Just imagine you are consuming a colorful plate of food containing vegetables, a protein source, grains or dairy –it looks good, but also forms a delicious matrix of nutrients ready to be taken in by your body. Though there is an abundance and variety of amazing food in the world, there are some factors that may impact how well our body uses the foods that we eat—specifically, there are some food factors that may improve absorption of nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, and there are some that may hinder absorption of nutrients. Below are the top factors that may influence overall absorption.
1) Dietary fat
Fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins that can be dissolved in fat and these include vitamins A, D, E, and vitamin K. Because they can be dissolved in fat, they can be most absorbed when consumed with a dietary fat.1 For example, consider a baby carrot rich in vitamin A. If you eat this on its own, you will be getting the vitamin A within the food but if it is within a food component that has some dietary fat in it (let’s say, olive oil), this will increase the uptake of the vitamin A in your body. Vitamin E is similar to vitamin A in that it is influenced by the amount of fat and components of a meal.2
NeoLife Product Spotlights:
NeoLife Vitamin A offers vitamin A from pollack liver oil with emulsifiers to aid in absorption.* Vitamin A is essential for eye health and normal growth and bone development.*
NeoLife Vitamin E Plus features vitamin E from whole-food sources, offering vitamin E from tocopherols and tocotrienols. Vitamin E functions in immunity and cardiovascular health.*
2) Cooking techniques
Cooking techniques vary from sautéing, boiling, baking, or roasting and these techniques can influence the vitamin/mineral content of foods—both positively or negatively. One cooking technique known as blanching may result in loss of vitamins and minerals from foods.3 Blanching is a cooking technique where a fruit or vegetable is cooked quickly in boiling water and is then “shocked” in cold water or an ice-cold bath to stop the cooking process of the fruit or vegetable. The processing of food can impact the availability of minerals such as iron, zinc, and calcium, as well as some vitamins including vitamin C, thiamin, and folic acid.3 In some cases, heat processing increases the bioavailability of some minerals, such as iron or calcium.3 Certain vitamins, such as the beta-carotene from vitamin A and folate, may have improved bioavailability since cooking helps release the vitamins from the food matrix it is in.4,5
3) Vitamins/minerals that work together
Some vitamins and minerals work well with one another and they may enhance the absorption of the other. Calcium plays an important role in bone health, and vitamin D ensures improved calcium absorption.6 These two nutrients come hand-in-hand to optimize your body’s ability to absorb calcium and to work to promote the use of calcium throughout the body. Another nutrient pair to mention is the powerful effect of vitamin C on iron uptake. Vitamin C is good for immune health and works as an antioxidant and iron helps transport oxygen throughout the body. Vitamin C can help with non-heme iron absorption (the type of iron primarily in plant-based sources).7 Other minerals that work together include sodium and potassium and they are both important in regulating blood pressure within our body system.6 However, although we are most likely to have more sodium from our diet (think of salt), potassium is needed to counter the harmful load of too much sodium.6 Another duo you may have heard about are in the B vitamins category—vitamin B12 and folate. Both of these vitamins are often added to breakfast cereals and other foods (where folate is added to cereal grains by law) and are important for cell division and replication.6 NeoLifeShake is one example of how to obtain all B vitamins conveniently in a nutritious and delicious shake, with flavors including Berries n’ Cream, Rich Chocolate, and Creamy Vanilla.
NeoLife Product Spotlights:
NeoLife’s Super C and All-C include the exclusive Neo-Plex concentrate of whole food vitamin C factors from oranges, lemons, and grapefruit. NeoLife’s chewable All-C also provides the whole food advantage of rose hips and acerola cherries.
NeoLife Chelated Cal-Mag offers both calcium and magnesium to help support various functions related to bone health and muscle contraction.* Cal-Mag offers calcium glycinate, magnesium, and vitamin D3 to enhance digestion, absorption, and utilization of the calcium delivered.*
NeoLife Magnesium Complex provides 300 mg of naturally-sourced and bioavailable magnesium—which features high-potency sources from an exclusive NeoLife Tri-Mag Blend, offering a double amino-acid chelated magnesium form known as magnesium bisglycinate, tri-magnesium citrate, and magnesium oxide. In addition, Magnesium Complex includes a PhytoMag Blend making it the first magnesium supplement of its kind to feature whole food phytonutrients from beet, kale, radish, and broccoli—an exclusive PhytoMag Blend.
