It’s no secret that some foods are healthier than others. But did you know that even healthy foods can get a nutrient boost if they are matched with the right ingredients?
Scientists are beginning to uncover combinations of foods that work synergistically to boost nutrient absorption and antioxidant potency. And many of these pairings naturally taste great together. Here are some foods that are better when paired up:
Pasta and tomato sauce
There is plenty of iron found in spinach, legumes, fortified pasta and breakfast cereal, but our body cannot properly absorb it without the help of vitamin C. Luckily, there are many tasty ways to pair iron-rich foods with a source of vitamin C. In addition to pasta and tomato sauce, other great pairings are cereal with berries, spinach-strawberry salad and sautéed kale with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Cheese and crackers
Another smart pairing is cheese with rye or whole grain crackers. Calcium-rich foods, such as cheese, are best paired with foods that contain inulin, which is a type of novel fibre that helps enhance calcium absorption. Pair your dairy with any of these inulin-containing foods: chicory, asparagus, onions, garlic, wheat or rye. Pasta with garlic and parmesan cheese is also a great choice.
Salad with vinaigrette
Use salad dressing to get maximum nutritional value from your salads. The beneficial antioxidants found in vegetables are best absorbed when paired with a little fat, so add an olive or canola oil-based vinaigrette to your tossed greens. Oil also enhances the absorption of lycopene, the potent antioxidant found in tomatoes. That’s why spaghetti sauce is often made with olive oil.
Steak and marinade
A great way to enjoy steak is on the barbeque, but when meat is cooked over high heat, harmful compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCA) may form. At least 20 different HCA are formed during cooking meat, and some have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. But there is no need to avoid steak – simply marinate meat for 10 minutes before cooking it to avoid the formation of HCA. Ingredients such as vinegar, citrus juice, vegetable oil, herbs and spices can help prevent carcinogen formation. Dry rubs work well too. Bonus: Flavonoid antioxidants are also thought to block the formation of HCAs in meat, so pair your steak with cherries, broccoli, kale or onions.
Curry and fish
The omega-3 fat DHA and the spice curcumin (abundant in curry) both may help inhibit some forms of cancer. However, studies show that they work even better when eaten together than separately – in curried fish stew, soup or fillets. Try sprinkling curry powder on halibut or trout before grilling.
The power of nature is abundant in these perfect pairings. Not only can you enhance absorption and antioxidant capacity, but you can enjoy foods that taste great together!