FOOD PAIRINGS FOR A NUTRITIONAL BOOST
Elise Deming, MS, RDN, LDN
Eating healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, seeds, whole grains, herbs, and spices can greatly contribute to good overall health. However, taking it a step further by strategically pairing specific foods to improve their nutrient absorption can help better utilize the foods you may already be eating.
Better Health with Strategic Eating
Many broad food categories can be eaten together to improve absorption. This absorption increase can reach up to 2000% depending on the food. If these foods are already a part of your diet, choosing to selectively pair foods together is a great way to boost your nutrition intake and health. If these foods are not already found in your diet, this can be a fun way to start incorporating them into your eating pattern. Below are some excellent food pairings to boost your nutrient absorption.
- Black Pepper and Curcumin
Experiencing a rise in popularity, turmeric is appearing in more household spice cabinets and dinner recipes. This is partially due to studies surrounding the anti-inflammatory effects of a component of turmeric, known as curcumin. Studies suggest curcumin may aid in arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, psoriasis, and other inflammatory ailments. These beneficial effects are associated with higher doses of curcumin than usually eaten in a meal. However, increasing the bioavailability of turmeric can only benefit your absorption of curcumin. When paired with a compound of black pepper known as with piperine, it was found the bioavailability of the curcumin increased 2000%.
In the Kitchen
A kitchen is different from a clinical lab. However pairing black pepper with turmeric, which contain piperine and curcumin respectively, can still promote anti-inflammatory health benefits. Great ways to do so include:
- Turmeric Tea
- Roasted vegetables with turmeric and black pepper
- Spicy turmeric, cayenne, and black pepper meat rubs
- Non-Heme Iron and Vitamin C
Two types of iron exist; heme and non-heme. Heme iron is predominantly found in animal proteins and is more easily absorbed by the body. In contrast, non-heme iron is less absorbed by the body and can be found mostly in plants, eggs, beans, and fortified cereal. However, consuming foods high in vitamin C with foods containing non-heme iron can increase the absorption of non-heme iron.
In the Kitchen
Combining vitamin C and iron can be as simple as drinking a small glass of orange juice with your morning cereal or eggs. Plant sources also contain vitamin C also such as spinach, broccoli, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, mangos, and strawberries. Combining these with the non-heme iron foods you eat like beans, lentils, tofu, seeds, and leafy greens can increase your iron absorption.
- Vitamin D and Calcium
Two crucial nutrients to overall health and, more specifically, bone health are vitamin D and calcium. Humans must get both of these nutrients from external sources such as food and sunlight. When consumed together in adequate quantities, vitamin D helps the body absorb enough calcium. Milk and other dairy products are the best sources of calcium. Non-dairy sources of calcium include leafy greens, turnip greens, salmon, and sardines. Most vitamin D people get is through sunlight, but the vitamin can also found in smaller quantities in swordfish, salmon, tuna, fortified orange juice, and fortified milk.
In the kitchen
Try starting your day with a Greek yogurt and a small glass of fortified OJ or milk to get enough Vitamin D and calcium. Additionally, a kale salad topped with roasted salmon or Simply Good Jar’s Smoked Salmon jar can make great dinner combinations of calcium and vitamin D.
Boost Your Nutrition
Incorporating healthier eating patterns is an excellent step towards a healthy lifestyle. However, you can take it a step further and start pairing specific foods to optimize their nutritional benefits and absorption in the body. These might even be foods you are already pairing together.