Eating right is never going to keep you healthy.
That is, unless you’re absorbing the proper nutrients from your food. When trying to get the most energy and happiness from our lives, proper digestion and absorption cannot be overlooked.
Whether you’re out to maintain a healthy physique, shed pounds or get shredded - start small with the foundations of good nutrition. To understand what makes your big, bold life work at maximum efficiency, it’s time to break down the basic components of your everyday dietary absorption process.
We’re about to dive deep into why micronutrients, vitamins, minerals and the unseen processes in the body play a huge role in keeping us healthy. Once we’ve covered the basics, we’ll break down what you can do to start seeing some instant health benefits.
By the end of this easy read, you’ll be getting the most from every bite.
No matter what you’re munching, food has quite a journey before it delivers the vitality and energy you need to live.
The journey to absorption begins with digestion. Once chewed and broken down with enzymes in your saliva, food makes its way to your stomach. In the stomach, digestion occurs through two factors:
Hydrochloric acid (HCl) - helps break down food, maintains a sterile inside environment, kills harmful bacteria and aids in the absorption of important nutrients like amino acids (from Vitamin C, iron, folate, calcium and beta-carotene). Too little HCI and food doesn’t get broken down and absorbed.
Heartburn, bloating and indigestion are symptoms of not enough HCI rather than an excess.
Stomach enzymes - the primary purpose of enzymes is to break chemical bonds in carbs, fats and proteins into microscopic substances so they can be used at the cellular level. Three types of enzymes exist:
Carbohydrates are broken down faster than fats and proteins because the amylase enzymes are released earlier in the digestive process. This means that carbohydrates give you energy faster - but are gone more quickly. Balancing your intake of fats, carbs and proteins makes for a more streamlined digestive process and delivers more consistent energy via nutrients.
Macronutrients - carbohydrates, fats, proteins (your body’s main fuel sources)
Micronutrients - vitamins, minerals, etc.
Micronutrients play a huge role in providing your body the energy it needs from macronutrients. These catalysts, or “helping hands,” enable chemical reactions and move elements through the body to give you what you need to stay active and healthy. They produce enzymes, hormones and other substances essential for growth and development.
However, unless properly absorbed, none of the nutrients can reach their maximum potential.
“Whether they’re from food or supplements, nutrients aren’t technically in your body until they’ve been absorbed,” explains Stella Volpe, PhD, RD, associate professor and Chair of Nutrition at the University of Pennsylvania.”
“Until absorption, things are just passing through.”
Poor absorption leads to issues such as anemia, acne, diarrhea, dry eyes, osteoporosis, poor immune functioning and insufficient energy production. These deficiencies often go undetected for years before showing serious adverse effects.
Absorption takes place in the small intestine, the next stop in the process. Carbohydrates, fats, protein, water, vitamins and minerals are absorbed here. There are two primary ways that nutrients pass through the intestinal wall and enter the bloodstream:
Passive diffusion - like liquid through cheesecloth, nutrients pass from an area of high concentration (the intestine) to an area of low concentration (the bloodstream).
All vitamins are absorbed through passive diffusion. Whether fat-soluble (transported in fat molecules), like vitamins A, D, E, and K, or water-soluble vitamins like B and C.
Active transportation - carrier molecules bring nutrients through the intestinal wall into general circulation.
Important minerals like calcium and magnesium are transported actively. As a major cofactor and important element of building muscle, magnesium is crucial. For anyone trying to stay fit and toned, the body needs a steady stream of magnesium and other cofactors to be absorbed before and after exercise. Consider supplementing Daily Energy to ensure you achieve the proper muscle growth and reach your weight loss goals.
Several nutrients are absorbed more easily than others. The absorption rate depends on what kind of food they come from, your body’s current need for the nutrient and your overall nutritional status.
Your body is really smart about making sure it gets what it needs. This happens, of course, only if it has the sustenance it needs. The less your body has of a specific nutrient, the more readily it will be absorbed.
“Your body will not absorb more of a given nutrient than it requires,” explains Dr. Volpe.
“When levels are low or you’re deficient, your body tries to regain homeostasis by absorbing more of whatever is needed. Once that balance is reached, absorption will again be decreased in order to maintain the appropriate level.”
Homeostasis also pertains to your body’s natural balance of alkalinity and acidity. The body strives to maintain a pH balance of 7.35. If your body becomes more acidic it starts to suffer the effects of acidosis:
Many typical diets - heavy in processed foods, sugars, meat and simple carbs - are inherently acidic. What’s more, foods like this make it harder to eliminate the toxic levels of acid buildup in the stomach and the overall body. Can you absorb your way out this problem?
Grab some alkaline forming foods. Eat fruits, vegetables, tofu, almonds, whey protein, and probiotics, to name a few. Every one of these vegetables and natural nutrients will protect your health because they keep your acid levels in check.
