How to Combine Foods to Get the Most Nutrients

When it comes to food combos, some are more nutritious than others
avocado on kale

Photo Modified: Flickr / Asha Yoganandan CC BY 4.0

Knowing how different foods interact is crucial for getting the most nutrient absorption.

You’re familiar with food combinations. There are time-tested classics like macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, and spaghetti and meatballs that everyone knows and many love. These combos are often prompted and propagated by the favorable flavors created when the foods are melded. There is, however, a growing database of knowledge about a new way to combine foods: mixing foods to get the most nutrients.

Click here for the 5 Healthy Foods You Should Never Eat by Themselves slideshow.

It’s a simple concept — beneficial food pairing, that is — and anyone who considers healthy eating their bag should in turn consider some nutritious food pairing options. When looking to do this, it’s important to know which vitamins and minerals are in the food you’re eating. Read the examples below and you’ll see why.

Avocado and Kale
Certain vitamins are fat-soluble, rendering them easily absorbed when paired with fat. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble, making pairs like sweet potatoes with olive oil and avocado on a bed of kale (vitamin K) perfect for nutrient absorption.

Black Pepper and Turmeric
Turmeric, a miraculous spice in itself, is a great anti-inflammatory. This is because it includes curcumin. When turmeric is ingested with black pepper, the potency of curcumin increases and is more readily absorbed by the body.

Chicken and Brussels Sprouts
Sulforaphanes, take Brussels sprouts as an example, act as antioxidants. Selenium is also an antioxidant and can be found in foods like poultry, Brazil nuts, and mushrooms. When paired, sulforaphanes and selenium have an incredibly high level of antioxidants.

Eggs and Broccoli
Vitamin D, found in the yolks of eggs and beef liver, helps your body to absorb calcium. Calcium, the well-known bone bolstering mineral, can be found in dairy products, and broccoli is another lesser known calcium-rich food. Go ahead and make yourself a broccoli and cheese omelet if you want strong bones. 

Greek Yogurt and Bananas
Potassium and protein are the perfect combination when it comes to replenishing amino acid stores lost during exercise and repairing tired muscles. Thus, a food like a banana that is rich in potassium pairs perfectly with a protein-rich food such as Greek yogurt.

Oranges and Spinach
For anyone who doesn’t eat meat, iron can be hard to come by. While plants do contain a form of iron, it isn’t as bioavailable as the iron contained in animal meat. When a plant-based iron is paired with vitamin C, however, it is much more readily absorbed. Try mixing citrus fruits with spinach or tossing some strawberries in your oatmeal to get the most out of your iron consumption.

The accompanying slideshow is provided by special contributor Bridget Creel.

Click here for more on the nuritional benefits of pairing foods.

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