Your body’s many systems work closely together to maintain optimal health, so when one system is off balance it can trigger a domino effect, potentially igniting a cascade of chronic health complications. One system that is particularly responsible for overall well-being is your digestive system — a strong, yet delicate ecosystem that controls the presence of harmful invaders and maintains digestive and overall health. To achieve this impressive feat, your GI tract relies on the presence of “good bacteria,” specialized immune cells and a complex network of neurological and hormonal components. In fact, this 30-foot long tract is a major headquarters for immunity, neurological health and more.
Digestive health directly impacts your immune health, and vice versa.
Your gut is also home to the largest concentration of mood-altering neurotransmitters such as serotonin. And now researchers are discovering how beneficial microflora (friendly bacteria) do so much more for our state of being than we previously believed.
Currently, there are no known cures for coronavirus (COVID-19), though research is underway to develop a vaccine. The lack of immediate medication for the current coronavirus outbreak is a reminder that sometimes, the way we care for ourselves is our best line of defense. One way to start is by simply eating right to put our bodies in a better position to fight back. Although you may not be able to fully prevent an illness this season, a healthy immune system is one way to give your body extra protection.
The truth is, even if you eat strictly unprocessed, nutritionally rich, plant-based foods, you probably still aren’t getting the nutrient value you think. While we can examine modern day technology and processing methods to unpack this nutrition mystery, the root of the problem goes back further, all the way to 1790 when our agricultural economy began to transition into an industrial one. Little did we know that, as the states transitioned from food production focused on quality and care to quantity, we were also beginning to strip and remove vital nutrients.
While the agricultural business has sought to improve size, growth rate, and pest resistance of our veggies, they have also been slowly stripping the nutrients.
Lifestyle Tips to Help Increase Nutrition Absorption
The way in which the human body digests and absorbs nutrients is incredibly complex. It involves many different functions and organs to work cohesively, as well as help from enzymes, saliva, acid, bile, and even your own blood. So, why not do all you can to help this complex system out? While food plays an important part in the absorption process, lifestyle changes can also help increase the absorption of nutrition!
Slow it down! The first step in the digestion process is chewing. The act of chewing food actually releases enzymes that are a crucial part of digestion. Purdue University published a study showing that “when people chewed almonds 40 times, they absorbed more healthy fat than when they chewed them just 10 times, making nutrients like vitamin E more accessible.”
Have you ever noticed that when you get stressed out, you also sometimes experience unpleasant bowel symptoms as well? This is due to the fact that your body conserves energy from digestion to give you some help in dealing with the stress. Prioritize self-care! Focus on decreasing your anxiety and stress before meals, give yourself the appropriate space and time to cook meals, and make sure you sit down when you’re eating.
We return to the gut! Your gut is one of the primary nutrient absorption centers in the body, therefore it makes sense that you should care diligently to keep those bacteria happy, healthy, and plentiful. Per the journal Nutrition in Clinical Practice, “up to 30 percent of the protein and carbs you eat reach your colon undigested, where your gut bacteria break them down.” Increase gut health by consuming bacteria-loving food items, such as veggies high in dietary fiber and fermented foods, or you can even try a probiotic supplement.
Lifestyle changes are a great place to start, yet the core of nutrition absorption starts with the food you eat. For those of us unable to regularly shop at farmer’s markets or grow our own soil-controlled veggies, it’s important to focus on the right vegetable pairings. While raw and fresh food items purchased from the grocery store may not be as nutritious as they used to be, when some vegetables are paired together they work cohesively to up the absorption of nutrition into your body.
You’ve probably heard the term fat-soluble, which refers to vitamins (such as A, D, K, and E) that require fatty acids in order to be absorbed into the body. Therefore, when eating a vegetable-rich meal (most veggies have one or more of these vitamins), try pairing it with healthy, plant-based fats which can be found most prevalently in nuts, seeds, and avocados
Looking to get the most out of your plant-based nutrients? We highly recommend downloading The Complete Vegan Recipe Solution, which features 145 delicious, nutrient-rich vegan recipes, scientifically designed to help prevent nutrient deficiencies, boost your immune system, and support your overall health.
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