Food synergy

There are certain food combinations that not only taste better together, but have a synergistic effect to boost their nutrition to the max. We are just starting to understand how these combinations work. That’s why getting as much variety into our diets and packing as many different types of fruit, vegetables and unprocessed whole foods from Mother Nature’s larder onto our plates is the key to good nutrition.

Here’s some food synergy combinations to try:

  • Tomatoes with olive oil

The Mediterranean diet holds the secrets to health and longevity and there are plenty of examples of food synergy in traditional recipes and dishes of the Med. One example is drizzling some good quality olive oil over your tomato salad. This will help to maximise the absorption of fat soluble antioxidants like lycopene, an important antioxidant though to reduce risk of some cancers and heart disease. Although olive oil in salad dressings helps, the impact seems to be enhanced even more if we cook tomatoes with olive oil. Think  hearty cassoulets, ratatouille and roasted Mediterranean vegetables.

  • Turmeric with black pepper

This spicy combination is common in traditional Asian recipes like curries and dhal. The active ingredient that gives turmeric its reputation as a superfood is largely attributed to a the phytochemical curcumin. It is thought that adding some black pepper to dishes containing turmeric will increase the bioavailability of curcumin by up to 2000%. The effect seems to be largely due to the effect of an active ingredient in pepper called piperine on the glucuronidation pathway in our liver, helping to sustain the effect of cucumin for longer, so making it more effective.

  • Broccoli with mustard

One of our favourite superfoods, broccoli is a great source of sulfurophane, but we need an enzyme called myrosinase to get maximum absorption of it. Unfortunately myrosinase is inactivated by cooking. Mustard to the rescue. Adding some mustard to cooked broccoli can increase the bioavailability of sulforaphane by around four times. A nutritious and delicious combination!

  • Tomatoes and broccoli with your omelette

The iron in eggs is not particularly well absorbed. Vitamin C, found in broccoli, leafy green veg and tomatoes can help maximise the absorption of iron and make a tasty breakfast or lunch combination.

  • Rosemary and thyme in BBQ marinades

Grilling meat at high temperatures has been shown to trigger the production of toxins called heterocyclic amines (HCAs), linked to cancer. It seems that marinading your meat with a rosemary infused mixture before you barbeque could make a big difference. One study showed that the HCAs were reduced by 30-100%. Cooking at lower temperature, for a shorter time helps too.

  • Seeds in your porridge

Starting your day with a bowl of porridge can set you up well for the day, but adding a tablespoonful of nuts or seeds could keep your blood sugar levels more sustained, keeping hunger at bay for longer, thanks to the effects of the good fats and protein on blood sugar and insulin balance and appetite regulation.

  • Spinach with avocado

The carotenoids in spinach are fat soluble nutrients that include the antioxidants lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene. Adding some avocado to your spinach salad could help enhance the absorption of these nutrients thanks to the good fats found in avocado.