Blog: Bioavailability challenge

Catherine Sleep | 29 August 2006

Many consumers are trying to eat more healthily. But it’s not as simple as it sounds. Most of us have got our heads around the most important nutrients and know how to make sure we are getting enough of them – more or less. But there’s an important nuance here, which comes down to bioavailability.

For those who haven’t yet met the term, here’s an idiot’s guide: a foodstuff may be packed full of a certain nutrient, but it’s useful to know how much of that nutrient is actually absorbed by the body. Iron is an essential mineral which can be consumed in different ways. Red meat contains an easily absorbed type, but some vegetables, such as spinach, contain a form that is less easily absorbed. However, drinking a glass of orange juice alongside your spinach sorts this out by changing the iron to a more readily absorbed type.

People trying to get the best out of the food they eat are starting to look into this issue. We need to see it reflected in product descriptions and information. It’s a complex issue but there are plenty of those in the food industry. Manufacturers of functional foods have been on an interesting journey; perhaps the lessons they’ve learned can be applied by the industry at large – or at least health food manufacturers.

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