“Eat the rainbow” has been the healthy eating mantra for quite some time now, but even those of us with the most colorful salad drawers face it as we age. A reduction in stomach acid, a condition known as atrophic gastritis which leads to poor absorption of vitamins and minerals, is estimated to affect 20% of the population over 65. And this is important because micronutrient deficiencies can increase our risk of disease. .
In fact, a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that participants with low vitamin D levels were 54% more prone to dementia than those with normal vitamin D levels. Deficiencies in other essential micronutrients have also been linked to age-related disorders, including cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
Here are three easy ways to help your body absorb more nutrients from your diet.
1. Pay attention to how you cook
Some micronutrients are water soluble and heat sensitive, particularly the B vitamins and vitamin C. The latter can be reduced by up to 50% by boiling. Steaming vegetables, on the other hand, only reduces the vitamin C content by 15% and microwaves by 20%. Stir-frying is another good option because there is no water and the cooking time is usually quite short. B vitamins are abundant in meat, but up to 60% can be lost during cooking and the juices run out, so make sure the cooking juices are poured over the meat when it is resting.
Conversely, cooking can increase the level of some other nutrients. Lycopene, a plant compound with antioxidant properties, increases by 25% when tomatoes are cooked, and the bioavailability (the extent to which a nutrient can be absorbed by the body) of beta-carotene, found in red, orange plants and yolks like tomatoes, peppers, carrots and sweet potatoes, is also increased by cooking. These vegetables lend themselves very well to cooking in the oven: drizzle with olive oil, season well and roast for 30 minutes at 200°C.
2. Cut fruits and vegetables but keep the skin
Cutting raw fruits and vegetables just before eating helps break down cell walls, making nutrients in cells more readily available. For example, crushing garlic releases a compound called allicin, which can help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. If the food is cooked, it is best to cut it after cooking, as it will have less exposure to heat and water, which can reduce nutrient content. And don’t peel fruits and vegetables unless you have to, because fewer nutrients will be lost if the skins are retained.
3. Play Food Pairs
The bioavailability of certain nutrients is increased when combined with other foods. For example, vitamins A, D, E and K (found in a wide range of foods) are fat soluble. It is therefore important to include healthy fats such as nuts, avocado or olive oil in our meals to ensure their absorption.
To increase your absorption of iron from foods like red meat, leafy greens, shellfish, and legumes, combine it with vitamin C from berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and peppers. And vitamin D – which we mainly get from the sun on our skin but can also be found in fatty fish, eggs and mushrooms – aids the absorption of calcium, which is found in dairy products, tofu and vegetables. leafy greens.
A good example of food pairing is this hot-smoked salmon pâté, which contains vitamin D from oily fish and calcium from Greek yogurt. In a bowl, mash a package of hot smoked salmon fillets with 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt, 2 spring onions (thinly sliced) and the juice of ½ lemon. Season to taste and eat on crusty cereal bread.