It is well known that phytochemicals promote cardiovascular health and help support the immune system.

This study targeted how the phytochemical compounds in both garlic and onion may increase the bio-accessibility of iron and zinc, two essential minerals.

According to new research data from India, consuming garlic or onion increased the uptake of iron by about 70 percent, and zinc by to 160 percent. The new results are published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and could offer opportunities to tackle two of the globe’s major deficiency concerns.

“Both garlic and onion were evidenced here to have a promoting influence on the bio-accessibility of iron and zinc from food grains,” state the research team from the Central Food Technological Research Institute in Mysore, India. “This novel information has the potential application in evolving a food-based strategy to improve the bioavailability of trace minerals and hence contributes to the human health benefit,” they added.

Iron deficiency is reported to affect about a third of the global population, with two billion people anemic around the world. In
addition, zinc deficiency affects 30 per cent of the world’s population. The bioavailability of both micronutrients is said to be particularly low from plant foods.

In attempt to enhance the uptake of these minerals from plant sources, the Mysore-based researchers used a model of the gastrointestinal tract to simulate passage through a human gut. Food grains including two cereals – rice and sorghum – and two pulses – chickpea and green gram – were used in their raw and cooked forms, and in the presence
of two levels of garlic (0.25 and 0.5 g per 10 g of grain) and onion (1.5 and 3 g per 10 g of grain).

Results showed that iron and zinc uptakes from both cooked and raw cereals were significantly increased in the presence of both garlic and onion, with increases up to 70 percent recorded. Improvements in the bioaccessibility of zinc were also observed
for both spices, with increases in cereals ranging from 10.4 to 159.4 percent, and in pulses from 9.8 to 49.8 percent.

Commenting on the potential mechanism behind the improvements, the researchers point to the high sulfur content in garlic and onion: Sulfur-containing amino acids like cysteine have previously been shown to boost iron and zinc status in lab animals, they said.

“The information generated in this study on the promotive influence of natural sources of sulfur compounds on mineral bioaccessibility from food grains is novel and has a promising application in evolving a food-based strategy for alleviating deficiencies of these minerals in sections of the population,” concluded the researchers.

Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Published online “Higher Bioaccessibility of Iron and Zinc from Food Grains in the Presence of Garlic and Onion”
 

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