Foods to eat together

Revealed: Which foods you should always eat TOGETHER to get the best health benefits

The very latest food research reveals that it’s not just what you eat, it’s what you eat it with that really matters for good nutrition.

Which means that knowing how to pair certain foods with each other can help boost your absorption of nutrients – and ramp up the health benefits.

“By becoming your own food mixologist and exploiting how this food synergy works, you can cleverly maximise the nutritional value of your meals,” explains Healthspan nutritionist Rob Hobson.

Try these dynamic duos…

Salmon and a glass of wine

We all know salmon is good for us (Image: Getty)

Why : Wine lovers rejoice – a little vino may help your body soak up the heart and brain boosting omega-3 fats found in oily fish.

Italian researchers have discovered that women who consume as little as one glass of wine a day have higher blood levels of the omega-3 fats found in fish such as trout, salmon and sardines.

Others studies have shown that men who drink two glasses of wine per day have similar elevated omega-3 levels.

However, take heed – the same results were not found for beer or spirits drinkers.

“Scientists believe that heart-healthy polyphenol antioxidants in wine might be responsible for this improved nutrient absorption,” explains Rob.

Try it : Enjoy a glass of red or white wine with a dish containing baked salmon, trout or grilled sardines.

Tomatoes and olive oil

Tomatoes and olive oil (Image: Getty)

Why : Including 3-5g of fat such as olive oil with foods rich in carotenoids – the disease-fighting antioxidants that give orange and red foods their colour – can help boost our absorption of these nutrients.

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a carotenoid that research shows may reduce inflammation and cholesterol, and improve immune function.

Try it : Tuck into a tasty Greek salad drizzled with olive oil, or slow roast cherry tomatoes in olive oil for an hour for a delicious accompaniment to fish or meat.

Chicken thighs and sweet potatoes

Chicken thighs and sweet potatoes

Why : You’d be hard pushed to find a food that packs in more immune-boosting vitamin A than sweet potatoes. But absorbing it without enough zinc – found in rich supply in meats such as chicken thigh – is almost impossible.

“You need zinc to metabolise and carry vitamin A around the body,” explains Rob, “so you won’t be able to utilise all that A unless you have enough zinc to ensure it reaches where it’s most needed.”

Try it : Serve baked chicken thighs with baked sweet potato wedges or add some sweet potato to your chicken casseroles and stews.

Dairy foods are also rich in zinc so a sweet jacket potato topped with melted cheese would be a great way for vegetarians to enjoy the same powerful nutrient combination.

Blackberries and raspberries

Raspberries and blackberries (Image: Getty)

Why : Not only do these berries taste great together, they also boost the uptake of the disease-fighting antioxidants contained in them.

One study in the Journal of Nutrition even found antioxidant ellagic acid, found in raspberries, enhanced the ability of quercetin from blackberries to kill off cancerous cells.

Try it : Add a handful of blackberries and raspberries to your morning yoghurt or porridge. Or you could stew them to make a delicious, healthy fruit crumble.

Porridge and blueberries

Porridge with blueberries (Image: Getty)

Why : Oats are a rich source of soluble fibre which can help lower cholesterol and prevent plaque building up in the arteries, while blueberries are packed with vitamin C making them a powerful superfood on their own.

However, research shows they may work even better together.

“A study conducted by Tufts University and published in the Journal of Nutrition found that when vitamin C was added to oat phytochemicals, it supercharged their cholesterol-lowering and artery-protective benefits,” explains Rob.

Try it : Now the weather is getting colder, start your morning routine with a warm bowl of porridge topped with a handful of blueberries.

Buying a frozen bag of berries and just using what you need each day works out far cheaper than buying them fresh. There’s no need to defrost them first – simply stir into the porridge as it cooks.

Steak and fresh herbs

Steak with fresh herbs (Image: Getty)

Why : Kansas State University scientists found that the antioxidants in herbs, in particular rosemary, could limit the formation of carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines, which are created when red meat is fried or barbecued at very high temperatures.

Try it : Leave steaks to marinade for at least an hour in a dressing made from fresh herbs, lemon juice and a little olive oil before throwing them on the grill.

“You could also make homemade burgers flavoured with fresh rosemary,” suggests Rob.

