Sherri Isaak, RD, CDE, CDCES, BC-ADM, DipACLM
Shelby Huse, MS in Nutrition and Wellness Student
Culinary medicine is an emerging field that examines the interaction between food and cooking with science and medicine.1 Emerging evidence-based research has shown that combining culinary medicine with nature can greatly enhance nutrient bioavailability in the body. What is bioavailability and why does it matter? Nutrient bioavailability is the portion of ingested food that becomes available and ready for use in the body.1 Essentially, what this means is that when you consume food, your body digests it and those nutrients are absorbed in the body to be stored for later use. This is important because there are many active components in plant-based ingredients that can help the body absorb valuable nutrients. Nutrient bioavailability can be increased by combining certain foods together; for example, combining leafy greens with an avocado which can improve lutein (an anti-oxidant and carotenoid) absorption by seven times as much compared to consuming leafy greens on their own!2 Lutein is a type of carotenoid that can help improve eye health, acts as an anti-inflammatory, and can prevent macular disease.3 Here are some other practical ways to enhance your bioavailability through combination methods:
Combining turmeric with black pepper and a small amount of healthy fat can improve the bioavailability of curcuminoids with the black pepper inhibiting the liver’s metabolism of curcuminoids and the healthy fat allowing you to absorb the curcuminoids through your lymphatics!
While combining certain foods greatly enhances nutrient absorption, it has other benefits as well such as improving immune function! For example, combining green tea with lemon improves the absorption of a compound called ECGC, also known as epigallocatechin gallate (a flavonoid). That combination enhances ECGC absorption ten times as much compared to green tea consumed alone.5 The vitamin C present in the lemon promotes the absorption of the antioxidants found in green tea.5 Regarding immune function, combining foods, otherwise known as food synergy, can help prevent infections. As previously mentioned, the combination of turmeric with black pepper improves the bioavailability of curcuminoids. This mixture has anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and tumor-fighting properties, all enhancing immune function.6
To help you get started with combinations that will help improve your nutrient bioavailability, check out this delicious bowl receipe.