In fact, a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that participants with low levels of vitamin D were 54% more likely to develop dementia than those with normal levels of vitamin D. Deficiencies in other micronutrients key have also been linked to age-related disorders, such as cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
Here are three simple ways to help your body absorb more nutrients from your food.
1. Be careful with the way you cook
Some micronutrients are water-soluble and sensitive to heat, especially the B vitamins and vitamin C. The latter can be reduced by up to 50 percent by boiling. In contrast, steaming vegetables only reduces the vitamin C content by 15 percent and microwaving by 20 percent. Stir-frying is another good option as there is no water involved and the cooking time is generally quite short. B vitamins are abundant in meat, but up to 60% can be lost when cooked and the juices run off, so make sure the cooking juices are poured back onto the meat when are rested
Conversely, cooking can increase the level of some other nutrients. Lycopene, a plant compound with antioxidant properties, increases by 25% when tomatoes are cooked, and the bioavailability (the degree to which a nutrient can be absorbed by the body) of beta-carotene, which is found in red, orange and yellow plants like now tomatoes, peppers, carrots and sweet potatoes, it also increases with cooking. These vegetables lend themselves very well to roasting in the oven: drizzle with olive oil, season well and roast for 30 minutes at 200ºC.
2. Cut the fruit and vegetable but keep the skin
Cutting raw fruits and vegetables right before eating helps to break down the cell walls, making the nutrients contained in the cells more readily available. For example, crushing garlic releases a compound called allicin, which can help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. If the food is cooked, it is best to cut it after cooking, as it will have been less exposed to heat and water, which can reduce the nutrient content. And don’t peel fruits and vegetables unless you have to, as fewer nutrients will be lost if the skins are kept on.
3. Play food pairings
The bioavailability of certain nutrients increases when combined with other foods. For example, vitamins A, D, E and K (found in a wide range of foods) are fat soluble, so it is important to include healthy fats such as nuts, avocado or oil of olive in our meals to ensure they are absorbed.
To increase iron absorption from foods like red meat, green leafy vegetables, seafood and legumes, combine with vitamin C from berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes and peppers. And vitamin D, which we get mainly from the sun on our skin but is also found in fatty fish, eggs and mushrooms, helps absorb calcium, which is found in dairy products, tofu and green leafy vegetables.
A good pairing example is this Hot Smoked Salmon Pate, which contains vitamin D from fatty fish and calcium from Greek yogurt. In a bowl, mash a package of hot smoked salmon fillets with 2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt, 2 spring onions (finely chopped) and the juice of half a lemon. Season to taste and eat on top of crusty barn bread.