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The Secret Science of Food Synergy

Some foods become more nutritious when paired together. Use this guide to learn about food matches made in heaven.

| September/October 2014

  • Eat tomatoes with olive oil to boost cancer- and heart disease-fighting compounds.
    Photo by iStock
  • Eat peanut butter on whole grain toast to get all nine essential amino acids.
    Photo by Fotolia/Baiba Opule
  • Eating raspberries and chocolate together can improve heart health.
    Photo by iStock

Many of the dishes humans have eaten for generations—such as rice and beans, or tomatoes drizzled with olive oil—have withstood the test of time not simply because the ingredients taste delicious together. Health experts believe we enjoy these combinations because they’re more nutritious together than they are on their own. The concept is called “food synergy,” and it explains how two foods can be greater than the sum of their parts. Here are some of the most powerful food synergies currently known to science.

Fish + Broccoli

Fish contains the mineral selenium, and broccoli is rich in a disease-fighting compound known as sulforaphane. Research shows that selenium and sulforaphane together are 13 times more effective at slowing cancer cell growth than when eaten alone.

Bananas + Yogurt

Bananas contain inulin; research indicates inulin fuels the growth of yogurt’s healthy bacteria, which helps regulate digestion and boost immunity.

Tomatoes + Olive Oil or Cheese

Cancer- and heart disease-fighting compounds called carotenoids (the most well-known of which is lycopene) are found in abundance in tomatoes. Because they’re fat-soluble, they’re more available to our bodies when
we eat them with fats such as olive oil or mozzarella.

Vinegar + Rice

Vinegar decreases rice’s ability to raise blood sugar levels by 20 to 40 percent. Consider eating a stir-fry with a vinegar- based sauce or a brown rice casserole with a salad and vinegar dressing.

Apples + Cranberries

These Thanksgiving staples are rich in a wide variety of antioxidants, including quercetin and anthocyanidins; research shows that when we eat these foods together, their antioxidant activity is significantly higher than if we eat the foods separately.

8/29/2014 12:04:10 AM

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Peggy McMahan
8/18/2014 11:29:51 AM

We've known that pairing foods makes them more nutritious so that you're better able to absorb the vitamins and minerals in them. There are a few pairings in this short article that I didn't know about. I've been sprinkling vinegar on spinach, but after reading this I'll switch to lemon.

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