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Pair These Foods to Boost Their Benefits

Do you know that eating certain foods together can help you get more out of them?

As seen in Metro Style, November 8, 2023

Do you know that eating certain foods together can help you get more out of them? How cool is that? As a dietitian, I’ve always thought it was interesting what food does in the body, but even more so that food can work together too.

Sometimes we forget that good nutrition is also about getting enough vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support wellbeing. This aspect of nutrition, I find, is usually overshadowed by calorie deficits and talking about unhealthy foods or ingredients to avoid. I like to focus on what to eat and a positive way of thinking about food, so I came up with this interesting way to think about your food and what’s in them!

If you have a handle on healthy eating and want to get even more out of your food, here are some easy upgrades to keep in mind. An extra plus, these combos taste great together too!

1. Plant Iron + Vitamin C

This is a really helpful hack for people with anemia, and also to support healthy periods and blood production. Plant sources of iron like beans, chickpeas, and lentils, spinach, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and tofu and edamame contain “non-heme” iron, which is not as easily absorbed as “heme iron” from animal sources. But adding vitamin C can convert this form of iron to a form that is more easily absorbed so you can get more.

Try pairing:

  • A spinach salad with lemon dressing 

  • Monggo with bell peppers, or refreshing pineapple, mango, or kiwi for dessert

  • Tofu with broccoli, which has vitamin C too!

  • Dark chocolate squares and slices of orange

2. Fat-Soluble Vitamins and Antioxidants + Fat

Vitamins A, D, E, and K are the fat-soluble vitamins. They need dietary fats to be absorbed in the small intestine, and are also stored in the body's fat tissues and liver. They are unlike the water-soluble vitamins C and the B vitamins. We absorb and excrete these easily, but store limited amounts, which is why they can be found in larger quantities in your vitamin supplements. Fat-soluble vitamins have a higher risk of excess and toxicity, and you do need to be more mindful of your dosages with supplements. You don’t need to be as cautious with food sources, however, so try out these combos and don’t be scared of healthy fats.

Try pairing:

  • Leafy greens rich in vitamins A and K with an extra virgin olive oil-based dressing

  • Carrot sticks and hummus, made with fat from sesame seeds and olive oil

  • Lycopene rich tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil

  • Plus, eat your egg yolks! No need to fear the fat in egg yolks, which also contain the fat soluble vitamins, antioxidants, and other minerals too

3. Turmeric and Black Pepper 

Turmeric has been super trendy for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, but it’s active compound, curcumin, is not well absorbed alone. Black pepper contains a compound called piperine, which helps the body absorb and utilize curcumin better. This combination has been shown to increase the absorption of curcumin by up to 2000%. So add a crack of black pepper to your curries or turmeric tea.

4. Green Tea with a Squeeze of Lemon

Green tea is another trendy ingredient known for its health benefits thanks to its high antioxidant content. With vitamin C, the antioxidants called catechins are less likely to degrade in the gastrointestinal tract. They are also better absorbed in the small intestine, not to mention they taste great together too so you’re more likely to drink it.

Photo by Anda Ambrosini on Unsplash

5. Calcium + Vitamin D and K

We know we need calcium for strong bones and to prevent osteoporosis, but we also need vitamin D and K to actually get this mineral into our bones. Calcium is found in dairy foods like milk, yogurt, and cheese, and some fortified plant-based dairy, as well as some other non-dairy sources like oranges, okra, almonds, tofu, and canned fish with soft bones. Vitamin D is found in a few food sources, and made mostly by our skin when exposed to sunlight, while vitamin K is in many plant foods, especially greens. So don’t forget to eat these for your bone health! Bonus tip, separate your calcium from your iron supplements if you need them, as they actually compete for absorption.

Try pairing:

  • Dairy or calcium-fortified, plant-based dairy foods with your vitamin D supplement

  • Sardines with bones in a leafy green salad

  • Salmon or mackerel with sautéed bok choy

  • Broccoli with a cheese dip or topped with shredded cheese

Photo by Stefan Johnson on Unsplash

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