One concept that nutritionists have developed relates not only to absorption efficiency but also to mineral interactions at the site for absorption and the site of use. This concept is that of bioavailability (5). Bioavailability is defined as the percentage of the consumed mineral that enters via the intestinal absorptive cell, the enterocyte, and is used for its intended purpose. Thus, bioavailability includes not only how much of a consumed mineral enters the body but also how much is retained and available for use. An example might be the comparison of iron from red meat to the same amount of iron from spinach. Iron from red meat has a greater bioavailability than iron from spinach because it is an integral component of the protein heme. It is this form (heme iron) that is efficiently absorbed and used. The iron in the spinach is bound to an oxalate, and even though some of this iron can be released from the oxalate, it is in the ferric state and poorly absorbed.

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