Combine good foods to get more benefit

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Matthew Kady, R.D.

Some foods play really well together. Food synergy occurs when components of different foods work together to maximize benefits. Think of it as 1 plus 1 equals 4 instead of 2; the total result is greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Try these good-chemistry eats to watch your health grow exponentially.

Garlic and lemon

Perhaps Italians were onto something by frequently pairing these two items. A 2016 study in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine found that combining garlic and lemon juice can bring about a greater reduction in cholesterol and blood pressure compared to consuming either alone. It might be that compounds in lemon, such as citric acid, improve the ability of garlic to fortify heart health.

How to combine: Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, Dijon mustard and a pinch of salt and pepper as your daily vinaigrette.

Avocado and carrots

It’s a good idea to fatten up your salads. A 2014 study in the Journal of Nutrition found that people who consumed carrots with avocado absorbed 6.6 times more beta-carotene from the carrots than when no fat was consumed. The avocado also greatly increased the conversion of beta-carotene in the body to vitamin A.

How to combine: Top a spinach salad with shaved carrots, cubed avocado, and a splash of red wine vinegar.

Yogurt and salmon

Calcium plays a role in strengthening bones, but it needs vitamin D for a helping hand. Vitamin D improves calcium absorption from the gut.

Besides through sunshine and supplementation, you can add vitamin D to your diet with fatty fish, including wild salmon and sardines, UV-exposed mushrooms, eggs, and fortified foods like milk and orange juice.

How to combine: Stir together plain yogurt with curry powder and lime juice for a quick sauce to serve with salmon.

Broccoli and radish

The next time you’re serving a side of broccoli, don’t forget to add a fiery kick. Scientists at the University of Illinois showed that pairing broccoli with a spicy food that contains the enzyme myrosinase (found in radishes, mustard greens, horseradish, wasabi, cabbage and broccoli sprouts) improves the absorption of sulforaphane, the anti-cancer compound present in broccoli.

How to combine: Steam broccoli florets and toss them with red radish or a handful of radish microgreens.

Kiwi and cereal

If cereal is part of your morning routine, be sure to reach for the fuzzy fruit. A report in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that women who consumed an iron-fortified cereal with kiwi raised their iron levels more than those who paired the cereal with banana. Why? Kiwi is rich in vitamin C, which helps convert the plant form of iron into a more easily absorbed form.

The same rule applies to other iron-containing plant foods, like beans, spinach and oatmeal. Pairing them with vegetables and fruits — including red peppers, citrus and berries — boosts iron absorption.

How to combine: Top a bowl of whole-grain iron enhanced cereal with slices of kiwi and chopped almonds.

Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 1-800-829-5384.

© 2017 Belvoir Media Group. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.