As a busy corporate lawyer in New York City, it is extremely important that I use my time wisely. This means that when I find the time to eat a nutrient-dense meal, it is crucial that I actually absorb those nutrients. Fat makes this possible.
Yes, you read that correctly - studies show that pairing leafy greens and fresh vegetables with fat, such as extra virgin olive oil, helps the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and non-vitamin nutrients (like carotenoids, nutrients that reduce inflammation and oxidative stress). Without fat, their absorption is negligible. By including foods high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and fish, my body is able to reap incredible benefits from the simplest of salads.
Fat should not be feared but should be invited. For example, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who ate fat-free or low-fat dressings with a salad did not absorb the salad’s beneficial carotenoids. Only those who used an oil-based dressing reaped the salad’s nutritional benefits. Another study found that absorption of carotenoids was much more substantial when salads were consumed with full-fat than with reduced-fat salad dressing. Of course, not all salad dressings are created equal, and one should be mindful of the inflammatory effects of vegetable oils such as canola oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, rapeseed oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, corn oil, and cottonseed oil. When possible, one should opt for dressings made with extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil.
I know I’m not the only one who needs to make the most of their meals, so below are some delicious, easy ideas for aiding nutrient absorption that your body and taste buds will thank you for:
- Add half an avocado (one Journal of Nutrition study specifically found that adding avocado can significantly enhance carotenoid absorption from salad)
- Drizzle on extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil, and avoid vegetable oils that cause inflammation
- Toss in your choice of raw almonds, cashews, pine nuts, tahini, pistachios, walnuts, and/or hazelnuts
- Sprinkle on chia seeds and/or flaxseeds
- Add canned sardines, tuna, or wild salmon
Not only will these healthy fats contribute to nutrient absorption, but they will pack their own omega-3 benefits as well by supporting proper brain development, reducing inflammation, supporting heart health, reducing symptoms of depression, and reducing the risk of cancer.
Lauren is a corporate lawyer with a passion for incorporating health and wellness into the busy Manhattan grind. She is currently enrolled in the health coaching program at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and is training for her first marathon.