Super-Food Synergy: Optimal Food Pairings
By Sarah Axtell, ND • May 21, 2021
You are what you eat…but you are also what you absorb! Below are easy food pairings that will improve your absorption of nutrients and enhance the effectiveness of antioxidants.
Optimize your nutrition with these 5 easy food pairings.
- Plant-Based Iron and Vitamin C
Spinach and other leafy greens are a good source of iron, but they are a non-heme form of iron. This means they are not as easily absorbed compared to heme iron found in meat and poultry. We can enhance the absorption of the non-heme iron in spinach and kale by pairing it with a source of vitamin C. Examples of this super-food pairing:
- Smoothie with spinach or kale (iron) and strawberries (vitamin C)
- Salad (iron) with lemon juice (vitamin C) in the dressing
- Sauteed kale (iron) with lemon juice (vitamin C)
- Grapefruit (vitamin C) and Arugula Salad (iron) with Avocado
2. Turmeric and Black Pepper
Black pepper improves turmeric’s bio-availability, meaning it makes it more medicinal and better absorbed. So next time you add to turmeric to your veggies, crack some black pepper on them too for an added boost. Here is some additional inspiration for this super-food duo:
- Turmeric Roasted Detox Veggies
- Anti-Inflammatory Coconut Turmeric Bites
- Yellow Lentil Dahl with Ginger and Turmeric
- Simple Squash with Turmeric and Walnuts
*Supplement tip: When you supplement with a curcumin supplement bound to a phospholipid (ie. Meriva), black pepper is not necessary. It is already very well absorbed!
3. Fat and Fat Soluble Nutrients (A, D, E, and K)
Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat-soluble. That means they will be optimally absorbed when paired with a fat. Your salad is full of these nutrients but you will not absorb them unless you have avocado, olive oil, nuts, and/or tahini in the salad. Here are some recipes that maximize this synergistic relationship between fat and fat-soluble vitamins:
- Fall Harvest Salad with Maple Tahini Dressing (Vitamins A, E, and K + Fat)
- Carrot Cashew Miso Dip (Vitamin A + Fat)
- Glowing Green Smoothie (Vitamins E and K + Fat)
- Sweet Potato Toast with Avocado and Sauerkraut (Vitamins A and E + Fat)
*Supplement tip: If you supplement with any of these vitamins (ie. vitamin D), be sure to take them with a meal with some fat. Or choose a vitamin D, for instance, that has some fat in it. For example, we carry a liquid vitamin D emulsified in a base of olive oil which I LOVE because it is so well absorbed
4. Tomatoes and Olive Oil
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a fat-soluble antioxidant. Combining tomatoes with olive oil boosts the effectiveness of this disease-fighting antioxidant. Also, cooking the tomatoes will make the lycopene more bio-available. Ideas to optimize the nutrient density of tomatoes:
- Zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash topped with marinara and olive oil
- Chili and a side salad with olive oil dressing
5. Broccoli and Brazil Nuts
Broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, brussels sprouts, and cabbage are members of the cruciferous vegetable family. These cruciferous vegetables are rich in sulfurophane, an antioxidant found to have the following benefits:
- Hormone balancing
Sulfurophane works synergistically with selenium. The best dietary form of selenium is brazil nuts. When these nutrients are combined, their antioxidant power exponentially increases.
Next time to roast broccoli or cauliflower, add chopped brazil nuts for an added crunch and boost in nutrition!
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.