with vitamin C, is greatly inhibited by calcium and polyphenols. Be mindful if you're trying to increase your iron, that foods high in calcium, (dairy products & sardines) and foods high in polyphenols like tea and coffee, will inhibit the absorption of iron. This just means space out your iron containing foods with your intake of dairy and coffee/tea by several hours.
Getting the most out of your food shouldn't be a complicated chemistry problem. By simply having adequate healthy fats at your meals and including a variety of fruits and vegetables, you're mostly likely doing pretty well. Keep in mind these few tips and you're well on your way to amping up your nutrition simply through the food you already eat!
Disclaimer: The information shared on this website is for general purposes only and has not been reviewed by the FDA. The information is not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease or medical conditions and is not intended to take the place of advice from your medical professional. You should seek the care of your doctor before changing dietary or lifestyle habits. You are solely responsible for your health care and activity choices.