Factors Affecting Nutrient Absorption
The absorption rate of some nutrients can be enhanced when paired with other nutrients. For instance, iron that is found in plant sources is less bioavailable than iron found in animal sources. This means that if you consume a serving of beans that has the same amount of iron as a serving of meat, your body will absorb more of the iron from the meat rather than the beans. To enhance the absorption of iron, consume vitamin C alongside a serving of vegetarian sources of iron. An example of how to combine these two nutrients into one meal is a black bean salad with sliced bell peppers, spinach and lemon juice. Research has also shown that consuming dietary fat along with carotenoid-rich vegetables, like carrots, would significantly increase the amount of carotenoid absorbed in the body.
Medications and Ambulation
Nutrient needs may be altered because of long-term medication use and lack of ambulation. Use of drugs such as anticonvulsants and/or Phenobarbital for epilepsy, antacids, anti-inflammatory drugs, and laxatives can interfere with calcium and vitamin D absorption, which negatively affects bone metabolism. Likewise, those with spinal cord injury or those who cannot ambulate are less likely to place weight-bearing stress on the bone, or absorb calcium and vitamin D properly, which can affect the onset of osteoporosis.
Look for an increased intake of calcium and vitamin D to help prevent the onset of symptoms. Eat non-fat and low-fat dairy products, eggs and egg whites, spinach, and leafy green vegetables as part of a regular diet. Aim for 5-a-day: 5 fruits and vegetables every day. Some shopping and preparation tips include looking for weekly produce sales and asking about a reduced produce section (where fruits or vegetables might be ripe or overripe, but still edible and full of healthy vitamins and nutrients at a lower price).
Increase fiber intake to assist in preventing additional secondary conditions such as heart disease. Fiber can assist in moving foods through your system and prevent constipation, which is often a side effect of medications. Focus on whole grains, 5-a-day of fruits and vegetables, as well as brown rice or pasta, and high-fiber cereals (bran and oatmeal).
Brown M, Ferruzzi M, Nguyen M, et al. Carotenoid bioavailability is higher from salads ingested with full-fat than with fat-reduced salad dressings as measured with electrochemical detection. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80(2):396-403.