It’s called “food synergy”. There are powerful food combinations that tie into the prevention of so many chronic illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, & diabetes. (Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight also contributes to diminishing your risks for all of the above.) We’ve talked about the “super foods” that help both with losing weight and a having a complete, nutritious diet, but it’s worth mentioning these food pairings that work together for better health overall. It may just take a tweak of what you’re already eating and drinking to make sure you’re putting these combinations together to maximize their benefits. (You’ll recognize them all from our previous lists!)
1. Add a splash of citrus to green tea. The ascorbic acid in lemons, limes, and oranges stabilizes the catechins from the tea in the gut so they have increased absorption into the bloodstream.
2. Add a banana to your yogurt. The probiotics in fermented foods (also in kefir, tempeh and sauerkraut) need inulin to thrive on in order to be effective for the digestive and immune systems. Found in bananas, asparagus, sunchokes, onion, endive, garlic, leeks, wheat germ and artichokes, inulin is a nondigestible carbohydrate that acts as a food source for intestinal bacteria.
3. Eat calcium rich foods at the same time as vitamin D sources. (Get that 10 minutes a day in the sunshine if possible.) Then pair up tofu, yogurt, sesame seeds, broccoli and cheese with cod liver oil, salmon. or sardines. Or seriously consider a vitamin D supplement with this one.
4. Put fats in your salad. Adding healthy fats like nuts, extra-virgin olive oil, or avocado to your salad bowl can increase the amount of beneficial antioxidants — such as lutein in leafy greens, lycopene in tomatoes and red peppers, and beta-carotene in carrots — your body absorbs. Fats slow down the digestion process, which in this case gives plant compounds more time to do their thing.
5. Iron and vitamin C have a unique relationship. Vitamin C participates in the production of an enzyme responsible for changing non-heme iron to a more easily absorbed form called ferrous iron, so you get more mileage, for example, out of the iron in your bean salad. So add whole fruits & veggies with higher vitamin C content to your non-heme iron meals of beans, whole grains and spinach.
6. When noshing on salty dishes or sodium-packed canned soups, frozen meals and fast-food fare, make sure to load up on potassium-plump fruits, vegetables and legumes at the same time. Potassium encourages the kidneys to excrete sodium. (Not that you are eating much processed/fast foods anymore, right?)
7. Protein and carbohydrates are not one vs. the other after all-they DO love to work together! After a workout, they work jointly to speed up muscle recovery by enhancing the blood insulin response. Higher insulin levels will supply muscles with a faster and larger dose of repair nutrients such as glucose and amino acids. The outcome of this perfect pairing is less muscle soreness and better fitness results. Postworkout combinations can include a turkey sandwich, yogurt and fruit, brown rice and grilled chicken or tofu, and pasta with meat sauce.
8. Merlot and salmon-need we say more? Heart-chummy polyphenol antioxidants in wine such as resveratrol might be responsible for the improved absorption of omega-3 fats.
9. Add rosemary and other herbs to meat cooked at high temperatures to reduce the formation of suspected carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs).
10. A few studies have also found that milk can reduce absorption of flavonoids in cocoa. These flavonoid antioxidants are believed to be behind the numerous health perks, such as reduced blood pressure, attributed to dark chocolate. So choose dark chocolate (look for a cocoa content of 65% or better) over milk chocolate when possible. And pair it with that cup of hot tea or glass of red wine for an indulgent (and healthy!) moment in time.
**Since starting this program, on most days for my 2nd “breakfast time” meal, I have personally been alternating between a bowl of oatmeal with a banana and rose geranium agave and a bowl of plain greek yogurt with blueberries and lavender honey. I think I’ll start reversing which one gets the banana and which gets the blueberries now!