Nutrients need to be adequately absorbed into your body to provide health benefits. Some nutrients are eliminated faster from your body without being absorbed, and you don’t get their health benefits. Various factors affect the absorption of nutrients.
Foods require a favourable environment inside your body and the presence of certain vitamins and minerals to get absorbed. If foods don’t get absorbed in your body, you don’t get the health benefits.
Fortunately, you can enhance the absorption of food by pairing it with other food that can provide an environment required for their absorption and prevent their metabolism, making the nutrient more available in the blood to get absorbed. Eating these foods together ensures that you get maximum health benefits.
Below are 10 nutrient combinations that you should eat for maximum health benefits.
1. Vitamin C + Iron
Iron is an essential nutrient required for blood production. Haemoglobin of red blood cells comprises about 70 percent of iron. Haemoglobin transfers oxygen through your blood from the lungs to the tissues.
Deficiency in iron may cause iron-deficiency anemia that can lead to heart problems. You may become deficient in iron if you are eating too little iron-rich foods, or the iron is not getting absorbed properly in the body.
When you eat vitamin C with iron, it increases the stability and solubility of iron by binding with them. Once iron becomes more soluble, it allows the body to more readily absorb the iron through the mucus membranes of the intestine.
Food combinations that you should eat for better iron absorption:
- Lemon juice + Spinach
Add lemon juice when blanching the spinach, it will retain the dark green colour of spinach as well as increase the iron absorption.
- Lemon juice + Sprouts
- Tomatoes + Lentils
- Orange + Oatmeal
- Tomatoes + Beetroot
2. Vitamin D + Calcium
Calcium and vitamin D both are very important for your bone health. Not only your bones but your heart, muscles, and nerves also need calcium to function properly. You must have noticed that the prescribed calcium tablets always come in a combination of vitamin D.
There is a solid reason behind it. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that increases the absorption of calcium in the intestine.
Calcium, along with vitamin D, not only can protect you against osteoporosis and bone disease. This combination can even protect against diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer.
Food combinations that you should eat for better calcium absorption:
- Expose your skin to sunlight for 10 to 15 mins in the morning after that drink a glass of milk.
- Mushrooms + Soybeans
- Yogurt + Nuts
- Mushrooms + Dark leafy greens
- Sour cream + Broccoli
3. Turmeric + Black pepper
Turmeric has health benefits due to its active compound curcumin. The problem with curcumin is its poor absorption in the body. Additionally, curcumin is rapidly metabolized in the body that leads to its rapid elimination from the body.
As a result, you could be missing out on its health benefits. By combining turmeric and black pepper, you can increase curcumin bioavailability. Black pepper has the active ingredient piperine that protects curcumin from the digestive enzymes.
It slows down the breakdown of curcumin. As a result, curcumin remains in the bloodstream for a longer period. It, therefore, boosts the absorption of curcumin by multiple times, making it more readily available to be used by the body.
4. Zinc + Vitamin A
Vitamin A is not only crucial for protecting against night blindness, but it also promotes healthy growth and development and has a very critical role in enhancing immune function. The absorption of vitamin A is hugely affected by zinc availability in the body.
Zinc plays a vital role in the absorption, transporting, and utilization of vitamin A in the body. When your body is deficient in zinc, it affects the movability of vitamin A from the liver to body tissues. Zinc also regulates the conversion of retinol (vitamin A) to the retinal that requires the action of a zinc-dependent enzyme.
So, studies show that if you eat vitamin A-rich foods together with zinc-rich foods, you will get the maximum health benefits of vitamin A. Food combinations that you should eat for better vitamin A absorption:
- Cashew nuts + Carrot cake
- Legumes + Spinach
- Dry fruits + Mango milkshake
- Swiss cheese + Sweet potato
- Oats + Papaya
5. Green tea + Lemon
Green tea is loaded with catechins which are polyphenols that have potent antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial activity. Catechins improve blood pressure, blood sugar levels, prevent cell damage and are very effective in preventing cancer. The catechins of green tea are relatively unstable in the intestine.
Vitamin C rich foods such as citrus fruits increase the amount of catechins available for the body to absorb. Vitamin C interacts with catechins to prevent their degradation in the intestines. As a result, more catechins are available to be absorbed in the body.
So, make sure to add lemon juice to your green tea because when you add lemon to your green tea. Research has found that this combination increases catechins absorption by more than five times.