4) Phytates and tannins
Phytates are found in bran and certain whole grain items but can sometimes be found in legumes as well. Phytates are known to impact the absorption of some minerals including zinc, iron, and calcium.4 Iron seems to be the mineral whose absorption is most impacted by food substances! Some compounds in tea, known as tannins, may influence iron absorption and for this reason, it is recommended to consume tea between meals if one is iron-deficient.8
NeoLife Product Spotlight:
NeoLife Stress Pack provides iron and other mineral sources to support energy and metabolism.* Other iron-containing products from NeoLife include Pro Vitality, Formula IV, and our Sport Performance Pack, and each offers a unique combination of nutrients to help you achieve your individual health goals.*
5) Health conditions and lifestyle factors
Some health conditions can impact how your body absorbs some nutrients. For example, infectious illnesses can impact the absorption of vitamins and minerals through increased losses in the gastrointestinal tract, or effects in your gastrointestinal system impacting absorption.4 Smoking is a lifestyle factor that can impact how your body absorbs vitamins and minerals such as vitamins C and D, and calcium.9
6) Vitamins/minerals that act against each other
Although vitamins and minerals are essential for many processes in our body, too much of some substances can impact the amounts of other substances. One example is very high doses of zinc (of up to 4 times the tolerable upper limit of 40 mg/day!) impacting the absorption of magnesium and to another extent, calcium has been suggested to negatively impact iron absorption.4,10 In the case of calcium and iron, it is suggested to take the individual supplements at different times of the day.11
NeoLife Product Spotlight:
NeoLife Chelated Zinc offers a safe level zinc supplement in a chelated form for improved absorption.* Zinc is an essential mineral needed for normal growth and development of reproductive organs and for energy metabolism.*
NeoLife Product Line:
For over 60 years, the NeoLife Scientific Advisory Board has designed our products taking into account specific factors which may enhance bioavailability and the synergistic associations of nutrients. The products highlighted in this article are examples of our dynamic products with these built-in advantages.*
Natalie Masis, PhD, RDN | Research Manager
Dr. Masis is a registered dietitian nutritionist and earned her doctorate in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a Master of Science in Nutritional Sciences from Texas Tech University, and both a Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Sciences and in Food Science from Cornell University.
- Pfeiffer CM, Sternberg MR, Schleicher RL, Haynes BMH, Rybak ME, Pirkle JL. The CDC’s Second National Report on Biochemical Indicators of Diet and Nutrition in the U.S. Population is a valuable tool for researchers and policy makers. J Nutr. 2013;143(6):938S-47S. doi:10.3945/jn.112.172858
- Jeanes YM, Hall WL, Ellard S, Lee E, Lodge JK. The absorption of vitamin E is influenced by the amount of fat in a meal and the food matrix. Br J Nutr. 2004;92(4):575-579. doi:10.1079/BJN20041249
- Reddy MB, Love M. The Impact of Food Processing on the Nutritional Quality of Vitamins and Minerals. In: Impact of Processing on Food Safety. Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology. Springer, Boston, MA; 1999:99-106. doi:10.1007/978-1-4615-4853-9_7
- Gibson RS. The role of diet- and host-related factors in nutrient bioavailability and thus in nutrient-based dietary requirement estimates. Food Nutr Bull. 2007;28(1 Suppl International):S77-100. doi:10.1177/15648265070281S108
- Bernhardt S, Schlich E. Impact of different cooking methods on food quality: Retention of lipophilic vitamins in fresh and frozen vegetables. J Food Eng. 2006;77(2):327-333. doi:10.1016/j.jfoodeng.2005.06.040
- Harvard Health Publishing. Nutrition’s dynamic duos. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Nutritions-dynamic-duos. Accessed August 15, 2018.
- Lynch SR, Cook JD. Interaction of vitamin C and iron. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1980;355:32-44.
- Zijp IM, Korver O, Tijburg LB. Effect of tea and other dietary factors on iron absorption. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2000;40(5):371-398. doi:10.1080/10408690091189194
- Smoking: how it affects diet & nutrition. BBC Good Food. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/effects-smoking-has-diet-nutrition-and-health. Accessed July 25, 2018.
- Magnesium. Linus Pauling Institute. http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/magnesium. Published April 23, 2014. Accessed April 20, 2018.
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Iron. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/. Accessed August 28, 2018.
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