Have you heard of food synergy? It’s an idea that has gained popularity in recent years and it maintains that certain components of different foods can work synergistically to bring greater nutritional benefit to our bodies.
For example, turmeric combined with black pepper (or more specifically peperine, a compound found in black pepper) increases the absorption of turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin. Curcumin has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent free radical damage and calm the inflammatory process at the root of many chronic diseases. This is a great illustration of food synergy at work — in which the right combination of substances work together to increase nutritional value and bring greater benefits to your body.
Here are a few key examples of these pairings, and why they work:
1. Bananas and Greek yogurt.Bananas contain inulin, a plant-based carbohydrate. Research shows that inulin, when added to yogurt, can increase the growth of yogurt’s healthy bacteria, thereby helping to regulate digestion even further and boost immunity.
2. Spinach salad with garbanzo beans and red bell peppers.While heme iron (iron from meat, fish, and poultry) is well-absorbed, non-heme iron (found in grains, legumes, certain vegetables, and nuts) is less well-absorbed. Fortunately, research shows that vitamin C (ascorbic acid) assists in the absorption of non-heme iron — important for those who follow a plant-based diet.
3. Vegetables and olive oil.Research suggests that vegetables, particularly colorful ones, should be eaten with healthy monounsaturated oils — such as olive oil — to increase your body’s absorption of carotenoids, a type of phytonutrient that has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Adding whole eggs or avocados, which contain healthy monounsaturated fats, to a salad will also help to boost the absorption of carotenoids.
4. Green tea and lemon.A 2007 study from Purdue University found that adding either citrus juices or vitamin C to green tea will boost the absorption of catechins, a powerful naturally occurring antioxidant found in the tea.
Studies have shown that catechins have cancer-preventing effects, and that they can also positively affect cardiovascular health because of their antioxidative, anti-hypertensive, and anti-inflammatory effects.
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