Did you know that eating some foods together provides more nutrition than consuming them alone? It’s true. Why not take advantage of Mother Nature’s bonus gifts?
Certain foods have synergistic relationships with one another. When they act in concert they create a whole that is greater than the simple sum of its parts.
The health-building benefits from consuming superfoods such as berries and leafy greens can be enhanced by serving them side by side.
- Tomatoes and olive oil
Tomatoes are considered intensely nutritious and beneficial for blood pressure, cancer, the heart, diabetes, constipation, eye and skin health, and pregnancy. The juicy red fruits (oh yes, they are because they have seeds) contain lycopene, a plant nutrient with powerful antioxidant properties that may help prevent prostate cancer, improve heart health, and protect against sunburns. Pigmented lycopene colors red and pink fruits such as tomatoes, watermelons, and pink grapefruit.
The body has trouble absorbing lycopene if the tomato is raw. Researchers found out cooking the tomato and combining it with oil increases the body’s ability to absorb lycopene. Olive oil produces the highest lycopene take-up rate when drizzled over or added to cooked tomatoes.
By itself, extra-virgin olive oil or sunflower olive oil is a heart-healthy fat that increases “good” HDL cholesterol and lowers “bad” artery-clogging LDL cholesterol. Note that sunflower oil did not increase the antioxidant activity of plasma in scientific tests.
Antioxidants fight compounds called free radicals that occur naturally as well as from pollution and exposure to toxins. Free radicals (oxidants) are linked to aging and oxidative stress which has been linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease (dementia).
This food pairing also helps the body assimilate the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
- Cottage cheese and blueberries
This dietary duo fills you up so you don’t want to keep snacking before mealtime.
The high-fiber fruit bulks up from liquid in the digestive tract and slows down digestion so the body has more time to absorb nutrients from the foods we eat and drink.
The dairy cheese lumps come from casein, found in animal milk and one of the best proteins often taken as a supplement. Casein is a slow-digesting dairy protein that releases amino acids slowly. Amino acids serve both as building blocks of proteins and as intermediates in metabolism. There are 20 amino acids found within proteins.
Some people take a casein supplement or consume some dairy food before going to bed to help muscle recovery and reduce muscle breakdown while they sleep. Several studies have shown casein stimulates muscle growth.
- Onions, garlic, and wild rice
The essential minerals iron and zinc are micronutrients that aren’t readily available in our diets, especially from plant foods. Foods high in iron and zinc include red meat, shellfish, legumes (such as peanuts or chickpeas), seeds, nuts, dairy, and whole grains.
In a 2010 study published by the American Chemical Society (ACS), scientists tested Allium spices (onion and garlic) to see if they had a beneficial effect on the mineral bioavailability of iron and zinc. They discovered that adding garlic and onion did indeed raise the bioaccessibility of iron and zinc from food grains.
The study authors concluded that “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.”
- Salmon and broccoli
Calcium is the most abundant essential mineral in the body that plays a vital role in bone health. Did you know that 99 percent of the body’s calcium is in the bones and teeth? Calcium also plays a part in proper muscle movement and cardiovascular function.
Our bodies need Vitamin D to absorb calcium. Combining foods containing high levels of the D vitamin – such as salmon – with foods high in calcium – such as broccoli – boosts the body’s ability to absorb the most calcium.
If salmon isn’t in season, other great sources of vitamin D include herrings, sardines, cod liver oil, canned tuna, egg yolks, and mushrooms.
Now that you have an idea of how food pairings to optimize nutrient absorption and health work, feel free to look for other ways to raise the absorption rate of one food’s key nutrient by teaming it up with another food.