Turmeric and black pepper

Turmeric powder (Image: Getty)

Why : Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric – the super spice health experts are obsessing about that’s been shown to possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

“Unfortunately, it’s a nutrient that the body finds very hard to absorb,” says Rob. “However, throw in some piperane and you’ll instantly increase your uptake. Piperane is found in black pepper so it’s easy to source.”

Ground Black pepper (Image: Getty)

Try it : Tucking into regular curries will help, but unless you’re a real spice addict you will not get enough benefit. The best way to enjoy the optimum health kick from turmeric is by taking a daily supplement such as Healthspan ­Opti-turmeric (£15.95, from healthspan.co.uk )

Salad leaves with almonds or avocados

Fresh avocado salad (Image: Getty)

Why : Brightly coloured vegetables are rich in plant pigments known as phytochemicals that may help fight heart disease, eye cataracts and cancer.

However, they need to be eaten with a small amount of absorption-boosting monounsaturated fat, such as that found in nuts or avocados.

A study from Ohio State University found that the phytochemicals from a mixed green salad were absorbed up to three times more effectively when eaten with just one and a half teaspoons of fat-rich avocado, compared to when eating the leaves alone.

Try it : Add whole or sliced almonds and/or avocado slices to liven up a bowl of salad leaves.

Sprouts and butter

Sprouts and butter (Image: Getty)

Why : These Christmas favourites are nutrition powerhouses – packed with goodness including high levels of vitamin K, which regulates blood clotting in our bodies and is important for bone health.

“Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it’s best absorbed in a meal that contains fat,” explains Rob.

“This is where the butter comes in – it also has the benefit of making Brussels sprouts a whole lot tastier, but don’t overdo it as butter can still be fattening in large amounts.”

Try it : Steam the sprouts and then melt over a teaspoon of butter. Throwing in some chopped chestnuts, which contain heart-healthy fats, will further enhance your nutrient absorption and boost the flavour of your meal.

Red pepper and kidney beans

Red pepper and kidney beans (Image: Getty)

Why : When eaten together, pepper and kidney beans help boost your body’s intake of energy-boosting iron from veggie sources.

Normally our bodies absorb around a third less of the iron type found in plant foods such as beans, leafy greens and fortified cereals, compared with the iron in red meat.

“However, you can significantly increase your absorption of this kind of plant-based iron by consuming it with a source of Vitamin C, such as tomatoes or red peppers,” explains Rob.

“The vitamin C works to turn the iron into a form that’s more easily absorbed by our bodies.”

Try it : Make a flavoursome chilli con carne: Add one chopped red pepper and a can of kidney beans to 500g of minced beef that’s been browned off (soya mince is an alternative) with one chopped onion, one chopped garlic clove, a teaspoon of chilli powder and half a teaspoon of cumin.

Toss in a tin of tomatoes and simmer for an hour. Serve with brown rice.

Milk and bananas

Milk and bananas (Image: Getty)

Why : Milk is a rich source of calcium – important for healthy bones, teeth and muscle function.

Research shows that combining foods rich in calcium with those rich in a type of healthy fibre known as inulin, found in bananas, onions and wheat, can increase the absorption of this mineral.

Try it : Blend together a glass of milk with a large ripe banana to create a delicious smoothie.

Broccoli and eggs

Broccoli and eggs (Image: Getty)

Why : Research shows that when you add a food containing a reasonable amount of vitamin D to a calcium-rich food, you absorb about 60% more of the calcium.

“Broccoli along with other green leafy veg are one of the richest plant-based sources of calcium, while eggs are one of nature’s best sources of vitamin D – a nutrient that is hard to get from food alone,” says Rob.

Try it : Add green vegetables such as broccoli to a simple omelette. Chuck in some cheese for a further calcium boost.

Apples and dark chocolate

Apples and dark chocolate (Image: Getty)

Why : When nibbled together, dark chocolate and apples have the potential to boost heart health. This is because apple skin contains the flavonoid quercetin, which acts like an anti-inflammatory in the body.

Meanwhile, the cocoa in dark chocolate is rich in catechins, an antioxidant that helps prevent the hardening of arteries.

“When paired, studies have revealed that they could help break up blood clots,” says Rob.

Try it : Dip apple slices into melted chocolate. You can use milk chocolate, but the darker variety contains up to six times more of the health-boosting catechins.

