Food

How to pair your foods to make them even more nutritious

You know that fresh, raw fruits and vegetables are great tasting and good for you. But did you know that how we pair them with other foods can help us reap even more benefits from these gifts of Mother Nature? It’s true!

Here are 5 tasty combos to maximize the flavor and nutrition at mealtime!

Avocado and leafy greens

Research has shown that avocados paired with leafy greens can increase the absorption of the nutrients in the other vegetables, specifically greens (like salads), by 400 percent or more! In several studies, the addition of healthy fats like avocado or olive oil have been shown to increase the absorption of powerful plant nutrients called carotenoids, nutrients essential for healthy eyes, skin and the immune system.

Other research has demonstrated that avocados paired with tomatoes increase the lycopene nutrient absorption by 200+ percent and when paired with carrots, by more than 600 percent!

Try the pairing in a recipe like W.A.C.K.Y. Salad. The name reminds me of the main ingredients: walnuts, avocado, carrots and (dried) cherries, kale and a big serving of YUM!

Olive oil with your salad — don’t skip the fat in your salad dressing!

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Pouring olive oil in the salad over a spoon

Similar to pairing avocado and leafy greens, olive oil increases the absorption of the carotenoids in your salad. To make a nutritious, lighter vinaigrette: use 1 part extra virgin olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar or citrus juice and season with your favorite herbs and spices.

Mango and greens

Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron and when it comes to our leafy greens and other plant-sources of iron, we need to help give them a boost to get the most out of them. A single mango has 100 percent of the daily vitamin C recommendation, which helps promote a healthy immune system as well as skin and heart health. And spinach serves up the plant-based iron, a nutrient essential for energy and oxygen-delivery. Combine them in a salad or blend them into a tasty smoothie like my TropiSoCal Smoothie and you boost the absorption of the iron while getting an excellent source of vitamin C. Citrus and leafy greens work the same way. Try adding orange juice to dressing, and fruits like mandarins, kiwi or strawberries to salads to increase the absorption of iron from the greens. Popeye would be proud.

Use herbs and spices with fatty foods and meats before grilling

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Delicious beef steak with tomatos. Meat and rosemary on wooden background

Surprise! Herbs and spices contain vitamins, minerals and more than 2,000 other plant nutrients. In a study from Penn State University, researchers discovered that an herb and spice blend added to a fatty meal could reduce some of the negative effects of the high fat dish. They found a 30 percent reduction in triglycerides after the fatty meal that included the herbs and spices compared to the same meal without herbs and spices. In a number of other studies, when herbs and spices are added to animal proteins like meats, chicken, and burgers in marinades or directly, they reduced the production of harmful compounds (like HCAs) produced during cooking by 44-70 percent. Be sure to spice up your cookouts with herbs and spices like rosemary, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, black pepper, ginger, paprika and others!

Combine citrus and green tea

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Iced tea with lemon and grapefruit on wooden background

Green tea is rich in a compound called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), one of several catechins in tea, which has been associated with increased metabolism, fat burning and blocking histamine release associated with allergies when consumed over time. As part of a bigger class of plant nutrients called catechins, research has also shown that pairing it with citrus (an excellent source of vitamin C) increases the absorption of the catechins by up to 5 times! So go ahead and squeeze some lemon or orange in your tea or sweeten it with a splash of orange juice.

Wendy Bazilian is an educator, author, nutritionist and food enthusiast. She has her doctorate in public health and nutrition, is a registered dietitian and certified exercise physiologist. Her guiding philosophy is Eat well, Move daily, Be Healthy.®

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