The Best Companion Foods for Vitamin & Mineral Absorption

by Kathleen Gasior

These days concerned parents are bombarded with information about diet, nutrition and food. As a result, most parents have a very good knowledge base for feeding themselves and their hungry kids. So why do they sometimes end up deficient in certain vitamins and minerals even though they're eating right? That's because certain foods enhance vitamin and mineral absorption and some foods block it. Eating the right combination of foods can help you get the optimal benefits from the nutritious choices you make.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, essential for good immune function, is easily found in citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries and cantaloupe. Because Vitamin C is enhanced by calcium and magnesium, try making a salad of citrus and dark, leafy-green vegetables like spinach or kale with calcium-rich nuts like almonds or walnuts. For kids, try vanilla yogurt topped with sliced strawberries and granola. Absorption of vitamin C can be blocked by alcohol and caffeine, so avoid them with these foods.

B Vitamins

B vitamins are water soluble, and except for B12, are not stored in the body. Foods like tuna, turkey, lentils, potatoes and green vegetables are good sources of B vitamins, but they can be blocked by potassium-rich foods. B vitamin absorption is enhanced by healthy fats like avocados and olive oil and by vitamin C and calcium. Try having a tuna Nicoise salad with potatoes, olive oil, green beans, arugula and hard-boiled egg for lunch or dinner. For the kids, try cheesy twice-baked potatoes.

Potassium, Magnesium and Iron

Potassium, magnesium and iron are naturally occurring minerals that can have a great impact on cardiovascular, muscle, nerve and immune function. The absorption of potassium, which is found in bananas, dried fruit, beans and avocados, can be enhanced by foods containing vitamin B6, so make a late afternoon snack of cheese and dried fruit. Magnesium, found in beans, nuts and dark green, leafy vegetables, can be enhanced by calcium and vitamin D-rich foods. Adding red, white or black beans to your taco fillings or a cheese quesadilla is a great way to give your kids magnesium and potassium. Iron, found in meat as well as in plant sources such as beans and legumes, can be enhanced by vitamin-C-rich foods, so whip up cheeseburger sliders topped with mild salsa or try a red-bean chili with ground beef and tomatoes.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency has been recognized as a major problem for Americans, especially women. Concerned about fat, many people have decreased their consumption of dairy products like milk and cheese. The good news is that vitamin D can be found in fish-liver oils, eggs and limited sun exposure (10 minutes a day) as well. Absorption of vitamin D is enhanced by calcium and vitamin C, so try making a breakfast smoothie with orange juice, low-fat yogurt, honey and a tablespoon of lemon-flavored fish oil. You'll get a powerful morning punch of vitamins and protein and never taste the fish oil.

About the Author

Kathleen Gasior has over five years of experience as an editor, reporter and columnist for a chain of weekly newspapers in Northern New Jersey including the "Warren Reporter," "Phillipsburg Free Press" and "Belvidere News." She has been writing for over 30 years. Gasior has a Bachelor of Social Work from Monmouth University and over 25 years field experience. Gasior is also trained in cosmetology.

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