The whole grain phytonutrient, phytic acid (phytate), partially inhibits mineral absorption, but has a wide-range of health-promoting properties such as anti-cancer activity. By concurrently eating mineral absorption enhancers such as garlic and onions one can get the best of both worlds by improving the bioavailability of iron and zinc in plant foods.
Image thanks to Yongjiet.
According to the swine information center, pork is an excellent source of a number of nutrients, including iron and zinc. When you see on a label that somethingorother is a quoteunquote “good source” of some nutrient, that’s actually a legal definition. meaning it has to have at least 10% of the daily value of that particular nutrient. It says nothing about the goodness of the food choice itself. So for example you could throw a multivitamin into a scoop of sewer sludge and call it a "good" source of half a dozen things, but… it would probably kill you; it’s not good at all.
It always comes back to food as a package deal. It is impossible to get the calcium in dairy, for example, without also getting the hormones. Or the iron in beef without the saturated fat. So these aren’t necessarily good sources of nutrients after all, because we can’t get one without the other—unless, we get your nutrients from nonanimal sources, then we don’t have to worry about the saturated animal fat, the cholesterol and the rest. And there’s a bonus that comes when we get, for example, our iron and zinc from whole grains, greens, beans, nuts and seeds, the fiber, folate, phytonutrients, etc.
One of those phytonutrients though, phytates, or phytic acid (from the greek word phyton for “plant”) can partially inhibit mineral absorption. Now phytates are actually good for us they have a wide range of health-promoting properties, such as anticancer activity, but because it binds up some of the minerals, that just means one just have to eat more whole healthy plant foods—or eat mineral absorption enhancers , such as garlic and onions—in fact the whole allium family of vegetables, was recently found to have a “promoting influence on the bioaccessibility of iron and zinc”. Here's the bioaccessibility of iron and zinc in a serving of brown rice, cooked with one clove of garlic; cooked with two cloves of garlic. We see the same thing with onions. Here's normalized data for brown rice plain, then eaten at the same meal with one thin slice of onion; or two thin slices of onion. So up to 50% more absorption, but if you don't like garlic or onions, then you get the same mineral absorption from just eating a whole grain serving and a half.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena
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Another example of nutrient synergy is the reaction between black pepper and the spice turmeric as described in Garden Variety Anti-Inflammation. For more on the food-as-a-package-deal concept see Plant Protein Is Preferable, Plant vs. Cow Calcium and Safest Source of B12. Friday's NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day Risk Associated With Iron Supplements will discuss why plant-based sources of iron are preferable as well. For more on the hormones in dairy, check out videos like Dairy Hormonal Interference, Acne-Promoting Effects of Milk, and Dairy & Sexual Precocity. To explore the additional wonders of garlic, see #1 Anticancer Vegetable and Pretty in Pee-nk. For more on the wonders of the science of nutrition, check out my other videos on more than a thousand subjects.
For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk, How to Enhance Mineral Absorption, Treating an Enlarged Prostate With Diet, and Plant-Based Diets for Metabolic Syndrome