22 Foods That Are Healthier When Eaten Together

Here’s something to keep in mind next time you’re writing a grocery list or doing meal prep. Eating certain foods at the same time won’t only affect your taste buds, but will affect the way you absorb their nutrients. So if you’re trying to get the best benefits from each bite, don’t forget about these perfect partners.

“There are certain foods that have synergistic relationships with another,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, health influencer and blogger for Better Than Dieting. Although superfoods like kale and berries are great on their own, they could be even stronger with a little teamwork, she says, which is why we’ve asked nutrition experts for their favorite dynamic duos. You can get creative in the kitchen with the pairs they recommend or simply throw both ingredients into any of the 56 Smoothies For Weight Loss.

1

Green Tea + Kiwi

Next time you brew a mug of green tea, have some of your favorite green fruit on the side. Although the catechins in the tea convert fat into energy no matter what, they’re absorbed even better when vitamin C joins the party, according to Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies. Believe it or not, kiwi is actually so full of the stuff that it has a higher concentration than an orange! So cut one of these fuzzy fruits in half and grab a spoon if you feel like boosting your metabolism while you drink.

2

Cottage Cheese + Blueberries

For a snack that will prevent you from future snacking, Erin recommends mixing a handful of blueberries into a bowl of cottage cheese. Because the fruit is high in fiber and the cheese lumps are rich in slow-releasing casein protein, this is a combo that will keep you satiated until your next meal. Do yourself a favor and don’t keep these apart.

3

Blackberries + Tofu

We know blackberries taste delicious on their own, but if you haven’t been eating them with cubes of tofu, you’ve been missing out. Besides being full of protein, Erin tells us that tofu’s rich vitamin D content can help your body absorb more of the fruit’s calcium. Throw these two ingredients into a salad bowl or a blender and your bones will thank you.

4

Strawberries + Kale

Even a superfood like kale needs a partner in crime, so if you’re a vegetarian struggling to squeeze enough iron into your diet, pay close attention to this one. According to Taub-Dix, the iron found in kale is better absorbed when strawberries add their vitamin C into the mix. Looks like you’ve got a fruit salad in your future!

5

Avocados + Spinach

Just because you don’t like carrots doesn’t mean you have to give up on improving your eye health. By incorporating avocado and spinach combos into your diet, you can prevent the age-related macular degeneration and cataracts that the American Optometric Association says can lead to impaired vision and blindness. The healthy fats in avocado and the lutein antioxidant in spinach work together to boost eye health, so add these to your next meal if you want to help your food help you.

6

Almond Butter + Banana

Whether you’re mixing them into your overnight oats, whipping up a smoothie, or alternating between bites, only good things can come from combining almond butter and bananas. The fiber and protein in the nut butter works against the sugar in the fruit, keeping you from an unpleasant crash. Sounds nuts, we know, but as the almonds slow down the rate at which your body absorbs the sugar, your glucose levels remain more stable. You’d be bananas not to try this trick out.

7

Hemp Seeds + Coconut Oil

We know coconut oil works wonders for your hair and skin, but don’t get so caught up in slathering it on your body that you forget to put it in — especially if you’ve got hemp seeds lying around. Angela Onsgard, RDN, nutritionist at Miraval Resorts explains that the magnesium in the seeds, which help with sleep issues, bone density, and hypertension prevention, are much better absorbed when joined by the medium-chain triglycerides in coconut oil. Wondering how to incorporate these ingredients into your diet? Consider adding them to homemade protein bars or granola, but if you’re stressed for time, they work as an overnight-oats topper as well.

8

Avocado + Sweet Potato

We probably won’t have to try too hard to convince you to pencil this pair onto your grocery list. Both are yummy additions to salads, loaded toast slices, and egg dishes, but they’ve got even more going for them than their great taste. Sweet potatoes are full of vitamin A that helps protect vision and support cell growth, which is helped along by the monounsaturated fats in avocados.

9

Almond Butter + Kale

Kale has been labeled a superfood for a reason. The veggie is so full of vitamin A and K that it can knock out your recommended daily dose of both nutrients — and then some! With the nut butter’s monounsaturated fats to speed things up, these vitamins can be absorbed even faster. But don’t stop there; there are 10 Superfoods Better Than Kale just waiting for a spot in your kitchen.

