Mineral bioavailablity is a complicated topic, especially considering there are a multitude of variables that come into play when dealing with different foods, supplements, and so on. There are a few particular habits which will prevent your body from absorbing those precious minerals it needs. When your body doesn’t get those special minerals, you start having things like low sex hormones, low energy, irritability, brain fog, weakened immune system, and a bunch of other nasty stuff.
Mineral mistake #1 – Not eating keto, paleo, and/or not preparing your grains and legumes correctly
We know the body’s digestive tract is a marvelous machine that can efficiently strip useful nutrients down from its food constituents, however certain dietary habits will render particular minerals useless or non-absorbent for a time.
Some food constituents like phytic acid actually take minerals away from the body’s stores in order to deal with those substances, and given their ubiquity in processed grain-based foods, there’s no minerals in the food that they’re attached to, so they’ll simply attach to yours. Others still who have a sensitivity to grain proteins like gluten may not even know they have this problem, and so their body’s ability to absorb any mineral nutrients are diminished over time.
So how do you deal with phytic acid and begin eating a healthier diet? Eat more grass-fed butter and good oils, like tallow, lard and more. Fat is definitely good for you, and greatly improves mineral and nutrient absorption in the intestines. This is why we put oily salad dressing on salads.
Also, consider rinsing or soaking any grains that you prepare. This is proven to significantly reduce phytic acid. Both this and the fat discussion are mentioned in the cookbook Nourishing Traditions which will teach you how to rinse and prepare foods to promote nutritional bioavailability.
If you don’t want to deal with all of that, just go full keto, and revisit what I just said about the oils and fats.
Mineral mistake #2 – Having tea or coffee right when you have your mineral supplements
If you’re like me, for the sake of killing two birds with one stone, you’ll probably wash all of your supplements down in the morning with a nice cup of tea or coffee. Well, it’s best if you stop that.
Tannins are found in all varieties of tea, coffee, beer, wine and various fruits and vegetables. While not all tannins will cause you to absorb absolutely 0% of your minerals, it’s best to circumvent this issue by taking your mineral supplements on an empty stomach, at least 30 minutes before you start eating or drinking your tannins, or by waiting a couple hours until after you’ve had your tannins. If you’ve just eaten food consisting mainly of oils, meats or fats, you’re probably okay to take your minerals in any case.
Mineral mistake #3 – Taking competing minerals at the same time
This goes right back to #1 – The digestive tract is good at what it does. However, the digestive tract utilizes the same pathways of absorption. So one mineral might need to go the same way as another. This can inhibit bioavailability, and you end up getting less of both minerals than you would have if you had simply changed the timing of your supplementation.
Here are some competing dietary and supplemental minerals:
- Sodium (common in SAD) vs. potassium (ideal counterbalance to sodium)
- Sulfur (common in most diets) vs. selenium (meant to be taken in trace amounts)
- Calcium (common in most diets) vs. zinc
- Calcium vs. magnesium
- Calcium vs. potassium
- Copper vs. zinc
- Copper vs. sulfur
- Copper vs. iron
- Fluorine vs. Iodine (one good reason to avoid fluoridated water and eat more seaweed and kelp)
With the exception of minerals that come in a dietary surplus and minerals (or salts) which are useless to general health (fluorides) you should consider supplementing your minerals as well as spreading the time of day at which you choose to take your mineral supplements.
For example, you would take any calcium in the morning if you take zinc in the evenings since they compete for absorption. Taking any mineral will most likely compete with absorption for another mineral your body is attempting to absorb at a given time, so it’s best if you take these at different times of day when there is little food in your system regardless.
Since many diets are already high in calcium, most people are going to be deficient in magnesium, it would be a great idea to get a magnesium supplement. Or eat more spinach and pumpkin seeds. Women are generally going to need more iron in their diet, men often have more than enough unless they aren’t getting copper in their diet. (Copper helps the body to use iron.)
For men, I recommend TestoJack 100 since it contains both zinc and magnesium.
(Fun nerd fact: If you’re versed in chemistry at all, it’s fun to see how some the elements that interfere with one another are sometimes in the same column on the Periodic Table. Valence electrons!1)
Some vitamins like Vitamin C may decrease bioavailability of certain minerals (copper) but that is a story for another time.