Some food combinations just seem to go great together naturally – like orange juice and oatmeal with fruit in the morning, or olive oil drizzled over tomatoes. But if we take a closer look at these food combinations, many nutritionists believe, we may find something more.
“Food synergy” is what happens when specific foods are better for us in combination than they would be separately. Here are some classic food combinations that are great examples of food synergy at play:
1. Tomato And Avocado
Lycopene is an antioxidant which can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and it’s abundant in tomatoes – it’s why they have that rich red color in the first place. But it’s even better for you when eaten with some kind of fat, because the fat helps your body absorb the lycopene better, which is why tomato and avocado make not only a delicious combination, but one that can help you fight disease(1).
2. Oatmeal And Orange Juice
Real oatmeal – the kind made from scratch – paired with a glass of freshly squeezed oranges (with pulp) for breakfast just feels like a natural choice, but it has unique health advantages as well. Oatmeal is high in fiber, which prevents heart disease and helps keep your bowels healthy, and when paired with vitamin-C-rich orange juice, it can lower your LDL cholesterol levels as well.
3. Broccoli And Tomato
When eaten in combination, these foods prevent the development of prostate cancer – unfortunately, no one is sure exactly why. What is clear is that it’s the combination itself that is effective: “The combination of tomato and broccoli was more effective at slowing tumor growth than either tomato or broccoli alone and supports the public health recommendations to increase the intake of a variety of plant components,” one 2007 study concluded(2).
4. Peanut Butter And Sourdough Bread
A peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread sounds simple, but it’s a surprisingly powerful combination. Peanuts contain amino acids that are absent in most sourdough products, making a peanut butter sandwich on sourdough bread a complete, healthy meal. Peanut butter can also help regulate your blood glucose levels and reduce your hunger throughout the day, making you less likely to cave in to the urge to snack.
5. Turmeric And Black Pepper
Turmeric and black pepper are common ingredients in many South Asian dishes, and with good reason – turmeric is well known for it’s anti-inflammatory properties(3), and when paired with black pepper, its bioavailability (that is to say how well the body absorbs its nutrients) increases significantly. You can even go one step beyond by mixing in coconut oil.
6. Garlic And Fish
Fish is one of the healthiest proteins you can eat; they’re loaded with nutrients, including zinc, iron, iodine, and selenium, all of which are essential to your body. But adding garlic when you’re cooking your fish can make it even better for you by lowering your total cholesterol(4).
7. Lemon And Kale/Spinach
Kale is loaded with iron, but iron is better absorbed by the body when paired with vitamin C – which is why doctors often prescribe vitamin C along with iron supplements when treating anemia. Pairing kale with lemon juice when cooking it offers not only a great flavor combination, but a combination of nutrients that truly bring out the best in each other.