10

Walnuts + Baby Spinach

Your salad just got a whole lot healthier. Even though baby spinach can do amazing things on its own thanks to its vitamin K content, those benefits are no match for what happens when walnuts enter the scene. The omega-3 fatty acids in the nuts boost the vitamin’s absorption, which means boosting cell growth, blood circulation, and bone strength, according to Nancy Teeter, RDN. If you aren’t adding walnuts to your salads already, go nuts and sprinkle a handful over your bowl next time around.

11

Cayenne + Cocoa Powder

It’s time to give your hot chocolate a makeover with this sweet and spicy combo. Pair metabolism-boosting cayenne peppers with antioxidant-rich cocoa powder in a steaming mug in the winter, and then mix the ingredients into a bowl of stove-popped popcorn instead when temps rise. If keeping your taste buds happy with this healthy snack isn’t a win-win, we don’t know what is!

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Fruits you should not have together

We all think that a bowl of fruits and vegetables is the best kind of meal one can have. We chop all the fruits and salad vegetables that our refrigerator has, squeeze a lime, add a dash of salt and we believe it to be the healthiest ever. But is this the right way to go about it?
Acidic, sweet or neutral – If this isn’t how you categorize your fruits when combining them, you need a lesson in how to go about your salads. First of all, you shouldn’t mix fruits and vegetables with each other. Second of all, you shouldn’t even combine certain fruits with each other. This basically depends on the speed of digestion of different fruits and vegetables. Many permutations that you are making are perhaps hindering optimal digestion and assimilation.

Here’s how you can decide what to pull in that bowl of yours the next time.
Have melons with melons
Melons are celibates. They never pair up with anyone else. Have them by themselves as they may not digest well with any other fruit. This is because they digest faster than most other fruits owing to their high water content. Avoid mixing your watermelons, muskmelons, cantaloupe and honeydews with other fruits.
Never have acidic/sub acidic with sweet fruits
Try not to mix acidic fruits, such as grapefruits and strawberries, or sub-acidic foods such as apples, pomegranates and peaches, with sweet fruits, such as bananas and raisins for a better digestion. However, you can mix acidic with sub-acidic fruits.
For a similar reason, you should not mix guavas and bananas. Some studies claim that the duo can even increase your chances of nausea, acidosis and headaches.
Never have fruits with vegetables
Fruits and vegetables digest differently. Fruits have a quicker pace of digestion and in fact, many nutritionists say that they are partially digested by the time they reach the stomach. Also, fruits have more sugar content, something that can hinder the digestive process of vegetables.
For the same reason, one shouldn’t mix orange with carrot as when taken together, they may cause heartburn and excess bile reflux.
Never mix starchy with high protein
Only a few fruits are starchy in nature. These include green bananas and plantains. But there are many vegetables that are starchy in nature, such as corns, potatoes, cowpeas, black-eyed peas and water chestnuts. You should never mix them with high protein fruits and vegetables such as raisins, guava, spinach and broccoli. This is because your body needs an acidic base to digest proteins and an alkaline base to digest starches.
4 quick fruit fixes
– Consume between 4 to 6 fruits at one time.
– If you have had a lot of proteins, have papaya the next morning as it contains papain to break it down.
– If you have over-eaten salt, have a water-based fruit, like watermelon, the next morning to flush out the salt.
– If you have had excess carbs, like pasta, have apple the next morning as your body needs to work out more to break the complex carbs that an apple contains. This helps prevent bloating which may otherwise be caused by simple carbs like the ones in pasta.

7 Food Combos You Must Try for Better Nutrition

Certain foods just belong together — and no, we’re not talking about peanut butter and jelly (although that’s definitely delicious!). In combination, some foods not only taste great, but they help you absorb nutrients more effectively.

Of all the smart eating tips and tricks that nutritionists swear by, this is one of the best: You’ll easily increase the nutritional value of your meals — and with very little effort. “There are definitely advantages to mixing and matching healthy foods,” says Johannah Sakimura, RD, the writer behind the Everyday Health column Nutrition Sleuth.

Smart pairings like the ones in this list work in concert to bring out the best nutrition from each food. Not only do these foods complement each other nutritionally, they also taste delicious together. And if you’re in charge of feeding kids, you’ll notice some of these combinations encourage fun dipping, including bananas in yogurt and carrots in hummus. Let your tots dunk away — they’ll get an excellent nutritional boost and have fun eating at the same time.

