It’s common knowledge that ‘we are what we eat’, but in reality ‘we are what we absorb’ which is why food combinations that improve absorption are key.
Our body’s ability to absorb a nutrient from food is called nutrient bioavailability, and it’s totally possible to enhance the bioavailability of vitamins by combining certain foods.
Here are 7 easy food combinations that improve nutrient absorption:
Folic Acid + B Vitamins
B vitamins work at their prime when in synergy rather than as an isolated nutrient. A combination of both Folic Acid and Vitamin B12 are essential to form healthyred blood cells. Folic acid also works well when combined with B6 and B12 for the maintenance of normal blood homocysteine levels.
Evidence suggests that raised blood homocysteine is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
- Eggs (Vitamin B12) & spinach (folic acid)
- Beef (Vitamin B6 & B12) & lentils (folic acid)
Vitamin C & Iron
Vitamin C can enhance the absorption of non-haem iron from plant-based food source. This handy fact is perfect for vegetarians and vegans for which iron deficiency is common.
Typical symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia include tiredness and a lack of energy, pale skin, heart palpitations and shortness of breath.
- Lentils (iron) & lemon juice dressing (Vitamin C)
- Spinach soup (iron) with PRESS London Grove 3 (Vitamin C)
Vitamins (A, D, E, and K) & Fats
Vitamins are grouped into those, which are fat-soluble, and those which are water-soluble. In other words, Vitamin A, D, E and K have a greater bioavailability when combined with fat, so much so that deficiencies may occur alongside fat malabsorption. This is a prime example of food combinations that improve nutrient absorption.
Fat-soluble nutrients have a range of functions, from keeping your bones strong, immune support and supporting healthy skin.
- Carrots (Vitamin A) & olive oil hummus (fat)
- Kale (Vitamin A & K) with avocado dressing (fat)
Omega-3 & Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin therefore consumption alongside fat will automatically increase nutrient absorption. Interesting research also suggests that vitamin D and omega 3 could work together to improve cognitive function and mood.
Whilst the mechanism for this link is still unclear, it is thought that both these nutrients work together to maintain healthy levels of serotonin the brain.
- Scrambled eggs (Vitamin D) & chia seeds (omega 3)
- Salmon fillet (Vitamin D & omega 3) with brown rice
Calcium & Vitamin D
Many think of calcium as the vitamin essential for bone health, but did you know that Vitamin D is critical for the absorption of calcium from the gut? In fact, both these nutrients are key for optimal bone density.
- Salmon (vitamin D) with kale (calcium)
- Omelette (vitamin D) with wilted greens (calcium)
Black Pepper & Turmeric
Curcumin is the active component in turmeric, which has anti-inflammatory properties and is thought to play a positive role with conditions such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.
Black pepper increases the absorption and potency of curcumin.
- Turmeric latte (curcumin) with black pepper
- Red lentil, turmeric (curcumin) and black pepper soup
Lycopene & Fat
Lycopene is a fat-soluble antioxidant responsible for the bright red colour found in fruit and vegetables such as watermelons and tomatoes. Emerging research suggests that lycopene may support heart health. As general rule of thumb, the redder the tomato, the more lycopene it is likely to have.
Interestingly, the bioavailability of this antioxidant drastically increases when combined with fat.
- Watermelon (lycopene) & Greek yoghurt (fat)
- Sliced tomatoes (lycopene) & olive oil dressing (fat)
Lily is a London Nutritionist who graduated from Newcastle University with a BSc (Hons) degree in Food and Human Nutrition (AfN accredited) where she was awarded the Sage Faculty for Excellence Scholarship on an annual basis. She then went on to complete a 2-year post-graduate Diploma in Nutritional Therapy and is currently working towards her MSc in Nutritional Medicine (AfN accredited) at the University of Surrey. Lily’s extensive knowledge of the science of food and health, enables her to regularly write for The Times, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Independent, Women’s Health and Cosmopolitan.
Her frequent TV appearances include ITV’s This Morning with Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield, and ITV’s primetime series Save Money: Lose Weight with Dr Ranj Singh. Lily’s passion is to simplify the science around nutrition, to provide health hacks and smarter eating strategies to empower people to enjoy a healthy and successful lifestyle. Her specialities lie in workplace wellness, implementing nutrition-focused wellbeing programmes within corporate organisations across the UK.
Lily also sees individual clients from her clinic in Chelsea and a private medical practice based in Notting Hill.