Bread with butter and jam … pasta and tomato sauce … yoghurt with fruits and honey – what do these duos all have in common?
They’re popular food combinations that many of us have encountered at some point in our lives.
But how does the way we combine food affect our health?
There are several schools of food combining but here I am exploring the «synergistic food combining » and I am presenting you some specific examples.
How two or even more nutrients interact to amplify their combined health benefits?
Studies have shown that some combinations actually enhance nutrient bioavailability. Eating certain foods together boosts the nutritional value of the individual foods! This concept is often referred to as “nutrient synergy” because these foods work together synergistically to enhance their combined nutritional benefits.
Simply said, some foods collaborate with each other very well and it is preferable to eat them together since their nutritional value increases considerably!
Many of the synergistic interactions are thought to stem from compounds known as phytochemicals -those chemical compounds which have a positive impact on your body. Phytochemicals are called those naturally occurring chemical compounds that are found in plant-based foods and have a positive impact on our body. They are different from vitamins and minerals but may support health just as much. Even though phytochemicals aren’t considered to be nutritional compounds and aren’t necessary to humans’ life, it has been proved that their existence impacts in a positive way -sometimes even decisively- health. Hence it is suggested that these naturally occurring chemical compounds play a major role in reducing inflammation, boosting immunity, slowing the spread of tumour cells, and protecting the body from chronic disease. Phytochemicals can interact with each other and different vitamins and minerals to synergistically boost their combined health benefits.
Let’s not keep on with the theory… I am sharing here today some of my preferred and easy to apply synergistic combinations:
- TURMERIC & BLACK PEPPER
Turmeric contains a powerful phytochemical called curcumin, which is prized for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Black pepper contains piperine, a compound shown to have an anti-cancer effect. While turmeric and black pepper are healthful on their own when combined, curcumin’s bioavailability improves by 2,000%!
Tip: Add both spices to curries, eggs, and salad dressings for a nutritional boost.
- BROCCOLI & TOMATOES
Broccoli and tomatoes are both nutritious foods high in vitamin C; together,
they become even more nutritious. In fact, a study on prostate cancer found that when broccoli and tomatoes were combined, tumour weights decreased by 52%, significantly more than when broccoli and tomatoes were consumed on their own! Moreover, tomatoes contain a phytochemical called lycopene, which is also shown to have a cardioprotective effect.
- GREEN TEA & LEMON JUICE
Green tea is a great source of antioxidants and has been shown to boost brain function and help protect the body from cardiovascular disease. Much of green tea’s beneficial effects are attributed to being a great source of catechin, a phytochemical. When lemon juice is added to green tea, it can help increase the bioavailability of catechins by up to five times!
- LEMON & SPINACH
Vitamin C has been shown to increase the absorption of plant-based iron sources, so pairing a bit of lemon juice with a plant-based iron source, like spinach, is a nutritional win!
Tip: Other similar combos include red pepper and lentils, cauliflower and tempeh, and Brussels sprouts and sesame seeds.
- ROSEMARY & GRILLED MEAT
Meat cooked on the grill and exposed to direct high heat can create heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which may increase the risk of cancer. But adding a bit of rosemary can reduce the formation of HCAs significantly.
Tip: Add rosemary to your next marinade or rub for this benefit.
- KALE & AVOCADO
Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K need fat to be absorbed properly. The monounsaturated fats from avocado can help boost the absorption of vitamin K found in kale. Another example that pairs a fat-soluble vitamin with a fat source is sweet potato (vitamin A) and Greek yoghurt.
Tip: Fortunately, some foods naturally include fat that may help boost nutrient absorption, including salmon (vitamin D), egg yolks (vitamin D), and sunflower seeds (vitamin E).
- SALMON + BOK CHOY
Vitamin D helps boost the absorption of calcium – both necessary to support bone health. Combining a vitamin D source, like salmon, with a calcium source, like bok choy, will help enhance calcium absorption to support strong bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Tip: Mushrooms can be a plant-based source of vitamin D!
The concept of nutrient synergy helps highlight that when it comes to our diet, sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Different foods can work together to boost their nutritional value. Let’s focus on our nutrition as a synergistic “whole” to helping to reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and support vibrant health.
This article was originally written in Greek by Isabelle Razis and published in https://www.govastileto.gr/editors-blog/7-evergetiki-sindiasmi-trofon-simfona-me-ti-health-coach-izampel-razi/