Different food pairings also give you the chance to branch out and try new textures on your plate — and it just might keep you more interested in the meal than you would be if every food was the same consistency. Many of these fun combos happen to pair brightly colored foods, which will help you to “Eat the Rainbow,” something the American Heart Association has been urging folks to do for a few years now.

Finally, the combos that follow are not only quick to toss together, they’re eminently portable, which means you can easily put them together for fast snacks or lunch at work or home. And generally speaking, a midday meal you’ve prepped yourself is healthier and better sized than something you’d order at a restaurant. In fact, in a study published in January 2016 in the Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers found that 92 percent of the meals from both chain and local restaurants have more calories than is recommended for the average adult woman at a single lunch or dinner.

The bottom line: Be smart about how you pair your foods and then try to incorporate these combos in your daily diet. Here’s how these seven smart duos can work double-time for you.

Food Combining: The Combos to Try & The Ones to Ignore

It can be hard to keep track of all of the most trending fad diets, as they usually leave the spotlight as quickly as they come in to it. One of the newest trends is food combining for optimal digestion. But exactly what is food combining all about? Here we’ll dig into what food combining is and what you should and shouldn’t believe about this diet trend.

What is Food Combining?

The recent trend of food combining looks at the specific types of foods you should be eating together to improve digestion and health, plus the combinations to avoid to prevent digestive issues. Research shows that certain food combinations can have nutritional benefits when eaten together, like how rice and beans together deliver a complete protein source (which is especially important for vegans or vegetarians), while other combos can make it harder to absorb nutrients, like how having tea with iron-rich foods can decrease iron absorption (which is important to know if you’re trying to increase your intake of iron rich foods to combat low iron levels).

Image zoom Getty Images / Tamara Staples

But contrary to what this new diet trend suggests, there is no scientific evidence supporting food combinations that improve our digestion. And in fact, many of the principles of food combining outlined in this trend actually contradict what we know to be true about digestion.

The food combining diet suggests that fruits, protein, starches and nuts or seeds should not be consumed together and that you must wait 3 to 4 hours after a meal before introducing a different food group. The rationale is that those foods do not optimally digest when eaten in combination and can impact the acid balance of our body. But the truth is that our digestive system is very efficient at obtaining nutrients from food and not as sensitive as the people promoting the food combination diet perceive it to be.

Regardless of the combination of foods we eat, enzymes that break down protein, fats and carbs are always secreted when those foods are present. And eating foods cannot change the pH of your body in any significant way. This is a result of a phenomenon called homeostasis, which refers to the numerous safeguards that allow our bodies to involuntarily stay at equilibrium. No matter the combination of foods or the time between meals, our gut is doing its job.

The Healthy Food Combinations to Actually Try

Overall, the most effective way meet your nutrition needs is to eat a variety of foods from every food group. But if you are looking to get more of one or more nutrients from certain foods, these food combinations can actually help. Read more about these nutrition-boosting combinations and try some of the tasty food combining recipes.

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Pictured: Herbed Tomato Gratin

Vegetables & Healthy Fat

Several vegetables contain vitamins that are fat-soluble, meaning they need some sort of fat source to be absorbed. Orange vegetables with vitamin A, like carrots, and green vegetables with vitamin K are good examples. Tomatoes also fall into this category. They have a chemical called lycopene that is absorbed better when consumed with a healthy fat. For this reason, enjoy your Balsamic Roasted Carrots or your Caprese Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes & Burrata prepared with olive oil.

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Pictured: Turmeric-Roasted Cauliflower

Pepper & Turmeric

Turmeric is a nutritional powerhouse on its own, but black pepper gives it an unexpected boost. This colorful tuber has a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called curcumin that helps our body stave off chronic disease, like arthritis, anxiety, and heart disease. Black pepper, on the other hand, contains the compound piperine, which increases how much curcumin our body can absorb by 2000%. Our delicious dinner side of Turmeric-Roasted Cauliflower delivers a healthy dose of turmeric and black better sprinkle.

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Pictured: Broccoli Salad with Bacon

Broccoli & Mustard

Raw broccoli is a good source of the powerful cancer-fighting compound sulforaphane. But cooking destroys the enzyme (myrosinase) in broccoli that makes sulforaphane available to your body. The fix? Combine broccoli with mustard (yes, the condiment) or another raw cruciferous veggie, such as wasabi or arugula—the extra dose of myrosinase will help you absorb more sulforaphane, as studies have shown.

