Want more nutrition from every mouthful? Then ditch focusing on a single food and combine two or more foods for twice the punch. When you focus on just one food or even a particular nutrient, you’re ignoring an important fundamental of healthy eating: different nutrients in separate foods, when eaten together, provide us with the best health benefits yet. To give your nutritional intake and health a boost, add these nutrient combinations to your diet:
Vitamin C and Iron
Needing to up your iron levels? Try adding berries to your muesli, a glass of orange juice to your porridge or tomato to your whole grain bread sandwich. These foods contain vitamin C which is a potent enhancer of iron absorption in body and the results speak for themselves. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who consumed vitamin C with a rice-containing meal boosted iron absorption by 270 per cent! This is particularly important considering up to 36 per cent of Australian females aged 28-35 are believed to suffer from some degree of iron deficiency.
Vitamin D and Calcium
Look after your bones by making sure you get plenty of vitamin D and calcium. Vitamin D, aka the sunlight vitamin, helps ensure the body absorbs and retains calcium, which is critical for building strong, healthy bones. Just like having a diet low in calcium, inadequate vitamin D also increases the risk of developing osteoporosis. Research from the Nurses Health Study found that an adequate vitamin D intake reduced the risk of fracture. Get outside for 10 minutes each day and soak up the sun’s rays and make sure you include three serves of dairy products or calcium-fortified soy alternatives daily.
Prebiotics and Probiotics
Most of us have heard that the friendly bacteria probiotics help to keep our bellies happy, but did you know that non-digestible carbohydrates called prebiotics also give you belly benefits? Probiotics are found in fermented milk products, certain yoghurts and capsules, and also live in our digestive system helping to boost the health of our gut. They are also thought to give us an immunity boost. Prebiotics on the other hand, escape digestion in the small intestine, reaching the bowel where they become food for probiotics, helping them multiple in number, improving the balance of good to bad bacteria. Prebiotics are found in onions, leeks and artichokes, as well as added to some yoghurts and breakfast cereals.
Selenium and vitamin E
One of the functions of the antioxidant vitamin E is to help combat the effects of free radicals that damage our cells. Selenium also plays an important role in helping to combat cellular damage, as it is a cofactor (a substance that must be present in order for another substance such as an enzyme to produce a certain result) on a reaction that helps prevent free radical production. Therefore, an adequate amount of selenium intake spares some of the body’s need for vitamin E. Mix a couple of Brazil nuts with almonds for a selenium and vitamin E boost.
Quercetin and catechin
With heart disease being the leading cause of death in Australia, we all could benefit from adding more of the flavonoids, quercetin and catechin, to our diet. Quercetin (found in apples, onions and berries) and catechin (found in green tea, apples and grapes) work together to stop platelets in the blood from clumping together, forming blood clots and increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Quercetin and catechin are both thought to inhibit the hydrogen peroxide burst that signals platelet clumping in blood vessels. That must be any an apple a day keeps the doctor away!
Carotenoids and fat
Next time you eat salad, make sure you add some healthy fat in the form of oil or avocado. According to research, fat helps boost the absorption of the carotenoids beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein in the body. Two separate studies found that when either avocado or canola oil were added to a salad containing spinach, lettuce, tomato and carrot more of these carotenoids were absorbed in the body. Carotenoids are fat-soluble, meaning they need a little bit of fat in the diet in order for them to be absorbed in the body. The perfect excuse to add a little bit of fatty flavour to your next salad!
Sulfuoraphanes and carotenoids
Next time you’re thinking about what to cook for dinner, make sure you include broccoli and tomato. Broccoli is a rich source of sulfuoraphanes, a sulfur containing substance that helps mobilise the body’s natural cancer-fighting resources, while tomatoes contain carotenoids that help fight the damaging effects of free radicals. By combining these two vegetables together, research shows they may provide a powerful anti-cancer effect. Tonight, cover your steak with a fresh tomato sauce and serve it with steamed broccoli.
Folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12
These three B vitamins work together to reduce cognitive disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. They do this by working together to control blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine. Low levels of these B vitamins had been associated with high levels of homocysteine and high levels of homocysteine have been linked to lower cognitive performance (as well as an increased risk of heart disease). But, when these three B vitamins are adequate mental function and mood improves. Fruit, vegetables and whole grains are a good source of folate, while you’ll find vitamin B12 in animal products like fish, poultry, meat, eggs and dairy. Vitamin B6 can be found in beans, poultry, fish, rockmelon and dark green leafy vegetables.