The body needs nutrients to function properly and stay healthy. Having a meal packed full of nutrition is fantastic, but did you know that how you handle, prepare, combine and cook ingredients will dictate how much of that nutrition will make be absorbed and utilised by your body?
As a Natural Chef, cooking with healthy, delicious ingredients is an important skill. Added to the skill of bringing nutritious ingredients together for an enjoyable and healthy meal, taking into consideration the absorption of those nutrients is also important. Here are our top tips for nutrient absorption:
Activate your spices with a pinch of black pepper
Spices such as Turmeric have amazing anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric works faster and better when combined with a pinch of black pepper and an oil. It is thought that the reason for the increase in absorption with black pepper is due to a very slight irritation caused by the black pepper in the intestinal tract which, in turn, causes the turmeric (and other spices) to be absorbed at a higher rate. Be cautious with this tip, however, as too much black pepper will have the opposite effect.
Activate beta-glucans with Vitamin C
Mushrooms, oats, yeasts and algae have an enhancing effect on the immune system due to their high beta-glucan content. Beta-glucans (β-Glucans) are complex sugars found in the cell wall of beta-glucan-rich foods. These foods have amazing health benefits and are strongly associated with cholesterol reduction, enhanced immune activity and blood sugar regulation.
These wonderful immune-enhancing foods have a stronger effect when combined with Vitamin C. When working with foods rich in beta-glucans, the addition of vitamin C will enhance this action. Combine your beta-glucan-rich foods with a Vitamin C-dense food for better overall immune benefit.
Pair incomplete proteins together
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Without amino acids, we would not be able to build muscles, tissues and cells. Current science acknowledges 21 amino acids that the human body needs in order to be able to fulfil all of its functions, nine of which are considered “essential”; this means we have to receive them from our food because the body cannot synthesise these. The primary dietary sources of amino acids are proteins. Proteins are divided into two categories – complete proteins and incomplete proteins. Complete proteins contain all of the 21 amino acids and tend to be from animal sources such as meat, poultry, eggs and fish. Quinoa is a non-meat source of complete protein, however, one would have to eat a lot of it in order to receive all of the proteins they need.
Incomplete proteins are so named because, unlike their complete counterparts, they lack one or more of the amino acids needed by the human body for optimal health. Most plant sources of protein are incomplete proteins.
A skilful combination of plant proteins will deliver all of the amino acids needed for healthy body functions in one meal.
Add fibre to starches
There are many healthy foods high in starch and, thankfully, most of them already contain high amounts of fibre. Chickpeas, Sweet Potatoes, and Lentils are three healthy foods that have a high-starch, high-fibre content.
Insulin resistance is caused by the continual triggering of insulin by high blood sugar levels and foods that are high in starch and low in fibre tend to produce insulin spikes after digestion. For better blood sugar balance and reduced insulin spikes, add fibre-rich sources such as whole wheat foods, beans or legumes to your meal. Beans are a great way to add a healthy dose of both fibre and nutrients to a meal; fava beans, chickpeas and black beans are just a few high-fibre foods that will enhance most starches in meals.
Add healthy fats to absorb oil-soluble nutrients
Many of the nutrients the body needs are oil-soluble which means they are best absorbed when combined with a fat such as olive oil. Vitamins A, D, E and K are all fat-soluble vitamins that are only absorbed when combined with oils. Other important nutrients such as lycopene (in tomatoes) are also best absorbed with a healthy fat.
Partially cook nutrient-dense foods for higher nutrient content
High cooking temperatures will destroy much of the nutrient content in many vegetables. Similarly, raw vegetables can also be difficult for a person to appropriately digest to the extent required to get the vital nutrients into the system. For best results, partially cook your vegetables to make as much of the nutrient content as possible available for a more nutrient-dense meal.
Pair plant-based iron with Vitamin C rich foods
Plant-based sources of iron will deliver this important mineral most effectively when Vitamin C is present.
Pair minerals for electrolyte balance
Sodium, potassium and magnesium are best absorbed together for electrolyte balance and mineral balancing. This is why Natural Chefs are trained to work with a variety of natural salts which have these minerals present together, rather than highly processed table salt which is predominantly made of sodium chloride.
Add fermented foods for overall health benefit
Gut bacteria are involved in the absorption of micronutrients such as B12, folate, Vitamin K and a whole raft of essential micronutrients. Increasing evidence on the important role of gut bacteria shows that healthy gut flora is linked to healthy mood, healthy weight, and a healthy immune system. Adding fermented foods to your meals will offer a healthy dose of good bacteria for your gut.
At the CNM Natural Chef, chefs learn how to maximise nutritional content AND how to maximise nutrient delivery, to increase the therapeutic value of food that tastes as amazing as it looks.