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Pictured: Snap Pea & Cherry Tomato Stir Fry

Tomatoes & Soy

For people with prostate cancer or a family history of prostate cancer, this combination may help. There have been several studies looking into how tomatoes and soy can help combat prostate cancer from advancing. A recent clinical trial in The Journal of Nutrition reported that it is likely due to the lycopene in tomatoes interacting with the isoflavones in soy, both of which are antioxidant compounds. There are many ways to enjoy this powerful combination at home, including our Sauteed Chicken and Edamame Salad with cherry tomatoes or this Tofu, Chicken & Eggplant Curry with canned tomatoes.

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Pictured: Citrus-Arugula Salad

Citrus & Iron-Rich Foods

When people think of iron, they think of steak and red meat. However, certain plant foods like leafy greens and legumes are also high in iron. However, the type of iron in plants is harder for our bodies to absorb. Vitamin C can help with that, as it enhances iron absorption in the body and allows us to get more iron from nutritious plant foods, which can be especially important for vegetarians and vegans. Try sliced orange or grapefruit on your salad to reap the benefits.

Food Combinations That Don’t Work Together

Conversely, certain foods can interfere with absorption, so if you’re trying to get more of one specific nutrient, like calcium or iron, avoid these food combinations. If you’re an otherwise healthy person and just happen to eat these foods in combination from time to time, you don’t need to worry.

Coffee & Calcium

This is unfortunate news for those with a love of lattes or milk in coffee. It is well-established in the research that the diuretic effect of caffeine makes our bodies lose calcium for up to three hours after sipping. Additionally, caffeine reduces how much calcium we can absorb in the first place, making the combination especially risky for older women. This doesn’t mean having dairy in your coffee is off limits; however, it could be worth trying to work in another calcium-rich food, like yogurt or milk, at another meal or snack.

Tea & Iron-Rich Foods

Remember how we said that certain foods can enhance how much iron our body absorb from a meal? Well, there are also foods that compete with iron to be absorbed. The compounds called phytates, found in tea, are one example. They enter our body through a similar pathway as iron and should not be consumed at the same time if you’re looking to increase your iron levels.

Bottom Line

Research shows that combining certain foods can help you get more of certain nutrients, which is important if you’re trying to combat a deficiency. But the food combination diet being promoted today isn’t that, so we suggest you skip the trend. Our digestive system is very efficient at obtaining nutrients from food, so whatever the combination and whatever the time, you’ll be getting the nutrients and health benefits from what you eat. What’s more important is focusing on including a variety of foods from each food group, and the nutrients will follow.

Who came up with the idea that we are supposed to drink orange juice at breakfast? And why, if oatmeal is so good for us, do we eat that only in the morning as well? Apologies to the Palinites, but nutritionists are starting to realize that you and I like our oatmeal and OJ before we start the day because we evolved to like it that way—because enjoying the two together is healthier than eating each of them alone.

Epidemiologist David R. Jacobs, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota calls it food synergy, and he, along with many other nutritionists, believes it might explain why Italians drizzle cold-pressed olive oil over tomatoes and why the Japanese pair raw fish with soybeans. “The complexity of food combinations is fascinating because it’s tested in a way we can’t test drugs: by evolution,” says Jacobs. And, he adds, “it’s tested in the most complex of systems: life.”

What’s more fascinating, however, is that the evolution between eater and eaten might answer the long-held question about why humans live longer, healthier lives on traditional diets. As researchers work to unravel the complexities of the interactions of the foods we eat, try these combinations, the most powerful food synergies currently known to science.

Tomatoes & Avocadoes
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a pigment-rich antioxidant known as a carotenoid, which reduces cancer risk and cardiovascular disease. Fats make carotenoids more bioavailable, a fact that makes a strong case for adding tomatoes to your guacamole.

“This also has a Mediterranean cultural tie-in,” says registered dietitian Susan Bowerman of California Polytechnic State University. “The lycopene in tomato products such as pasta sauce is better absorbed when some fat (e.g., olive oil) is present than if the sauce were made fat free.” This may also explain why we love olive oil drizzled over fresh tomatoes.

And when it comes to salads, don’t choose low-fat dressings. A recent Ohio State University study showed that salads eaten with full-fat dressings help with the absorption of another carotenoid called lutein, which is found in green leafy vegetables and has been shown to benefit vision. If you don’t like heavy salad dressing, sprinkle walnuts, pistachios, or grated cheese over your greens.

