A nutrient is a food component that the body needs to carry out vital functions. A food component is classified as a nutrient if when it lacks in a diet provokes a pathological condition and disappears when the food is availed to the body according to Rebecca Mugala, a consultant nutritionist.
Food is the primary source of nutrients. However, apart from milk, no single food provides all the necessary nutrients except milk. It is, therefore, important that one eats a variety of foods in order to get the desirable nutrients.
Iron and vitamin C foods
A combination of beans and green vegetables is healthy for iron absorption according to Mugala. This is because the protein and iron in beans for example is best absorbed when paired with fruits and vegetables since they are rich in vitamin C such as spinach, sprouts and potatoes.
“The vitamin helps break down iron into a form that the body can use more easily than if it was paired with any other food nutrient. Iron absorption is said to be more effective if you eat a daily diet that contains both nutrients in a single meal. You can also eat an orange after a meal that has beans or peas,” Mugala says.
Foods such as spinach, leafy greens, potato and bell peppers are rich in iron. Combining them with vitamin C sources such as lemon juice can help the body break down the nutrients in the food for better nutrient absorption.
She also remarks that, “It is important to remember that consuming excess alcohol and coffee can adversely impact on your body’s ability to absorb iron, which is vital for making red blood cells and strengthening the immune system.”
Proteins, acids, carbohydrates
Proteins are essential in producing hormones, building muscles and boosting body immunity says Bena Okiria, a nutritionist. “They cannot be absorbed in their natural state. They must be broken into amino acids first. The process of breaking down proteins needs an acidic environment. It is, therefore, recommendable to drink fruit juices to enhance protein breakdown,” she says.
Eating more proteins means increased levels of vitamin B6 since both nutrients are found in sources such as meat, fish, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and whole grains. The Vitamin B6 helps in the break down of proteins into amino acids.
Okiria says consuming carbohydrates and proteins at the same time helps the body release insulin. High insulin levels help body muscles absorb amino acids, especially during exercises. The best combinations can include starchy food, whole grains, nuts, seeds and dairy products.
Vitamin D and calcium
These are very essential nutrients for healthy bones and teeth. A presence of vitamin D increases the absorption of calcium. The D vitamin is synthesised by the skin from exposure to the sun.
Eat a variety of calcium-providing foods, including greens, broccoli, oranges and dairy foods.”
Mugala says, “An increased intake of magnesium is also essential in the absorption and metabolism of vitamin D and calcium. Problems such as gastrointestinal disorders, renal diseases and liver problems can reduce vitamin D absorption.”
Reduce the intake of sugar and overly processed foods. This is because foods high in sugar deter the absorption of magnesium while processed foods are ripped of their nutrients during processing.
Keep your body hydrated because water and other fluids help in the breakdown of food so that the body can absorb more nutrients as well as transporting the nutrients to places they are required in the body.
“The vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble vitamins and therefore need healthy fats to be efficiently absorbed. Nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds can enhance the absorption of these vitamins from vegetables,” Bena Okiria, a nutritionist, recommends.