From a young age, we are taught to eat our fruits and vegetables for our health and wellbeing. This is true since the body depends on the nutrients found in whole foods in order to function properly. However, even with a healthy, balanced diet, it’s important that you maximize nutrient absorption to ensure that you’re getting the most out of it.
The amount of nutrients absorbed by your body can range anywhere from 10 to 90 percent, which means you might only be absorbing a small portion of the nutrients available from the food you are taking in. (1)
The state of absorbing very little nutrients is known as malabsorption. Malabsorption can result from medications, infection, small intestine surgery, or other disorders such as celiac disease. (2)
Why Nutrient Absorption Is Important
You have probably heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” This is particularly true when it comes to the proper absorption of nutrients. If you are constantly eating foods that are devoid of nutrients, your body will compensate, resulting in sub-optimal performance.
4 Benefits of Maximizing Nutrient Absorption
1. Proper nutrient absorption helps reduce risk of developing breast cancer.
Through the consumption of broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables, your body receives an ample amount of the nutrient sulforaphane. In a study, this nutrient was found to have the ability to suppress the growth and proliferation of breast cancer cells. The same study also suggests that the nutrient could lead to cancer cell death, also called apoptosis. (3)
2. Proper nutrient absorption can strengthen your bones.
Just like processed foods can decrease your bone density, whole foods packed with nutrients can increase bone density and decrease your risk of developing osteoporosis. The proper absorption of nutrients such as calcium, K2, magnesium and vitamin D is essential for maintaining strong bones. (4)
In postmenopausal women, a diet that slows down the rate of bone loss is crucial in preventing or delaying osteoporosis.
3. Proper nutrient absorption helps boost your immune system.
Your immune system is constantly working to fight off bacteria and other organisms that make their way into your body. Your immune system is composed of the thymus gland and its production of T-cells. However, another component to immunity is a reserve of antioxidants.
Antioxidants can be found in nutrient-dense foods such as blackberries, blueberries and cranberries, and they are vital to a healthy immune system. (5)
A great way to incorporate these foods into your diet is through a water detox. A water detox helps you stay hydrated, which is also good for immunity, along with increasing your nutrient intake without a hefty dose of calories.
4. Proper nutrient absorption is great for improving your digestive system.
By eating a high-fiber diet and incorporating probiotics into your diet (both of which can be found in nutrient-dense food), you will improve your digestive system. (6)
Nutrient absorption can aid in your body’s natural detoxification process and is one of the best ways to reset your digestion process. Excess toxins can cause irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhea and cramping. (7) However, nutrient-dense foods can help rid your body of these toxins.
How To Maximize Nutrient Absorption (6 Ways)
Now that you know how important it is that you aid your body in absorbing the maximum amount of nutrients, you’re ready to learn how to make it happen.
1. Incorporate bouts of fasting into your lifestyle.
Intermittent fasting can allow your digestive system and the hard-working gut bacteria to take a break, therefore allowing them to fully detox. By doing this regularly–such as once a week–your body is able to reset itself and regain the strength it needs to properly absorb the nutrients ingested.
2. Avoid processed and sugar-filled foods.
Processed foods, artificial ingredients, and sugar can destroy the good bacteria in your gut that help with absorption, decreasing your ability to properly absorb nutrients. In addition, those foods contain fewer nutrients to begin with. You can’t absorb something that doesn’t exist!
However, you can get your nutrient absorption back on track by incorporating more whole and plant-based foods into your diet.
3. Incorporate more probiotics into your diet.
Probiotics aid in the removal of candida overgrowth, a yeast overgrowth condition related to an imbalance of gut flora that can cause a weakened immune system as well as several other health problems. (8)
They can also help break down your food into smaller pieces that your body can absorb and produce enzymes that promote the digestion and absorption of nutrients in food, in turn aiding in the improvement of your immune system. (9)
4. Avoid drinking too much water.
While drinking plenty of water throughout the day is beneficial, your consumption of water should be limited before, during, and right after a meal.
The water can dilute the stomach acid used to break down your food, which can also prevent your body from absorbing the maximum amount of nutrients offered by the food you are consuming.
5. Focus on how you eat your food.
With each bite you take, chew your food well and continue to eat slowly.
The digestion process begins as soon as you start chewing your food. Saliva is released as you chew; your saliva contains enzymes that help break your food down, making it easier for your body to digest it and absorb the nutrients. (10)
Therefore, if you are chewing very little and eating quickly, your food is not being properly digested due to a lack of saliva.
6. Avoid or reduce your alcohol intake.
It is no secret that the negatives mostly outweigh the health benefits when it comes to alcohol. Sure, there are some antioxidants in certain types, but overall, alcohol negatively affects the way your body absorbs nutrients in a few key ways.
It negatively impacts the digestive system, decreasing the amount of nutrients being absorbed. It also decreases the secretion of the digestive enzymes found in the saliva that aid in digestion. (11)
Alcohol also damages the cells lining the stomach, making it harder for nutrients to be absorbed into the bloodstream. (12)
Nutrient absorption is vital to your health in several ways: it helps keep your immune system balanced, gives you energy, and keeps your body’s normal functions working properly.
However, just because you are consuming nutritious foods does not mean your body is actually absorbing them. You might not even be getting any healthier, despite all that kale salad.
Consuming nutrient-dense food is important, but maximizing your nutrient absorption is equally important.
You should also be constantly aiding your body in its natural detoxification process by incorporating detox methods such as homemade water detox.
By avoiding things that hinder nutrient absorption and damage the body while also incorporating new habits and nutrient-dense food in your daily life, you can aid your body in being the best it can be.