Have you ever wondered why some foods just seem meant for each other? Avocado and lemon – yum. Tomatoes and olive oil – delicious. Rice and beans – yes, please! Interestingly, it’s not only the taste that makes certain food combinations so wonderful. Research shows us that the way we combine certain foods together changes the way our bodies absorb nutrients, either for better or worse. What we are talking about here is known as ‘nutrient bioavailability’. When it comes to feeding our growing children, this is a helpful concept to understand.
What is nutrient bioavailability?
A nutrient’s bioavailability refers to the percentage of an ingested nutrient that the body can absorb and use. Let’s take strawberries as an example. This fruit is a rich source of Vitamin C and a delicious food to eat. However, after we eat a strawberry, the Vitamin C is only beneficial to us if our body can effectively absorb it from the fruit and into the gut. Studies on nutrient bioavailability have shown that there are a big range of factors that can positively or negatively affect how we absorb certain nutrients. The way we store, cook, prepare and combine foods can have an impact. So, it turns out we aren’t just what we eat, but what we absorb from our food.
Why is nutrient bioavailability important to consider when feeding children?
Kids can be fussy eaters and the amount of food they eat in one sitting can fluctuate. This can leave parents and caregivers feeling worried about whether their children are getting enough nutrients from their food. We know that a healthy diet plays a vital role in a child’s development and long-term wellbeing. So, it really is worthwhile making it as easy as possible for our kids’ bodies to absorb the good stuff from the food that does make it into their tummies.
How can you increase the nutrient bioavailability of your child’s food?
Now that we understand why nutrient bioavailability is so important, the next step is to put this into practice as we prepare snacks and meals for our family. There are lots of different ways we can do this. Here are a few suggestions:
- Combine certain foods that contain nutrients which work well together. One effective combination is non-haem iron and Vitamin C, such as pairing tahini with lemon (hummus, anyone?).
- Chop, crush or mince food to help break down the rigid tissue structures of some nutrients before we eat them. Chewing our food well also helps to improve digestion.
- Eat a diet that includes both raw and cooked foods as some antioxidants and micronutrients can be reduced when we cook and process foods.
- Soak and rinse dried beans before cooking to remove phytic acid, which limits absorption of key minerals.
- Avoid boiling or overcooking vegetables as high heat can destroy Vitamins. Try steaming instead.
If you’ve got specific questions or concerns about your child’s dietary needs, we always recommend you discuss these with a health professional to get the right solutions for your family.
Nutrient bioavailability can seem complex. Feeding babies and children can sometimes feel overwhelming. Our mission at Gobble Guts is to make your life as a parent a little bit simpler by creating highly nutritious meals for your little ones, delivered to your door. That’s why we’ve worked with a nutritionist to develop our range of tasty, wholesome meals that can help your little one to get the most out of their food.