The science of “food synergy”, “food combining” or “food coupling” began being evaluated by modern scientists after the discovery of micro nutrients. Food combining is the practice of eating certain foods together that increase the amount of nutrition your body will absorb from the foods. The more nutrients you get, the more energetic you can feel. Why not learn a little about food combining, and make the food you’re already enjoying even healthier for you?
This doesn’t mean the (now discredited) notion of avoiding carbs & proteins together or the avoidance of mixing fruits and vegetables under the false fear of them somehow “cancelling each other out”. This is the use of foods together that have been proven to provide benefits for you. All food eaten is digested in the same places (stomach, small & large intestine) and in both acid and more alkaline environments as digestion progresses.
In the past 10 years, research has come a long way toward understanding just how food synergy works according to Elaine Magee, M.P.H., R.D. When you eat certain foods together in the same dish or the same meal, certain aspects of each food combine in the digestive system to make nutrients more bio-available to you. When you know what types of combinations are likely to release more nutrients, you can make healthy choices based on what you already like to eat.
Remember, you don’t have to have the foods in the same dish, just at the same meal, and you’ll get the benefits. Maybe you’re even practicing food combining already-even if you didn’t know it! Here are a few of examples of food synergy that can work for you:
If you add a citrus or high-c fruit to a green leafy salad, the vitamin C from the fruit will help your body absorb the iron & other nutrients from the vegetables. You just increased the available nutrition of an already-healthy salad by making it easier for your body to absorb nutrients.
The most common combination that has existed for years is a salad with dressing. The fats in the dressing or oil make the nutrients in the vegetables & leaves more available to you. Strawberries and bell peppers contain vitamin C that will help convert the plant based iron in your leafy greens as well. So be sure to enjoy a salad with fresh-made citrus (or strawberry) dressing, a dressing with fats or oils, or a bit of bell pepper. Avocado will also work, as it is a vegetable rich in healthy fats, and so will nuts & seeds as those contain plant oils.
Cinnamon and carbohydrates or sugars:
Cinnamon naturally increases insulin sensitivity. You can help your glucose increase more slowly (avoid spikes) by combining cinnamon with sweets or carbohydrates. Cinnamon tea, cinnamon rubs on meats, and cinnamon in cookies or bread are all examples of this combination.
Tomatoes and avocados or olive oil
Tomatoes are rich in antioxidant carotenoids which reduce cancer risk. They also retain many healthy properties (and some even increase) when cooked. When coupled with the good fats of the avocado or olive oil this makes the carotenoid of the tomato more body accessible. Tomato and olive oil are popular in so many great Italian dishes, that if you enjoy eating Italian style you’re probably also already enjoying the benefits of combining. Think of guacamole with chunks of ripe tomato and pasta sauce begun with olive oil infused with garlic for some more good ideas.
Spices/herbs and grilled meat
Did you know that marinades can be antioxidant-rich? If you plan to grill your food over charcoal, wood, or a gas flame, this is an important fact. The smoke from grilling can contain carcinogen compounds & oxidative particles. There is research saying that the use of marinades heavy with rosemary, thyme, garlic, or oregano seasonings when used before grilling, can reduce the levels of cancer causing compounds (HCA’s heterocyclic amines) caused by grilling meat by 61-78%! Just in case you would like to add a little more armor to “battle” those carcinogens, have a veggie loaded salad alongside your grilled meat.
Enzymes and proteins
Want to get the most out of your animal or plant protein source? Remember, items like chia seeds, almonds, spinach and the grain quinoa have protein, not just meat. Eat a little bit of an enzyme rich food at the same meal. Pineapple has bromelian, papaya has papain and fermented foods like yogurts, pickles & pickled items also have beneficial enzymes for you. To avoid enzyme inhibitors, it’s best to use either cooked (quinoa) or soaked nuts seeds and grains.
Mixed fruit salad
Synergy is hard at work in mixed fruit compote. The multitude of different micro nutrients in berries, melons, apples, and grapes all enhance each other to help your body absorb them more efficiently. Try adding a few fruits to your dark green leafy salads. You may even get some of your “picky eaters” to try new ideas because the touch of sweetness counters some of the slightly bitter taste of some of the greens. In addition, reports Elaine Magee from WebMD, that quercetin (an antioxidant) eaten in the same food combination or meal may help fight breathing problems and some cancers and keep memory sharp.
These are only a few of the most common combinations you can try.
But what if you have an ingredient that needs an oil or a fat, but don’t like the flavor choices? You can always use chia seeds. Chia is rich in healthy omega 3 oil. It has no cholesterol (unlike fish) and the anti-oxidants in the seeds keep the oil fresh for long periods. Chia has no flavor of its own. You can sprinkle the seeds onto anything you already like, and they won’t change the taste of the food. They’re perfect for adding more fiber & omega 3 oils to salads or other foods that require a healthy fat. The soluble fiber on the outside of the seed shell is a prebiotic, it feeds the healthy probiotics in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir & some pickled items.
Eating a colorful variety of foods, and combining certain foods together can improve your nutrition, energy and health. There are so many recipes at your fingertips with simple internet searches. When you’re ready to make a positive change with the help of food synergy, fresh recipes are just a search away.