There are so many “healthy” foods out there, each boasting miraculous health benefits. Bananas are filled with potassium; spinach is loaded with vitamin K. Quinoa has plant-based complete proteins; blueberries are rich in antioxidants. The list goes on and on. Unfortunately, some of the health benefits of food are not properly explained or are exaggerated. Here is a list of some healthy food health benefits you might be missing out on.
Known for being a great source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, flax seeds are touted as being a must for vegetarian and vegan diets. They’re full of fiber and are also a complete protein. Cool! Plus, they’re easy to add to meals – from mixing into a smoothie to topping a salad to using in homemade granola. But before you get too carried away, it’s important to note that while flax seeds may be filled with nutrients, our bodies have a really hard time digesting them in their whole form. The best way to get the health benefits of flax seeds is to grind the seeds up. Otherwise, those seeds might pass right through the body without absorbing any nutrients. Nooooo! If you don’t want to grind your own seeds, simply purchase ground flax seed instead of whole flax seed. Problem solved.
Spinach (and other high-iron foods)
Since you were a little kid, you’ve probably been told to eat your greens. Since they’re filled with iron, it’s no wonder! Iron is used for quite a few things in the body, including carrying oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. There are two kinds of iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron comes from animal products, while non-heme iron comes from plant-based sources. Unfortunately, it’s harder to absorb non-heme iron. The good news is that you can improve absorption by mixing your non-heme iron with other nutrients. Vitamin C and citric acid are particularly effective. So next time you have a spinach salad, eat an orange on the side or top it with some lemon juice.
Kale (and other high-calcium foods)
Our bodies need calcium to support healthy bones, among other things. The down side is that calcium is not fully utilized in the body without adequate vitamin D. That’s why milk and other high-calcium foods are usually fortified with the essential vitamin. But kale, collard greens, broccoli and fish (like sardines) aren’t easily fortified. Because of that, it’s important to also get enough vitamin D in your routine. Our bodies get most of the recommended vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, from exposure to the sun. However, there are some foods high in vitamin D that you can add to your diet, including any vitamin D fortified food (some dairy products, soy products, orange juice or cereals), fatty fish, egg yolks and cheese.
Are you getting the full health benefits from your foods? If you’re not, try the tips above to help your body break down and absorb the nutrients you’re consuming. Still stumped? Let me know, and I can help!