You know to reach for spinach over sugar, but did you know the way you cook that spinach affects how many nutrients your body absorbs? Welcome to the very complicated world of bioavailability, which is really just a fancy way to talk about the amount of nutrients the body takes in when you prepare and eat a certain food, says Tracy Lesht, R.D. Here’s what you need to do to make sure you’re getting the maximum amount of health-boosting benefits from every single bite.
Take In Fat with Fat-Soluble Vitamins
Fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E, and K, do exactly what they sound like: They dissolve in fat. So eating them with a naturally fatty ingredient can help the body absorb the vitamins more easily, says Adrienne Youdim, M.D., a physician nutrition specialist based in California. If you top your spinach salad with olive oil, or add a few slices of avocado to your omelet, bonus points for you: You’re already nailing it.
That said, you do need to watch how much of these vitamins you take in. Unlike water-soluble vitamins (B12, C, biotin, and folic acid, for example) that get flushed out through urine whenever there’s too much of it in your system, if you ingest too much of a fat-soluble vitamin then your body will store that extra amount as fat in your liver tissue. If that happens too often, it can lead to a chronic, toxic, and potentially life-threatening condition known as hypervitaminosis. It’s pretty rare for that to actually happen, and when it does it’s usually from taking too much of a vitamin dietary supplement (rather than ingesting vitamins through food), but it can happen.