Most people know that they need their 5 portions of fruit and veg a day, they may also know some of the most important vitamins and which foods they come from. What they are less likely to know is, how exactly your body actually takes in its nutrients and what some of the ‘hacks’ are to increase your intake of them.
How The Body Takes In Nutrients
It all stems around the digestive system, as soon as you put a piece of food into your mouth, your body is hard at work breaking it down and getting it ready to use or dispose of. There are enzymes in your saliva that start to break food down in the mouth, have you even noticed that if you keep a piece of food in your mouth for even 30 seconds longer than normal, it basically turns to mulch. This isn’t just to do with the fact that you chew your food, even if you put a piece of food in your mouth, didn’t chew and just left it there, it would start to soften up because of the enzymes in your saliva taking effect.
Once you swallow your food, it travels down the oesophagus to your stomach where it really start to go to work breaking down the food, your stomach contains gastric acid which is made up of hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid is a very strong acid used to bleach things, it’s commonly used to please hair as well as textiles and rubber in manufacturing. This acid is the reason why when you vomit or you have acid reflux (the acid moving in to the bottom of your oesophagus) it burns. As a side note, animals like cats and dogs also have the same acid but about 10 times more of it than humans do which means they can eat bones and digest them.
After the food has been fully broken down in the stomach it then moves to your intestines, where it moves slowly through it over the course of 6 hours and all of the goodness is slowly absorbed. The nutrients, vitamins, minerals, protein etc…is absorbed in to the blood stream via the intestines and the bits that aren’t so good then leave your body at the other end. Once the nutrients are in the blood stream they then flow to all of the organs in the body and are taken up in to the cells.
How can you increase the amount of the nutrients your body takes in?
This is where it gets interesting because scientists have found that if you eat combinations of different food and drink, it can actually increase the amount of a certain nutrient your body absorbs. For example, if you have an iron deficiency and want to take in as much iron as you can, it has been found that eating/drinking something with high levels of vitamin C will actually increase the amount of iron that you’d take in from a food like broccoli. So having a glass of orange juice with your evening meal will probably mean your body is working to its full potential. On the other hand, tannins are said to have the opposite effect and reduce the amount of a nutrient your body absorbs so drinking tea or red wine with your meal isn’t a good idea. If you aren’t in to drinking while you eat then things like peppers and tomatoes are also high in vitamin C so eat them in tandem with your source of iron, whether it is a steak or a leafy green.
Are there any other ways to help with improving digestion?
Regular exercise is said to be one of the best ways to improve your digestive system but if you’re looking for something that you can eat or drink instead to do it then have a look at probiotics. A probiotic will help balance the good and bad bacteria in your gut, sometimes if there is a build up of bad bacteria in can make you sick, so by having probiotics you can ensure you restore the natural harmony in your gut and it will work to its full potential and detoxify your body.
How do I make sure I am getting all of my vitamins and nutrients?
The chances are you will be getting the vast majority of them unless you have a very unhealthy diet. Most foods contain combinations of around 10-20 different vitamins and minerals so you are getting a lot more than you perhaps realise. Most people think along the lines of, broccoli is good for iron so then they only associate iron with that vegetable but in actual fact there are about 5 different types of vitamin in broccoli as well as countless other nutrients. The key thing for a healthy body is to have a varied diet, don’t just eat the same things every day.