What is Bioactive and Bioavailability?

You may have noticed we use the words “bioactive” and “bioavailable” when talking about our chocho. We advertise our chocho as possessing these characteristics, and we hope that they are reasons that you have taken interest or purchased our chocho. But we understand that these words are unusual and may leave you confused, so let us explain what these words mean and why we use them. 


According to the National Cancer Institute, bioactivity refers to the effects that certain chemicals found in plants, or phytochemicals, can have on the body. These phytochemicals are bioactive in that they have certain positive effects on the body and may promote good health.  Phytochemicals are currently being studied in the prevention of diseases like cancer and heart disease (cite). More simply put, bioactive compounds are phytochemicals that protect human health against diseases and ailments. Since plants have always been an important source of nutrition for humans and our ancestral species, bioactive compounds have most likely been part of the human diet since the evolution of our species began. Bioactive compounds have antioxidant properties, helping to reduce the oxidative stress of free radicals and reduce cell damage (cite). 


 The polyphenol group of phytochemicals is the most commonly found and most widely distributed group of bioactive compounds. Polyphenols can be found in fruits, vegetables, grains and even drinks. Some fruits, like grapes, apples, pears, and berries can contain up to 300mg of polyphenols per 100 grams. Drinks like tea or coffee can have around 100mg. Dark chocolate can also contain notable amounts of polyphenols. There are two types of polyphenols, flavonoids and phenolic acids. Among these two groups there are numerous subtypes with different effects depending on the structure of the molecule. Research suggests that diets rich in polyphenols can help protect against the development of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis and more (cite). 


Chocho, scientifically known as L. Mutabilis, has 367.36 mg GAE.100 g-1 or 367.36 mg of gallic acid equivalents per 100g of chocho seeds. Now you may ask, what does this mean? To start, we can understand the gallic acid equivalent as a type of unit used to standardize polyphenol testing. So basically, chocho has around 367mg of polyphenols per 100 grams, higher than most fruits and vegetables, and over three times as many polyphenols as coffee and tea. Additionally, L. Mutabilis has a  20% antioxidant capacity. We can understand this to mean that overall, chocho has a high quantity of polyphenols which may help to protect your body against diseases and may act as antioxidants, protecting your body and cells against deterioration and the harm caused by free radicals. (cite) This is why we call our chocho bioactive. 


Now, let's discuss bioavailability. “The term bioavailability refers to the proportion or fraction of a nutrient, consumed in the diet, that is absorbed and utilized by the body.” A foods bioavailability may depend on how it is prepared (ie. cooked or raw or combined with other foods) which may change your ability to digest and absorb its nutrients. There are several factors that may influence bioavailability, including food structure, health and age, chemical form, and interactions with other foods/nutrients. 


Plant foods have rigid cell walls to protect themselves and to help them function. However, this rigid cell wall is a food structure that can hinder nutrient absorption and reduce the overall bioavailability of nutrients. By cutting up, blending, and/or cooking certain foods for a long time, you can break down these cell walls to increase bioavailability. Additionally, we have a handy built in mechanism for increasing plant food bioavailability: chewing. Overall, the harder to digest a food is, the less bioavailable is. Corn is a good example of this, we all know that corn often goes in and comes out looking somewhat the same without much digestion. This is an indication of poor bioavailability and nutritional absorption. (cite) Another way to increase bioavailability of plant foods is to soak grains and beans, which will help to reduce phytic acid. Phytic acid might reduce your absorption of necessary nutrients from beans and grains like iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium. (cite


Another way to increase bioavailability is to eat (or not eat) certain foods together. For example, antioxidants like phytates or our favorite and previously discussed polyphenols can bind with certain micronutrients as you digest them, preventing absorption of minerals in the body. Often these antioxidants and bioavailable compounds may be removed from food during processing, such as when beans and grains are soaked or when grain is pounded to remove the bran. To improve the absorption of nutrients, consider consuming foods that complement each other, like eating foods high in vitamin C with foods high in iron to increase the absorption of the iron. This combination may also prevent the minerals from binding with the antioxidants and bioactive compounds, increasing overall absorption of the bioactive compounds and the bioavailability of nutrients (cite). Other suggested combinations include black pepper with turmeric, greens with some olive oil, and complementary protein sources like beans and rice (cite).

So, what makes our chocho bioavailable? Our chocho undergoes an extensive process of soaking to remove anti-nutrients and to maximize the absorption of important micronutrients and minerals. Our chocho powder has been ground up making the nutrients easier to absorb and the chocho that goes into our powder and into our snacks has been dehydrated at specific temperatures. This is done to avoid loss of nutrients, maximizing your overall nutrient absorption to ensure you get all of the benefits from the bioactive compounds, vitamins and minerals held inside our chocho. As if that was not enough, our chocho helps to fix nitrogen (link to article) making nitrogen more bioavailable for other plants in the soil and helping all plants grow better (cite). 


So, you can see how our chocho helps you, the soil, and other plants thrive through its bioavailability and bioactivity. This is why we are so intent on labeling our chocho with these buzzwords, because beyond the buzz there is a whole lot of amazing chemistry and biology at work. To really maximize your nutrient absorption, consider throwing together a fresh and nutrient dense salad: a base of iron rich spinach, topped with fresh cut orange slices (full of vitamin C), chopped tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, and a healthy handful of our chocho snacks, all tossed in a turmeric spiced vinaigrette made with organic cold pressed olive oil, lemon juice, a splash of maple syrup, a sprinkle of turmeric, and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Full of bioactive and bioavailable nutrients, protein, and healthy fat, our chocho (and that wonderful salad) will leave you glowing and revitalized.

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