Some foods work better together for taste, but there are also food combinations that work better together for nutrition benefits.
These positive nutrition effects that result from foods eaten in combination are known as a ‘food synergy’ effect, where 1 + 1 > 2.
In her Globe and Mail article, Leslie Beck, registered dietitian, writes that food synergy is “the idea that the naturally occurring compounds in a whole food work together to create greater health benefits than can be achieved by any of its individual components…” In other words, eating food rather than supplements has complex interactions that won’t occur if you just consume individual nutrients (via a vitamin or protein supplement for example). And certain whole foods eaten together can be more beneficial than eating them separately. They’re better together.
It is interesting that some of the examples of food synergy combinations that Leslie Beck identifies demonstrate that these combinations are popular dishes that we all enjoy.
Here are some standard dishes that are not only delicious by design, they are also good food synergy combinations too:
- Egg & Spinach Salad – the egg not only provides powerful protein, the yolk helps to increase absorption of vitamin E.
- Fruit Salad – when fruits are eaten in combination as a mix, there is evidence that their antioxident activity is enhanced. The same seems to apply to vegetable combinations.
- Spinach Salad with Orange Segments – the vitamin C from the oranges helps us absorb the non-heme iron from the spinach.
- Beef & Bean Chili – the basic meat and bean chili is a food synergy champion! The meat from the chili, increases the absorption of the non-heme iron from the beans by 150%. Known as the ‘Meat Factor’, chili made with meat has greater iron absorption than a vegetarian version. Chili also traditionally contains an acid (from tomatoes and/or tomato sauce) which contributes vitamin C. The vitamin C also increases non-heme iron absorption. Click here for more info on the Meat Factor.
Looking for some recipes to put food synergy in action? Here’s a few to get you started: