Pairing Adzuki Beans- classically used in Japanese desserts- with rasberries may bump up the duos antioxidant power by 45%, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. That was the biggest boost researchers saw among 55 combinations of different fruits, veggies and legumes. Top a spinach salad with adzukis; for dessert, dig into fresh strawberries.
Broccoli + Mustard
Raw broccoli is a good source of the powerful cancer-fighting compound sulforaphane. But cooking destroys the enzyme (myrosinase) in broccoli that makes sulforaphane available to your body. The fix? Combine broccoli with mustard (yes, the condiment) or another raw cruciferous veggie, such as wasabi or arugula- the extra dose of myrosinase will help you absorb more sulforaphane, reveals a 2011 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Calcium + Inulin = Healthy Tummy, Strong Bones
If you’ve ever had a bout of tummy trouble, you should know about inulin (a type of fiber), which helps balance the levels of “good” bacteria in your digestive system. Inulin also benefits your bones by enhancing calcium absorption. You’re most likely to run across it as a fiber supplement (Fibersure) or added to foods like yogurt (Yo-Plus, Activia Fiber), but there are a few good natural food options.
Good Sources of Calcium: Milk, yogurt, cheese (all kinds), broccoli, kale, canned-with-bones salmon and sardines, tofu made with calcium chloride or calcium sulfate, almonds, fortified orange juice; fortified soy, rice or almond milk
Good Sources of Inulin: Artichokes, dandelion greens, onions, garlic, leeks, chicory, bananas, whole-wheat flour, asparagus
• Bananas in cereal with skim milk
• Grilled asparagus with shaved Parmesan
Calcium + Vitamin D = Strong Bones
Ever wonder why milk is D-fortified? Your body needs high enough levels of D to absorb bone-building calcium.
Good Sources of Calcium: Kale, broccoli, milk, yogurt, cheese, fortified orange juice; fortified soy, rice or almond milk
Good Sources of Vitamin D: Salmon, sardines, canned light tuna, herring, egg yolks; fortified soy, rice, almond or cow’s milk
• Grilled salmon with sautéed kale
• Broccoli-cheese omelet
• Tuna melt with lowfat cheese on whole-grain bread
Iron + Vitamin C= More Energy
During pregnancy, women's iron needs nearly double. Get more iron out of plant sources, such as green beans, artichokes and kidney beans, by consuming them with vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits, broccoli, strawberries or bell peppers. Why? Iron from plant sources is not absorbed as efficiently as iron from meat, fish and poultry—but vitamin C helps your body absorb this mineral. One easy combo to try: iron-fortified cereal topped with strawberries.
Banish that “I’m so tired” feeling by making sure you’re getting enough iron, which helps carry oxygen to your muscles, brain and throughout your body. A potent disease fighter in its own right, vitamin C helps keep your gums, heart and skin healthy, and helps your cells absorb more iron. You can find iron in plant-based foods (fruits, veggies, beans) and animal-based foods (red meat, chicken, eggs). But it’s harder for your body to absorb iron from the plant-based ones, which is why pairing them with C is a smart move.
Plant-based Iron Sources: Spinach, oatmeal, tofu, wheat germ, quinoa, starchy beans (including black, pinto, soy, fava, chickpeas)
Good Sources of Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, kiwi, guava, strawberries, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, potatoes
• Spinach salad with orange slices
• Bean burrito with salsa
• Oatmeal with strawberries
Beans + Greens
The real power couple here is iron (found in beans) and vitamin C (in greens). When you eat beans and greens together, the vitamin C in the greens helps turn the iron in the beans into a form your body can more easily absorb. This effect is especially helpful when you eat the less-easily-absorbed “nonheme” iron, found in nonanimal sources, such as tofu, spinach, raisins and fortified cereal (meat, fish and poultry deliver heme iron, which your body absorbs more easily). More sources of vitamin C beyond leafy greens: citrus fruits, cauliflower, red bell peppers, parsley and papaya.
