Retailers have an obligation to understand!

Articles
July 22, 2009

Retailers have an obligation to understand!

The article, “Nutrition’s Dynamic Duos,” published in the July 2009 issue of Harvard Health Letter, discusses combinations of vitamins and minerals that when consumed together enhance the body’s ability to absorb them. The discussion commented on the fact that the very nature of our nutrition guidelines steers us towards vitamin and mineral “tunnel vision” rather than realizing that our bodies respond best to combinations of these essential food elements. In today’s retail world, whether it be a supermarket prepared foods counter or a juice bar, there is an implied responsibility, to say nothing of the safety factor, that retailers understand just what these combinations will (and will not) accomplish nutritionally. Let’s take a look at some great nutrient and food combinations. (Tomorrow we will review those that need to be avoided!) Breakfast cereal and Strawberries or Kiwis: Most cereals are fortified with iron and when consumed with fruits like strawberries and kiwis, both particularly high in vitamin C, can significantly enhance iron absorption. The combination is not only delicious but super healthy as well. Another iron and vitamin C combination is spinach or broccoli with bell peppers - vegetables contain non-heme iron, which requires conversion in the body before it can be absorbed. Adding vitamin C rich foods like bell peppers to the mix will enhance absorption. Whole-grain bread and Nut Butters: This combination significantly increases vitamin E absorption. Vitamin E is important in preventing cell damage from free radicals and promotes proper cell communication. Whole grains are a good source of vitamin E, and adding a healthy fat such as peanut butter or almond butter helps your body access this fat soluble vitamin.

The article, “Nutrition’s Dynamic Duos,” published in the July 2009 issue of Harvard Health Letter, discusses combinations of vitamins and minerals that when consumed together enhance the body’s ability to absorb them. The discussion commented on the fact that the very nature of our nutrition guidelines steers us towards vitamin and mineral “tunnel vision” rather than realizing that our bodies respond best to combinations of these essential food elements. In today’s retail world, whether it be a supermarket prepared foods counter or a juice bar, there is an implied responsibility, to say nothing of the safety factor, that retailers understand just what these combinations will (and will not) accomplish nutritionally. Let’s take a look at some great nutrient and food combinations. (Tomorrow we will review those that need to be avoided!)

Breakfast cereal and Strawberries or Kiwis:


Most cereals are fortified with iron and when consumed with fruits like strawberries and kiwis, both particularly high in vitamin C, can significantly enhance iron absorption. The combination is not only delicious but super healthy as well. Another iron and vitamin C combination is spinach or broccoli with bell peppers - vegetables contain non-heme iron, which requires conversion in the body before it can be absorbed. Adding vitamin C rich foods like bell peppers to the mix will enhance absorption.  

Whole-grain bread and Nut Butters:


This combination significantly increases vitamin E absorption. Vitamin E is important in preventing cell damage from free radicals and promotes proper cell communication. Whole grains are a good source of vitamin E, and adding a healthy fat such as peanut butter or almond butter helps your body access this fat soluble vitamin.

Guacamole and Tomatoes:

Actually we’re really talking avocado and tomatoes, but throwing some tomatoes into your guacamole sounds great too! The combination of healthy fats from the avocado assists in the absorption of the important antioxidants, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin, found in tomatoes. These antioxidants are known to protect cells and may also be associated with optimal heart health. Another great combination would be to drizzle some extra virgin olive oil onto your favorite dark green vegetables, which are rich in lutein among many other vitamins and minerals.

Black beans and Salsa:

The combination of the vitamin C rich salsa and nutrient rich beans helps to unlock the essential nutrients found in the beans. Specifically, the phytic acid found in beans inhibits the absorption of zinc and iron; vitamin C counters the action of phytic acid and thus helps to increase the body’s ability to absorb these essential minerals.

Obtaining the various vitamins and minerals from whole foods is definitely the top recommendation, but if you are wondering how there is enough time in the day to consume the USDA’s recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, you might consider supplements. You should speak to your doctor or a health professional before starting on a supplement plan. This is especially important if you are taking other prescription medications, which may interact with certain supplements.

Some beneficial nutrient combinations include:

Vitamin D and Calcium:  This combination might seem like old news, but it is nonetheless very important as Vitamin D aids in the absorption of not only calcium, but Phosphorous and Magnesium as well. All of these minerals, plus vitamin D are essential in achieving optimal health and more specifically, skeletal health. Magnesium has also been pinpointed for its heart health benefits as it is known to keep blood circulating smoothly and relaxes muscles and nerves.

Sodium and Potassium:  Salt, or sodium chloride, accounts for about 90 percent of the average American’s sodium intake. Sodium is an essential nutrient, but the quantities that Americans consume are thousands of milligrams greater than required; leading to high blood pressure, hypertension and associated heart problems. Potassium helps to counterbalance this by encouraging the kidneys to excrete excess sodium.

To give some perspective, the average American consumes 2,500mg of potassium and 2,500-7,500mg of sodium per day; current guidelines recommend 4,700mg, and 1,200- 1,500mg respectively. The majority of the excess sodium in our diets is from prepackaged foods like snacks and ready-meals.

Vitamin B12 and Folate: Folate depends on vitamin B12 for absorption, storage, and metabolism. Current laws require mandatory folate fortification for all breakfast cereal grains, due to previous deficiency issues. Both B12 and folate are important in supporting the production and function of red blood cells to combat anemia, and in nerve cell development. Adequate folate intake is extremely important for women of childbearing age, because it prevents neural tube defects. Some good sources of B12 include sardines, venison, shrimp, liver, scallops, salmon, yogurt, milk and eggs.  Other than fortified cereals, folate can be found in a variety of vegetables including romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus and most beans.

The FDA has not set specific regulations on supplements but has put together some useful tips before considering using supplements. Click here for these tips.

Click here
to view the Harvard Health Letter.