Food, Nutrients and Bioavailability

Food, Nutrients and Bioavailability

Is FOOD the same as NUTRIENT?

…. Not really! 

And do you know what is the BIOAVAILABILITY of the NUTRIENTS of our FOOD ?

This is a topic that I insist on a lot in every consultation; eating is not always nourishing us, not everything makes us all good and the concept of "eating well" is usually very subjective!


FOOD is substances (solid or liquid) that we ingest and that our body transforms them obtaining chemical substances, which we call NUTRIENTS,necessary to maintain our tissues. 

Take an example: FOODS are milk, legumes, meats, fish, fruit, vegetables, vegetables, cereals, bacon fat and NUTRIENTS,carbohydrates, proteins, fiber, minerals and lipids.

The BIOAVAILABILITY of a NUTRIENT represents the speed and amount with which that NUTRIENT,or part of it, is absorbed and becomes available in its place of action in the body.

And why is it important to know the BIOAVAILABILITY of NUTRIENTS in different FOODS?

Very easy, because it depends on the nutrients that we can really have at the cellular level, which will decide how we maintain our body, our mind and our health, avoid diseases and live better … worth a look, isn't it?


What factors influence the BIOAVAILABILITY of NUTRIENTS:

  • Characteristics of the food
  • Your interactions with other foods, drinks, etc.
  • Its processing, cooking, conservation.
  • Addition of additives or fortifiers
  • Consumption of supplements and/or medicines


The first step to make a NUTRIENT BIOAVAILABLE is to release it from the "matrix" of the food and turn it into that chemical form that can be absorbed by the digestive mucosa, so it needs proper chewing and an adequate enzymatic function of the digestive system. For example, in order to take advantage of the vitamins in an apple, we must chew this apple and digest it with the appropriate enzymes. The same goes for the proteins of a chickpea, or the Omega 3s of a grilled salmon… or with the vitamin D we take it needs bile salts to be absorbed!

But of course,… one thing is theory and another, is practice !

There are many factors that modify the ACTUAL BIOAVAILABILITY OF A FOOD. 

  • Type of ingredient cooked… boiled, fried, baked, steamed?
  • Origin of the ingredient … animal or vegetable source?
  • Chemical form of the nutrient … organic or inorganic?
  • Interactions with other ingredients and nutrients; for example, vitamin C increases the BIOAVAILABILITY of iron, so iron is better used if added together in the food, this information is already known to all those who receive iron in Salut Verda!
  • Drug interactions such as some antibiotics that can decrease zinc assimilation.
  • Changes in diet (switching from one recipe to another can alter the digestive mucosa, without causing external symptoms, but affecting the BIOAVAILABILITY of nutrients that are ingested for several weeks)
  • State of the digestive mucosa: for example, having a lower acid secretion in the stomach makes it difficult to assimilate vitamin B12, as in the case of patients taking Omeprazole or a relative of this medicine.
  • Physiological states: during growth and lactation the nutrients are better assimilated there is a greater demand… logical! There is construction !
  • Pathological states, i.e. diseases
  • Individual factors such as race, sex, age and level of physical activity also play a role.

So the BIOAVAILABILITY of certain vitamins can decrease depending on the state of the microbiota or intestinal flora; or increase by cooking, as is the case with carotenoids. 

Take the case of these chemical compounds, the caretonoids, that we hear so much about. They have pro-vitamin action, that is, they can become vitamin A in the human body. Its name comes from the Latin carota, "carrot". Beta-carotene is the most abundant within this group and therefore, they are also often referred to in this way; it is a natural pigment of many foods, such as green vegetables as well as in fruits and foods of yellow, orange or red color. They are potent antioxidants, important for visual function, formation and maintenance of soft tissues, teeth, mucous membranes and skin, and also have a key role in fetal development, pregnancy and lactation. Lutein is a carotenoid that is more BIOAVAILABLE in eggs than in spinach. The β-carotene dissolved in oil is absorbed better than that found in food. Fruit carotenoids are usually more BIOAVAILABLE than those of green vegetables On the other hand, when carotenoids are found forming crystals in food (such as β-carotene crystals in carrots and lycopene crystals in tomatoes), their BIOAVAILABILITY is lower, so it is better to eat it in puree if we want to absorb the lycopene it contains.

The situation is different in fruits such as papaya and mango, where carotenoids are dissolved in oil droplets and are more easily released into the gastrointestinal tract.

The heat and mechanical treatment of food can increase the BIOAVAILABILITY of carotenoids by favoring their release from the matrix. The absorption of β-carotene from mashed carrots cooked carrots is greater than grated raw carrots… On the other hand, the addition of oil during processing can favor the dissolution of carotenoid crystals. In the case of tomatoes, the addition of oil can also favor the absorption of lycopene.


It's been a good example, wasn't it?

Common factors affecting micronutrients

  • Stress: increases the need for most macro and micronutrients
  • Tobacco: increases the need for vitamin C, folates, vitamin E, B6 and zinc.
  • Alcohol: there is a need for almost all macro and micronutrients
  • Caffeine: requires higher intake of calcium, iron and potassium.
  • Sulfites (E-220 to E-228) present in wine, beer, fruit juices, preserves, seafood… increases the internal consumption of thiamine.
  • Contaminants and some synthetic additives require antioxidants.
  • Feeding with excess calories, sugars, refined products, ultra-processed products, trans fats, increase the need formost nutrients.
  • A low-fat diet can cause a deficit of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D and E), in addition to reducing the BIOAVAILABILITY of these vitamins and other nutrients such as coenzyme Q10 or phytochemicals.
  • A diet with excess fiber, reduces the BIOAVAILABILITY of many minerals, such as iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium.
  • A diet with very little meat and fish, can lead to deficits of iron, zinc, selenium, iodine, vitamin B12, coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid, essential amino acids and conditionally essential fatty acids such as DHA – Omega 3-
  • Steaming is the technique that has the least impact on nutrients. For example, vitamin D is thermosensitive, if we subject it to cooking in water we will lose most of it. This loss does not occur if we steam it.
  • In baking should be cooked at high temperatures and short time to avoid loss of nutrients. It is recommended not to cut food into small pieces.
  • Sautéing is a method in which there is almost no loss of nutrients, since food is cooked very little. It's what usually cooking type ̈WOK ̈

Then it is not only what we eat, but how we cook it, how we preserve it and with what we eat it !

The fundamental idea is to make our diet our main tool to maintain our Health

If you want to evaluate your diet and lifestyle to improve your health, do not hesitate to contact for an appointment and we get to work.


Dr. Milagros Vélez Galván Con Salud, Salut Verda

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