We all seem to look for other ways to get the nutrients our bodies need, but nutrient intake goes far beyond the foods we eat.
Even if you eat nutrient-dense foods that you want to increase in your diet, such as calcium, iron, and antioxidants, depending on how the foods are paired, you may be getting fewer nutrients than you think.
According to Catherine Perez, a vegan dietitian, several factors come into play in how your body absorbs food.
“Regardless of your dietary choices, your ability to absorb nutrients will somehow change throughout your life cycle,” she says.
As children, you needed more nutrients than adults because your lifestyle required more energy, she notes.
And when you are older, your body will not digest certain vitamins like vitamin B12 as well as others because your stomach acid decreases with age.
But for vegans and vegetarians in particular, “some plant-based foods have different absorption rates, and those can change, depending on how you process those foods and even what you might eat those foods with.” , she says.
Fortunately, there are certain nutrients that, when combined, can increase your ability to absorb them. Here are a few that Perez recommends having at the same time.
4 Essential Food Pairings for Optimal Nutrient Absorption
1. Combine iron with vitamin C
Iron deficiency is a major concern for people on plant-based diets, Perez says. Plant-based sources of iron are more absorbable when you pair them with something high in vitamin C, she says.
For example, consider eating a burrito with beans, which are high in iron, and diced bell peppers, which contain a healthy serving of vitamin C.
2. Include zinc in your diet along with sulfur
“Zinc is another nutrient that tends to cause concern for those looking to turn to plants,” says Perez. Found in grains, seeds, and legumes like chickpeas, zinc may be better absorbed when combined with sulfur.
You may already be cooking your chickpeas with sulfur sources like onions and garlic, which further improves your zinc absorption.
3. Eat your antioxidants with fats and fat-soluble vitamins
Absorbing the antioxidants on a vegan diet can be a bit tricky. So to make sure you absorb them properly, you need to cook tomatoes, rich in the antioxidant lycopene, with fats like olive oil, Perez says.
“If you make a tomato sauce and use extra virgin olive oil with the tomatoes and cook them, it will help activate and absorb lycopene much better than if you had no all that fat. ,” she says.
4. Get Your Calcium With Vitamin D
Bone health is vital for everyone, even those who are not vegan, and calcium is helpful in strengthening your bones. “When you eat these calcium-rich foods and have enough vitamin D in your diet, your body will be able to absorb it better,” Perez says.
Pair calcium-rich sources like soy milk, almond milk, or plant-based yogurts with a walk outside, as the source of vitamin D from the sun can help you absorb calcium better.
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