It’s the darnedest thing but when certain foods are prepared and consumed together they amp up each other’s nutritional punch.
Following is a top-ten list of food pairings that create synergy – when the whole exceeds the sum of its parts:
- Cottage cheese and fruit. My 90+ mother still swears by seasonal, canned, or even thawed frozen fruit atop a modest portion of cottage cheese. She prefers low-fat large curd to my full-4%-fat small curd choice but otherwise, we see eye to eye on the excellence of this combo. Curd refers to the size of the lumps in the cottage cheese. Either size slowly releases casein protein into your digestive system. The fruit is high in fiber, antioxidants, and antiinflammatories.
- Banana and almond butter. Or should I say “buttah” because “buttah is bettah” in my cookbook. Diabetics take note: eating a ripe, sugary banana along with some almond butter can prevent a blood sugar crash. The almonds act to slow down the body’s metabolism, lowering the likelihood of spiking blood glucose levels and the resultant crash (sudden lowering).
- Apples and raspberries. Quercetin is an antioxidant found in apples, grapes, onions, and buckwheat which destroys cancerous cells. Ellagic acid is a different antioxidant found in raspberries, pomegranates, walnuts, and cranberries which enhances the body’s ability to process quercetin. Other bioactive phytochemicals in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains work better in pairs or groups.
- Onion and chickpea (garbonzo bean). Onions, garlic, and leeks all contain sulfur compounds which can help the body absorb more iron and zinc from grains and legumes such as including chickpeas and peanuts.
- Spinach and avocado. Avocados are full of healthy fats which work in tandem with the lutein antioxidant in spinach to improve eye health. Eating this pair of vegetables will fight aging-related eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Rice and black beans. Complete proteins often come from animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs. They can also be found in non-animal products such as soy. Other protein sources (nuts, grains, and vegetables) are incomplete because they don’t have one or more of the essential amino acids the body needs to grow and develop. Pairing two incomplete proteins – rice and beans in this case – crates a complete protein source.
- Olive oil and tomatoes. Cooking tomatoes in olive oil or drizzling it over them while fresh in a salad dressing increases the body’s ability to absorb lycopene, a potent antioxidant in tomatoes that is linked to preventing prostate cancer.
- Cayenne and cocoa powder. If it was good enough for the ancient mysterious Mayans, it’s good enough for us. All hot peppers have a stimulating effect on the body’s metabolic rate which boost the antioxidant properties of powdered cocoa. Toss hot popcorn in this mixture or heat up a wintertime mug of cocoa loco.
- Vitamin D and calcium. So far, specific foods have been mentioned for greater-good pairings. But any food high in vitamin D works better nutritionally when you match it with calcium from food or dietary supplements. The active vitamin D increases the absorption of dietary calcium in the intestines. Consume vitamin D-enriched foods: salmon, tuna, egg yolks or fortified foods like milk and non-dairy beverages such as soymilk and orange juice. Eat a variety of calcium-rich foods: collard greens, broccoli, dried figs, oranges and dairy foods.
- Fat and fat-soluable vitamins. It stands to reason that taking those vitamins that dissolve in fat – vitamins A, D, E, and K – rather than water would be more effective if combined with some actual fatty food. Although a slice of fried bacon will fill the bill, not all fats come from greasy-good meats: nuts, seeds, avocados, and olives or olive oil are all foods high in healthy fats. Fight cancer and type 2 diabetes by amping up your body’s ability to gain essential nourishment from the fat-soluable vitamins.
As you can see, these top ten pairings lend themselves to your interpretation and dietary preferences. Why not give Mother Nature a hand and do yourself a favor by doubling down on beneficial, synergistic food combinations?