Nutrient synergies


You probably have noticed that our meals come many times in certain combination. And besides tasting good, our mothers and grand-mothers probably had gained some wisdom go back in time as to how nutrients work better together!

Nutrient synergies is a topic that can get very quickly very complicated, so in this post I will give you a quick overview and some easy guidelines. 

Always remember

The action of eating foods across the food matrix (the composite of naturally occurring food components) on human biological systems is by far greater than the corresponding actions of the individual food components. This means that supplementation is never as powerful as eating a proper whole food diet!

The nutrient balancing act!

Everything in our body works in balance. Minerals work synergistically when in balance or they compete with each other when not. A great example is sodium and potassium. Those two go together like yin and yang. They are the two primary electrolytes in our body, working together to maintain fluid balance in cells, blood plasma and extracellular fluid. Potassium is found primarily inside cells, and sodium is the main electrolyte in extracellular fluid. However, doctors recommend us to reduce salt from our diet…

Nutrients work together

The methylation cycle is a series of chemical changes that occur in the body, which regulates genetic repair and expression, and generate energy-rich molecules. This cycle begins in the blood vessels with folate (B9) obtained from diet. But in the whole process also requires Mg, Zn, B12, Cu,  P5P (B6) and a number of hormones. If this process goes wrong due to any deficiencies a number of disorders can start appearing!

Nutrient Bio-availability

Another aspect of nutrient absorptions is how many nutrient can we absorb and use from what we eat. Just because we consume foods or supplements, doesn’t mean that we will absorb 100% of the nutrients. Food combinations, processing, and cooking all influence how well nutrients will be absorbed.

Nutrient absorption, use, and retention in the body can also vary according to our specific needs. For instance, a woman who is menstruating will absorb much more iron in comparison to a man. A child whose bones are growing will absorb much more calcium than an adult. This absorption rate can also vary according to age, sex, amount of nutrients in the body, current health, and digestive wellness. External factors such as medication or alcohol consumption, even level of stress, can impact how nutrients are ingested.

Eating food as close to their purest form as possible is our best bet when trying to improve health and prevent disease. So rather than getting your nutrients from supplements, aim to get them from whole foods. Learn which foods are a match made in health-heaven and which nutrients fight for their right to be absorbed.

The basics

  1. Salad with olive oil.  All fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamin A, D, K, E) need fat to be better absorbed. Always add extra virgin olive oil to your salad!
  2. Meat with Salad and lemon.  Iron absorption is 4 time higher when we we also consume at the same time vitamin-c. The easiest way to do so is to have some broccoli and/or fresh lemon juice together with your steak.
  3.  Too much Zinc will cause copper deficiency
  4. Potassium needs to be balanced with sodium
  5. Omega6 : Omega 3
  6. Calcium and oxalates
  7. Calcium and magnesium

Always remember

Thus, the action of the food matrix (the composite of naturally occurring food components) on human biological systems is greater than or different from the corresponding actions of the individual food components.

Also note

  • Healthy Liver : The liver acts as a storage site for some vitamins, minerals (and glucose). The liver stores vitamins and minerals for the times when they may be lacking in the diet. An example is  vitamin D which helps get you through the shorter days of winter, for example, when your skin isn’t able to manufacture enough vitamin D. It is very important to keep our liver healthy. Any impairment of the liver such as fatty-liver needs to be addressed immediately.
  • Have healthy fats with every meal.  Fats are insoluble in blood and water and so the liver produces special, fat-carrying proteins called lipoproteins. These lipoproteins circulate in the blood, carrying essential fatty acids between the liver and body tissues. The lipoproteins also transport cholesterol. Although cholesterol has a certain ‘unhealthy’ reputation, it is still essential for the correct functioning of the body. It is used to make bile salts, to synthesise vitamin D, to make sex hormones, to make other hormones for the immune system and in dealing with stress. 
  • Get your B-Vitamins every day. The B complex vitamins and vitamin C make up the water-soluble vitamins. Since they dissolve in water in your body, they are not stored — with the exception of vitamin B12, which is stored in your liver. When your intake is more than your body needs for immediate use, the rest is excreted in the urine. This means that your diet must supply a continuous source of vitamins so your body has the amount you need available when it ‘s needed. The exception is vitamin C, which can be stored in the adrenal gland for three to four months.
  • Iron is best taken with vitamin-C and best not with Calcium (ie dairy products) 
  • Avoid calcium supplements. Supplementing with calcium can lead to magnesium deficiency due to competitive inhibition for absorption and over supplementing with vitamin D may lead to magnesium deficiency via excessive calcium absorption and hence increase the risk of arterial calcifications.
  • Copper is essential as a vital link in many of the body’s different chemical reactions and in the formation of protein within the liver. It also plays a role in using up the body’s iron stores, whenever they are needed. 
  • Zinc is a mineral used by the body to facilitate a large number of metabolic reactions, and you need a daily supply as the body does not store zinc.
  • Selenium and iodine have a synergistic relationship that is especially important for a healthy thyroid. Iodine is a component of thyroid hormone, and selenium as a selenoprotein helps to convert the thyroid hormone into its active form. Both minerals are needed by the thyroid in adequate amounts; too much of one can contribute to a deficiency of the other.

Final thoughts

Although nutrition can get pretty complicated, try to eat a whole food diet and follow your intuition. Doing the basics right can yield the biggest benefits.

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