Pairing certain fruits, vegetables, meats, and spices together can actually make your meal more nutritious!
Combining foods can increase the bioavailability of certain nutrients, making it easier for the body to absorb them. It is such a simple, elegant way to boost nutrition and improve the quality of your meals. Assuming you are choosing the highest quality, one-ingredient foods (organic, grass-fed and finished, wild caught and pastured), simply pairing several up will exponentially increase the health benefits you reap from them.
Here are 11 of My Favorite Food Pair-Ups:
Add an Egg.
Who doesn’t love a big, beautiful green salad bursting with fresh veggies, especially during the warmer months? An easy way to turn that gorgeous salad into a meal and boost its nutritional value is to add an egg or two on top. You can use gently boiled eggs or even scrambled eggs. Studies have shown that by simply doing this, you absorb 3-9 times more carotenoids, including antioxidants lycopene and beta-carotene. Those nutrients are fat soluble, and the fat in eggs helps make them more available for absorption.
While we are talking about this, adding any healthy fat to a salad unlocks more of the nutrients that those greens contain. So, don’t shy away from topping your salad with avocado, olives, nuts or seeds, and definitely stay away from bottled salad dressings that are high in inflammatory omega-6 oils, or fat-free dressings. Stick with healthy oils like extra virgin olive, macadamia nut, avocado, and balsamic or raw, organic apple cider vinegar.
Pair-up Iron-Rich Foods with Vitamin C-Rich Foods.
It is important to eat in a way that optimizes ultimate absorption. Iron in foods like grass-fed beef, spinach, chickpeas and russet baked potatoes are absorbed into the blood more readily when food that’s high in vitamin C (broccoli, lemon/lime juice or tomato) is eaten at the same time. So, have broccoli with your grass-fed beef burger or top it with sliced tomato, drizzle extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice on your spinach, pair up your chickpeas with a roasted sweet potato and top your baked potato with salsa! If you choose a raw spinach salad, combine it with vitamin C rich mango.
Combine Vitamin D Sources with Calcium-Rich Foods.
In order for the calcium in foods like spinach and kale to be more bioavailable pair them up with foods like wild caught salmon, sardines, or trout, which are excellent sources of vitamin D.
Fats to Unlock Carotenoids.
Foods rich in carotenoids like carrots and tomatoes benefit from being paired with healthy fat to make those compounds easier for your body to absorb. Why not combine sliced avocado and tomato or drizzle your tomatoes with a healthy fat? This will help you convert the carotenoid known as provitamin A to the form of vitamin A your body can actually use.
Tomatoes and Broccoli for Cancer Prevention.
Both of these foods have powerful anticancer properties, and this combo was especially potent at shrinking prostate tumors. Cooking tomatoes will release more of their nutrients, and then combining them with a healthy fat like extra virgin olive oil and stirring in some organic riced broccoli, will make your pasta sauce a cancer-fighting powerhouse.
Amplify with Black Pepper.
Research shows that a compound in black pepper, known as piperine, significantly improves the bioavailability of the curcumin in turmeric. It has the same effect on whatever you pair it with, so it’s not just a basic seasoning. As odd as it may sound, I even put black pepper into my morning chai tea knowing it boosts the benefits of the spices and the green or black tea.
Add Lemon to Green Tea.
Green tea is an excellent source of healthy antioxidants called catechins, which are linked to better heart health and lower cholesterol. Studies show that adding a tablespoon or two of lemon juice improves the stability of the catechins, which require an acidic environment and the ability of your body, to absorb them by as much as five times. The study found the results apply to black tea as well.
Chocolate and Raspberries.
Raspberries are a good source of the anti-inflammatory flavonoid quercetin, which can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, heart attack, and allergies. Dark chocolate is high in catechin, an antioxidant that may protect against coronary heart disease and stroke. Put those two together, and they have anti-coagulant properties which will improve heart health by keeping your blood flowing freely. Just be sure to choose organic raspberries and organic, dark chocolate. You only need an ounce to get the benefits so don’t go overboard.
The Two C’s – Cauliflower and Chicken.
Scientists found that combining foods rich in the plant chemical, sulforaphane, and the essential mineral, selenium, can boost their cancer-fighting power by up to 13 times. Cauliflower is a good source of sulforaphane and chicken contains selenium, so they make a nice pairing for dinner. Try roasted or mashed cauliflower with your pasture-raised chicken.
Herbs and Spices for Grilling.
Studies found the production of harmful compounds like HCAs that are produced when cooking proteins, and particularly, when grilling or broiling, are reduced by 44-70% simply by adding spices to the meats or burgers directly or using them in a marinade. Spices like rosemary, oregano, paprika, garlic powder, thyme, black pepper, ginger, and cinnamon are especially effective and delicious.
Cook Your White Rice with Coconut Oil.
Removing the outer bran from brown rice (making it white rice) also removes the anti-nutrient, phytic acid, that prevents mineral absorption, as well as reducing arsenic, which is concentrated in that thin outer layer that makes brown rice, brown. Adding a tablespoon of coconut oil when cooking white rice and then refrigerating and reheating before eating, lowers the glycemic index, increases resistant starch and decreases caloric content by 10-12%.
What are your favorite food pair-ups? Any that were not mentioned above? Please share them with us in the comments section below!