Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and as I’m getting ready to gather with family and chow down on some turkey, it’s reminded me of a question we get often: how does our body process the nutrients we put into it?
Most people think their body absorbs all the good nutrients from the things that they eat and drink, but our digestive system is a bit more complicated than that. As Victoria Freeman states in Experience Life, “Consuming the right foods is not the end of the nutritional story, and just because something makes it to your stomach doesn’t mean your body will actually use it as you intended.”
“Whether they’re from food or supplement, nutrients aren’t technically in your body until they’ve been absorbed,” explains Stella Volpe, PhD, RD, associate professor of nursing and Miriam Stirl Term Endowed Chair in Nitrition at the University of Pennsylvania. “Until absorption, things are just passing through.”
Vitamins and minerals can be absorbed in ways besides just eating, including directly through your skin, but certainly the most common way is through your mouth. The absorption process begins as you chew, and continues through your esophagus and all throughout your digestive system, but the majority occurs in the upper portion of your small intestine. Your body breaks down the foods and liquids you intake and pushes it along to the small intestine for absorption through its walls into your bloodstream.
Generally, scientists agree that absorption of vitamins and minerals occurs faster and at a higher rate suspended in liquid versus in a solid form (solid food, solid supplement pills).
For more information, I’d suggest reading this in-depth article by Victoria Freeman titled “All About Absorption” - https://experiencelife.com/article/all-about-absorption/
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