Tomatoes + Olive Oil
Adding fat, such as oil, to fruits and vegetables can help you better absorb some of their healthy phytonutrients. A recent study in Free Radical Biology and Medicine found that people who ate several servings of tomato products paired with either sunflower oil or olive oil upped their lycopene levels by the end of a week. (Lycopene is a compound that gives tomatoes, red peppers and watermelons their red color and has been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer, heart disease and lung disease.) But olive oil may be a healthier pick. Compared to the group that ate sunflower oil, those who got olive oil had higher antioxidant levels.
Turmeric + Fish
Curcumin (a component of turmeric) and DHA (an omega-3 fat in oily fish) protect against certain cancers by keeping cancer cells from multiplying. Combining the two may slow tumor growth and the spread of a type of breast cancer cells more so than when the compounds interact with cancer cells separately, says a 2011 study in BMC Cancer. Researchers think DHA helps cells utilize curcumin. Rub salmon or trout with turmeric or curry (a spice blend containing turmeric).
Vitamin E + Vitamin C = Sharp Vision
Want to keep your eyesight sharp? Pump up the E, which may help prevent macular degeneration (a major cause of blindness), and combine it with C, which turns vitamin E into the “ready to fight” form that your body can use best.
Good Sources of Vitamin E: Almonds (and almond butter), peanuts (and peanut butter), wheat germ, sunflower seeds, soybeans
Good Sources of Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, kiwi, guava, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes
• Peanut butter and sliced strawberries (on a sandwich or toast)
• Salad with mandarin oranges and toasted slivered almonds
Beta-Carotene/Vitamin A + Fat = Glowing Skin
Move over, antiaging creams: Beta-carotene—which needs fat for absorption and is turned into vitamin A in your body—helps give your skin a youthful glow. Vitamin A also plays a vital role in a healthy immune and reproductive system. But it needs the good fat to help your body absorb it.
Good Sources of Beta-Carotene: Carrots, apricots, cantaloupe, sweet potato, papaya, kale, spinach
Good Sources of Fat: Nuts—any kind, including walnuts, almonds, peanuts; oils including olive, almond, canola, flaxseed, toasted sesame, avocado
• Oven-roasted sweet potato fries made with olive or canola oil
• Carrots dipped in guacamole or hummus (made with sesame-based tahini and/or olive oil)
• Trail mix made with dried apricots, dried papaya, almonds and walnuts
Vitamin K + Fat =Healthy Heart and Bones
Fat is good—or at least it can be, if you eat the right type. The “good” fats (mono- and polyunsaturated, including omega-3s) have major health benefits like lowering cholesterol, and your body can’t absorb certain vitamins—including vitamin K, which is crucial for building bone and blood clotting—without fat.
Good Sources of Vitamin K: Kale, spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts
Good Sources of Fat: Nuts—any kind, including walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews; oils including olive, almond, canola, flaxseed, hazelnut, toasted sesame, avocado
• Swiss chard, spinach or broccoli sautéed in olive oil
• Roasted Brussels sprouts with slivered almonds
Whole Grains + Garlic/Onions
Adding sautéed onions or garlic to whole-grain dishes takes them beyond ordinary—and new research suggests it can make whole grains healthier too. The study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, found that combining garlic and/or onions with whole grains may help boost the absorption of iron and zinc—minerals that are absorbed less easily from plant sources than animal sources. (Iron helps shuttle oxygen to cells; zinc is needed for healthy immunity and repairing wounds.) Researchers don’t know exactly how, but speculate that sulfur compounds in onions and garlic are what help to promote absorption. (They’re also what cause garlic breath.)
Zinc + Sulphur Compounds = Strong Immune System
Attention onion and garlic lovers! These two pungent plants do more than add flavor to foods. Turns out their sulfur compounds help boost absorption of the zinc that’s found in whole-grain foods (important for immunity and wound healing).
Good Sources of Zinc: All whole grains, including brown rice and whole-grain breads; legumes
Good Sources of Sulfur Compounds: Onions, garlic
• Brown (or wild) rice with caramelized onions
• Whole-wheat bagel topped with light cream cheese and sliced onion
Getting the Most from Your FoodRhubarb- cook to boost its antioxidant power.
Eating Well Magazine