We are told to eat a balanced diet because every food contains a different combination of nutrients. But did you know that some of these nutrients interact with each other in our bodies and can increase or decrease the absorption of other nutrients? I've put together a list of the 5 nutrient interactions you should know about, including whether (or not) this should change the way you eat!
Iron & Vitamin C
Vitamin C can enhance the absorption of iron by up to 50% by helping convert the iron consumed into a form more easily absorbed by the body.
- Eat iron-rich foods (such as meat or iron-fortified cereals) with vitamin C-rich foods (such as red capsicum and citrus fruits).
Calcium & Vitamin D
Vitamin D enhances calcium absorption by stimulating it’s transport throughout the body.
- The best source of vitamin D is sunlight- so make sure if you’re eating enough dairy you’re also getting some time outdoors.
- Also, if your doctor or dietitian has recommended a calcium supplement, choose one that contains both calcium and vitamin D.
Iron & Phenolic Compounds
Phenolic compounds in tea can bind to iron, inhibiting its absorption in the body.
- Avoid drinking tea with meals as it can reduce the amount of iron you’ll absorb from it.
Fibre & Many Minerals
Phytic acids (such as oxalic acid) in high fibre foods such as fruits, vegetables and wholegrain breads and cereals can bind minerals such as iron, calcium, zinc & magnesium, inhibiting their absorption.
- Yeast in leavened bread can counteract this (by breaking down some of these bonds allowing the minerals to be absorbed).
- Diets excessive in fibre are not recommended- but most Aussies are having trouble even meeting the recommendations.
Different Mineral Supplements
Many minerals compete for absorption in the body: magnesium, calcium, iron, copper and zinc. This can especially be a problem if you are taking any supplements of these nutrients because supplements often contain many times the recommended intake of that nutrient from food. For example, if you are taking a calcium supplement, it could be inhibiting iron absorption from the food you eat.
- Most people, if they are eating a balanced and varied diet, are getting all the nutrients they need and don’t need supplements.