6. Phytic acid + Water
Plant-based foods such as whole grains, legumes, and nuts contain phytic acid that binds with minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium, and manganese and prevents their absorption in the body.
When phytic acid binds with these minerals, it forms phytates, and our bodies do not have any enzymes that can break down phytates to release these minerals. So, you don’t get the full health benefits of these minerals.
Fortunately, the simple solution to this problem is soaking! Soaking in water allows the phytic acids to leach onto the water. You should soak phytic acid-containing foods in water overnight (or for at least 3-4 hours). It will increase the bioavailability of the minerals and decrease gastrointestinal distress.
Foods that you should soak for better absorption:
- Nuts (Almond, peanuts, walnuts, and others)
- Legumes (kidney beans, chickpeas, and peas)
- Wheat bran
7. Tomato + Olive oil
Lycopene is the main carotenoid in tomatoes. The antioxidant lycopene of tomatoes is responsible for reducing the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Lycopene is a fat-soluble compound, which means it is better absorbed in the presence of healthy fat.
Research found that eating tomatoes cooked in olive oil greatly increases the absorption of lycopene and protects your cells against free radicals, which play a role in ageing, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases.
8. Folate + Vitamin B12
Folate (Folic acid or vitamin B9), when taken alone, can mask the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. The problem is that without symptoms, you will not know that you are deficient in vitamin B12.
This can delay the diagnosis, and there could be a risk of developing nerve damage. Because of this reason, these vitamins are often taken together. Moreover, folate works closely with vitamin B12 to make red blood cells and to help iron function properly in the body.
Folate and vitamin B12 together (along with vitamin B6) help lower homocysteine levels. Study shows high levels of homocysteine (an amino acid) are associated with the development of coronary artery disease, leading to heart attacks and strokes.
If you eat folate and vitamin B12 rich foods together, you will never get deficient in folate or vitamin B12, and you will never get depressed because these two vitamins, when eaten together, enhance the immune function and mood.
Folate and vitamin B12 food combinations that you should eat for maximum health benefits:
- Yogurt + Banana
- Shiitake mushrooms + Dark leafy greens
- Milk + Nuts
- Yogurt + cooked Okra (Ladyfinger)
- Whey + Lentils
Whey is the by-product of cottage cheese-making. It is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. Cook lentils in whey instead of plain water.
9. Rice + Beans (complete protein)
The human body needs nine amino acids, which are essential means you need to get them through food. A complete protein means a food source of protein that contains an adequate amount of each of the nine essential amino acids. Not all protein sources are complete protein, especially vegetarian protein sources.
That doesn’t mean being a vegetarian, you will miss out on amino acids. When you eat correct food combinations, you can get all the essential amino acids. The best example is rice and beans.
Studies show that rice and beans form a complete protein because when eaten together, they provide all nine essential amino acids necessary in the human diet.
Beans are rich in lysine but missing an amino acid known as methionine. Rice has high levels of methionine but doesn’t have enough amino acid lysine.
When rice and beans (such as kidney beans and chickpeas) are consumed together, each provides the amino acid that the other lacks, making it a high-quality protein. Here are some more high protein food combinations.
Food combinations that you should eat to get complete protein:
- Kidney beans + Rice
- Green peas + Lentils
- Corn + Mixed beans
- Red lentils + Brown rice
- Cabbage + Wheat
10. Vitamins A, D, E and K + Healthy fats
Vitamin A, D, E, and K all are fat-soluble vitamins. These fat-soluble vitamins require the availability of fat to absorb properly in the body. Your body can’t absorb them effectively without eating some fat at the same time.
Some examples of foods containing fat-soluble vitamins are mango, red bell peppers, sweet potato, and most of the coloured vegetables (vitamin A), milk and milk products (Vitamin D), almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds (vitamin E) and leafy greens like spinach, kale, cauliflower (Vitamin K).
Food combinations that you should eat for better absorption of fat-soluble vitamins:
- Almond milkshake
- Nuts roasted in cow’s ghee
- Spinach + Mustard oil
- Mango + Avocado
- Nuts + Flax Seeds
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It is not very hard to eat the food combinations mentioned above. Some of the above food combinations you might already be eating, some combinations might be new to you.
It’s time to do some experiments with your taste bud. If you come up with a new dish while combining these nutrients, do let me know. I would love to try it too.