Food is our fuel. As such, it is important to eat healthy foods rich in the right combinations of both macro and micro nutrients. Macronutrients being that familiar combination of protein, carbs, and fat present in different amounts across the entirety of our diets. Micronutrients are then what we commonly refer to as ‘vitamins and minerals’ those seemingly insignificant amounts of different elements and chemicals that are essential for the various natural processes our bodies undergo every day. Without the proper amounts of either, our bodies will cease to function properly.
As commercial farming has become the norm for the mass production of grain and other produce, soil depletion has increasingly caused the food we eat to become much poorer in vitamin content than it should be. Meaning that even if you are taking every precaution necessary to eat healthily, it still might not be enough. No matter if you are getting the perfect combination of macronutrients your body needs across all of your meals, you could still not be getting any of the micronutrients you need just as badly. Vitamin deficiency may not be extremely apparent at first, but over time its adverse effects can have a severe impact on your quality of life. Not to mention your body’s ability to perform strenuous activity, and repair and develop itself during recovery or injury. As of 2017, almost a third of the entire U.S. population is at risk of at least one variety of vitamin deficiency. An amount that increases significantly in low income households, and in individuals that do not have adequate diets. We may be approaching a point where buying fresh produce and being especially particular about the things we eat isn’t enough to be healthy on its own.
Even if we are taking multivitamins or other dietary supplements every day, there is the potential that we still are not absorbing those nutrients into our bodies in the proper amounts. Bioavailability is the term used to describe how much of a specific micronutrient our bodies can take in and then use. If the nutrient cannot be absorbed, then it goes to waste without providing us any benefit. The key then, is to increase our bioavailability as best we can. This can be achieved a number of different ways, as not all nutrients are the same, some are water-soluble, some are fat-soluble, some are acids, all serve different roles in the body, and have different ways in which they are most optimally absorbed. As a general rule, fiber slows down the rate of digestion, so that increasing your dietary fiber will give your intestines more time to absorb nutrients from the food you eat. Certain nutrients also pair well together, and increase each other’s rates of absorption. Iron pairs well with Vitamin A and Vitamin C, and Calcium should be taken with Vitamin D, for instance. It is also important to note that too much of certain nutrients can be just as bad as too little. As an example, an overabundance of Iron in the body can cause many of the same issues as Anemia. As with anything it is important to keep moderation in mind, while being more aware of the nutritional values of the foods we eat.