Food combining can do more than soothe a fussy tummy.
Pairing certain nutrient profiles has the potential to add up to improved absorption—and better health (while some pairings can worsen digestion). Follow these formulas for maximum nutritional benefits at every meal.
1. HUMMUS + RED PEPPER = BOOST FOR LOW IRON
“The majority of dietary iron comes from nonheme, or plant, sources, but unfortunately, it’s not usually well absorbed,” says Peggy Kotsopoulos, a New York City–based holistic nutritionist. However, vitamin C helps improve the absorption of nonheme iron. The iron-rich chickpeas in the hummus and vitamin C–rich red pepper make a great snack for women, who often need more iron, she says.
2. TOMATO + AVOCADO = IMPROVED EYE HEALTH
Tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, a key nutrient for eye health that also gives the fruit its red hue. This antioxidant is fat-soluble, though, so it assimilates better in the body if it’s eaten with some fat. “Research suggests you absorb more from the carotene-rich food when you eat it with a smart fat, like avocado,” says Elaine Magee, a Boise, Idaho–based registered dietitian. There are so many ways you can pair these two powerhouses, but we love avocado toast with sliced tomatoes.
3. COTTAGE CHEESE + PINEAPPLE = POSTWORKOUT MUSCLE REPAIR
It’s important to refuel the right way following a serious Spinning class or an intense jog. After your workout, have a snack that includes protein (like cottage cheese) and a high-gastrointestinal carbohydrate (like pineapple). “Together, they replenish muscle and liver glycogen stores and cause an insulin release, which in turn helps push amino acids straight to muscle cells, which helps build and repair exactly where you need it,” says Kotsopoulos.
4. KALE + MUSHROOMS + OLIVE OIL = BETTER BONE DENSITY
Among the many nutritional benefits of kale is vitamin K, which helps transport calcium from your blood to your bones, acting as the glue that makes bone-enriching calcium stick. Studies have shown that a combination of vitamin K and vitamin D (found in mushrooms) helps prevent bone fractures, even in people already experiencing bone loss. Add some olive oil to a meal with these fat-soluble vitamins (an omelette, perhaps) and—bingo—major bone-health benefits. But not just any olive oil will do; opt for the extra-virgin version. “You’ll get more of the 30-plus phytochemicals from an olive oil that’s minimally processed,” says Magee.
5. SALMON + ALMONDS = HEART HEALTH
Omega-3 fatty acids, especially those found in cold-water fish, like salmon, may reduce the risk of blood clots, promote normal blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease. If you pair salmon steak with ground almonds (or another nut, such as walnuts), a plant-based source of essential fatty acids, you’re packing a more powerful wallop for cardiovascular health. “And they naturally go together,” notes Magee. (Think almond-crusted baked salmon!) There’s a lot of wisdom in cuisine from certain cultures, especially from areas of Asia and the Mediterranean, where these types of pairings often come up, she says.
DID YOU KNOW?
The components in some foods work in combination with themselves when eaten whole, says Magee. “Apples are a good example where the compounds in the skin complement those in the flesh,” she explains. “You’re much better off to eat them with the skin on.” Same goes for ground flaxseeds and oats. “You’re missing out on so much if you eat only flax oil or oat bran—your body wants it all!”
If You Want a Nutritious Breakfast,
There Are Better Food Pairings Than Avocado And Toast.
Skip the avocado toast — there are healthier food pairings
If you’re trying to eat a healthy breakfast, put down the avocado toast. Choosing the right food pairings is as important as picking healthy foods when it comes to nutrition.
Writing for the Daily Mail, nutritionist Rob Hobson of Healthspan broke down how pairing the wrong foods together can negate their health benefits.
“The food pairing choices you make will have a very real effect on your energy, how quickly you feel hungry again after eating – and therefore your weight,” Hobson wrote for the Mail.
For an example, he cited a recent Illinois Institute of Technology study on avocado toast. Avocado can help control blood sugar and suppress hunger on its own, but when eaten with white bread, the carbohydrates in the bread mostly negated those benefits. The study showed that fats like avocado are healthy, and that carbs should be eaten only in moderation – and not in their processed form, Hobson said.
Another example: Beef chili with beans. Beef is high on iron, Hobson noted, but the phytates in beans can bind with that iron and keep it from being absorbed. Adding in plenty of vitamin C-rich vegetables like red bell peppers can boost iron absorption.
So what are some better food pairings? Hobson offered up several suggestions:
- Sweet potatoes and Greek yogurt. Sweet potatoes keep blood sugar stable thanks to slowly digested carbs, and Greek yogurt packs protein.
- Oats and banana. Oats are a fiber and can keep you feeling full longer. Bananas are a prebiotic and may help control a hormone that makes you hungry. Nut butter and banana make another good pairing.
- Smoked salmon and scrambled egg. This “double whammy” of protein and healthy fats (including omega-3 fatty acids) can help you feel full longer. Egg on whole-grain bread is another good option.
- Vegetable soup with beans, lentils or peas. The water content in soup can help you fill up faster, and the protein and fiber in legumes can extend that feeling of fullness.
Other great food pairings are yogurt topped with dried fruit and nuts, salad with quinoa, or beans and brown rice.
“[Satiety is] particularly important for weight management as it can help to ward of hunger pangs and the temptation to snack between meals,” Hobson wrote. “Therefore, understanding which foods are more satiating and how to put meals together using them will help you to control how much you eat later on in the day.”