How to Eat for Max Nutrition
Get to know these five high-performance food pairings
Rice and beans, guacamole and salsa, olive oil and tomatoes: Traditional food pairings that date back thousands of years may seem like simple culinary staples, but to food researchers, they’re prime examples of food combinations that promote maximum nutrition.
“Modern science shows us some amazing things with food pairings,” says Wendy Bazilian, a dietitian and doctor of public health.
Eating certain foods together can enhance vitamin absorption, help the body get the nutrients it needs, and heal and rebuild muscle after exercise. Take the Italian staple of Caprese salad: The healthy fats in olive oil can increase how well the body absorbs the carotenoids — powerful plant nutrients — in tomatoes.
Learning how to pair food for the greatest nutritional punch is by no means a prerequisite to healthy eating. Much of the magic happens naturally through consuming a balanced, varied, nutrient-dense diet, says Bazilian.
That said, if you want to amp up the nutrition on your plate, these five food pairings have science behind them, delivering even more nutrients, vitamins, and minerals than if you broke them apart.
1. Dark leafy greens with olive oil or fish
Fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins that are best absorbed in the body if they are eaten with high-fat foods. These include vitamin A (found in kale, carrots, and spinach), vitamin D (found in fatty fish), vitamin E (sources include sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and almonds), and vitamin K (like in kale and spinach).
If kale is eaten with an olive oil dressing or a piece of fatty salmon, the body will better absorb the nutrients in the kale — specifically vitamins A and K, says Rasa Troup, a dietitian who specializes in performance nutrition.
“There’s a synergy that happens where healthy fats like avocados or olive oil increase the absorption of carotenoids,” agrees Bazilian.
Some studies have found avocados, which are also high in fat, help the absorption of carotenoids in leafy greens by 400%, and research out of Purdue University found that a colorful, vegetable-rich salad with an egg on…