5 Food Combinations That Pack a Powerful Nutritional Punch

Danielle Omar, MS, RD Calcium and Bone Health, Lifestyle Leave a Comment

We all know that drizzling olive oil on tomatoes or lemon juice on spinach salads make for great tasting food – but what you might not know is these pairings can actually make your food healthier, too!  Certain nutrients in food are more easily absorbed when they have a sidekick, so you get more bang for your buck when you eat certain foods together.

Below are five power combos to help you boost nutrient absorption:

Spinach + Strawberries

Whether blended together in a smoothie or tossed in a salad, combining iron-rich spinach and vitamin C-rich strawberries make for a nutritious food combo. Iron helps carry oxygen to your brain, muscles, and other parts of your body to help you feel energized – but iron is better utilized and absorbed when there’s vitamin C involved. That extra boost of iron is especially important if you’re eating mostly plant based sources of iron (like spinach, other leafy greens, beans, and quinoa) since they aren’t absorbed as easily by your body. A spinach salad with orange segments and a squeeze of lemon, bell peppers stuffed with quinoa and beans, or steak with a tomato salsa are also great iron + vitamin C combos!

Tomatoes + Olive Oil

Tomatoes and olive oil are a classic pairing in sauces and salads, but they do more than just taste great when together. Lycopene is a pigment that gives foods like tomatoes and watermelon their bright red colors plus all of their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cancer-protective benefits. It’s a fat soluble compound, meaning it needs to be carried by fat in order to be absorbed, so eating it alongside some healthy fat ensures that you’re reaping all of its benefits! Tomatoes and avocado slices or mozzarella cheese would work deliciously, too.   

Photo: Wall Street International

Eggs + Cheese

That’s right, your morning omelet is already on the right track by following one of the most well-known nutrient pairings – calcium and vitamin D. Calcium helps keep bones strong and durable, but our bodies need vitamin D in order to absorb it. Cal-EZ powder gives you a great dose of both calcium and vitamin D, but you can find this combo naturally in foods, too. Vitamin D is found in fatty fish like: salmon, sardines, tuna,  as well as egg yolks, while calcium is plentiful in dairy products, kale, broccoli, some tofu, and nuts. Pairing salmon with a yogurt sauce or making tuna salad with silken tofu instead of mayo are also appetizing combinations.

Photo: The Almond Eater

Kale + Avocado

If you’re watching what you eat, you’ve probably read a million times already that kale and avocado are crazy-good-for-you super foods that need to find their ways onto your plate. So if you need another reason to eat these sweethearts of the nutrition world, know that they’re even better eaten together! Kale is chock full of vitamin K, a fat soluble vitamin that’s crucial for healthy blood clotting and building bone. Eating vitamin K-rich foods with some healthy fat ensures that you’re getting all the benefits – and it’s a pretty delicious combo, too! Topping a kale salad (tossed with heart-healthy olive oil) with avocado is a great way to combine vitamin K and healthy fats. Just about any other dark leafy green is also rich in vitamin K, so a spinach salad or collard greens sautéed in olive oil will do just as well.

Photo: Epicurious

Sweet Potatoes + Olive Oil

Sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, and you guessed it, beta carotene is fat soluble! Well, if you want to technical, beta carotene is converted into vitamin A in our bodies, and vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin. Beta carotene gives carrots and sweet potatoes their bright orange color and acts as a powerful antioxidant, while vitamin A plays a huge role in maintaining healthy vision, neurological function, and a healthy immune system. Roasting sweet potatoes (or carrots) with olive oil or dipping carrots into guacamole are tasty ways to combine beta carotene and healthy fats.

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