Plus, every plant is a painkiller. Eating alkaline-forming substances helps ease inflammation and pain from injuries, chronic pain and workout stresses we incur during exercise.
Alkaline forming foods are also heavy in fiber. Because fiber moves through the intestines slowly, it helps us feel fuller, longer. Since our bodies have been eating plants during our whole evolutionary cycle, less energy is required to absorb energy from them - making them not only healthier, but more energy efficient.
When was the last time you ate a burger and felt great? And how about a green salad? That’s the power of fiber and alkaline foods.
Speaking of fiber, let’s talk prebiotics and probiotics. What’s the difference between these two?
Prebiotics - are a specialized plant fiber that beneficially nourishes good bacteria in the colon. These act as fertilizers for probiotics, promoting the process that allows probiotics to do their job.
Studies have shown that people with prebiotics in their system were happier and less stressed. When saliva was tested, it contained lower levels of the killer-stress hormone, cortisol.
Probiotics - introduce “good bacteria” to your stomach, improving the ratio of good-to-bad bacteria. The “good bacteria” bring digestive and health benefits, keeping your gut clean and functioning properly.
For those consuming high levels of protein, probiotics are essential for breaking down the proteins in a diet. Maybe you’ve heard the stories of people that eat too much protein powder and what it does to them? Not pretty.
When staying on top of proper nutrition, you’re going to need to support your body with healthy habits every day. Here are six surefire ways to keep your absorption and digestion on point.
Savoring the food you eat has been shown to increase your nutrient absorption. When researchers in Sweden asked two groups of women - one Thai and one Swedish - to eat a Thai curry meal, they found that Thai women absorbed 50% more iron from the meal because they liked the taste.
The idea is that anticipation of eating something you’ll enjoy stimulates the digestive system, making it more efficient at absorbing nutrients when food does reach your stomach.
Some of the healthiest compounds in fruit and vegetables are antioxidants, which are only absorbed deep in the intestines. Only fat will carry them there.
University of Ohio State found that people who topped a spinach salad with avocado absorbed 4x more of the antioxidant lutein and 14x more beta-carotene by the end of the meal. Lutein increases eye health and beta-carotene is linked to fighting heart disease and cancer.
Tip: Add healthy fats like olives, avocado, nuts, seeds and eggs to your salads. Dress your salads with oil. You can also add oils when cooking or boiling vegetables.
This fibrous substance is a powerful prebiotic, fueling the good probiotic bacteria in your digestive system. According to US agriculture scientist Ross Welch, probiotic bacteria create proteins that maximize the amount of nutrients you absorb from food.
Welch’s study showed high-inulin diets boost iron absorption by 28%. Foods high in inulin include artichokes, garlic, leeks, bananas and asparagus — add one or two servings a day to your diet.
How food is raised has a direct impact upon its overall nutritional value. Experts at Truman State University discovered that organic oranges contain as much as 30% more Vitamin C - and organic tomatoes have 97% higher flavonoid levels.
The theory is that because organic foods grow slowly, they have time to develop higher saturations of nutrients. The same goes for meat. Jo Robinson, author of Pasture Perfect, shares that grass-fed beef has up to 4x the amount of omega-3 fats and is 3x - 5x higher in the anti-carcinogen-linked linoleic acid.
Enzymes are going to enable smooth digestion and thereby improve absorption. The body makes enzymes from various sources, but some foods contain and promote enzyme production themselves. Here are some choice additions to your diet:
How nutrients interact in the body is very important to overall absorption. Some nutrients compete with one another while others aid in each other's uptake.
For example, calcium interferes with iron uptake, copper and zinc; zinc and iron will also battle for supremacy, says Katherine Tallmadge of the American Dietetic Association.
Combine certain nutrients to enhance the absorption of both. Vitamin C enhances the uptake of iron while Vitamin D improves calcium uptake. This means that you won’t need as much of a given vitamin or mineral to receive the same benefit. Here are some great food combos to try out:
There might be cases where someone needs to supplement with a single dose of a particular vitamin or mineral. Nevertheless, too much of one (10x the normal dose) can create an imbalance, impeding the absorption of others. However, slightly boosting the intake is okay. Making sure that substances are in perfect balance is best.
An optimized supplement, such as Spring of Life, instantly provides the healthy benefits of all these tips. As we’ve discussed, harmonizing raw vegetable elements allows the body to achieve a perfect balance of nutrients for digestion and absorption. Invigorating your daily internal functions with appropriate enzymes, pre- and probiotics and micronutrients creates the stable, alkaline micro-culture that your body needs. Remember: it’s never too late to start. By starting today, you will have more energy, your body will be healthier, and that all leads to one wonderful thing: happiness. It’s never too late to begin the rest of your life!