Oatmeal & Orange Juice
A study from the Antioxidants Research Lab at the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that drinking vitamin C-rich orange juice while eating a bowl of real oatmeal (read: not processed) cleans your arteries and prevents heart attacks with two times as much efficacy than if you were to ingest either breakfast staple alone. The reason? The organic compounds in both foods, called phenols, stabilize your LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or so-called “bad” cholesterol) when consumed together.

Broccoli & Tomatoes
New research shows that this combo prevents prostate cancer, but no one is sure why.

In a recent Cancer Research study, John W. Erdman Jr., Ph.D., of the University of Illinois, proved that the combination shrunk prostate-cancer tumors in rats and that nothing but the extreme measure of castration could actually be a more effective alternative treatment. (What more motivation do you need to embrace this one-two punch?)

“We know that tomato powder lowers the growth of tumors,” says Erdman. “We know that broccoli does too. And we know they’re better together. But it’s going to take years to find out why.”

Blueberries & Grapes
“Eating a variety of fruit together provides more health benefits than eating one fruit alone,” says Bowerman. “Studies have shown that the antioxidant effects of consuming a combination of fruits are more than additive but synergistic.”

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Nutrition by Rui Hai Liu, Ph.D., from Cornell University’s department of food science, looked at the antioxidant capacity of various fruits individually (apples, oranges, blueberries, grapes) versus the same amount of a mixture of fruits, and found that the mix had a greater antioxidant response. According to the study, this effect explains why “no single antioxidant can replace the combination of natural phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables.”

The author also recommends eating five to 10 servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables daily to reduce disease risks, as opposed to relying on expensive dietary supplements for these compounds. “There are a huge number of compounds yet to be identified,” adds Jacobs.

Apples & Chocolate
Apples, particularly Red Delicious, are known to be high in an anti-inflammatory flavonoid called quercetin, especially in their skins. (Note: It’s important to buy organic because pesticides concentrate in the skins of conventionally grown apples.) By itself, quercetin has been shown to reduce the risk of allergies, heart attack, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and prostate and lung cancers.

Chocolate, grapes, red wine, and tea, on the other hand, contain the flavonoid catechin, an antioxidant that reduces the risks for atherosclerosis and cancer. Together, according to a study done by Barry Halliwell, Ph.D., a leading food science professor at the National University of Singapore, catechins and quercetin loosen clumpy blood platelets, improving cardiovascular health and providing anticoagulant activity. Quercetin is also found in buckwheat, onions, and raspberries.

Susan Kraus, a clinical dietitian at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, recommends the following combinations: sangria with cut-up apples; green tea with buckwheat pancakes and raspberries; and kasha (roasted buckwheat, made in a pilaf) cooked with onions.

Lemon & Kale
“Vitamin C helps make plant-based iron more absorbable,” says nutritionist Stacy Kennedy of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. It actually converts much of the plant-based iron into a form that’s similar to what’s found in fish and red meats. (Iron carries oxygen to red blood cells, staving off muscle fatigue.)

Kennedy suggests getting your vitamin C from citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, strawberries, tomatoes, bell peppers, and broccoli, and getting plant-based iron from leeks, beet greens, kale, spinach, mustard greens, Swiss chard, and fortified cereals.

So whether you’re sautéing dark greens or making a salad, be sure to include a squeeze of citrus. You’ll increase your immunity and muscle strength with more punch than by eating these foods separately.

Soy & Salmon
It’s true that soy has been shown in studies to lower sperm counts, but that’s mainly in processed forms such as soy cheese, soy milk, and the unpronounceable forms listed on the labels of your favorite artery-clogging processed foods. This means that eating unprocessed forms of soy, such as edamame and tofu, is perfectly fine in moderation.

That’s good news because, according to Mark Messina, Ph.D., former director of the diet and cancer branch of the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health and now an adjunct associate professor at Loma Linda University, an isoflavone in soy called genistein inhibits enzymes in the colon and prostate, raising the amount of vitamin D bioavailability in those tissues. “The higher vitamin D levels may offer protection against cancer,” says Messina. “There is emerging research suggesting that vitamin D reduces cancer risk, and many people don’t get enough of the vitamin. You do make it in your skin, but most people don’t make enough.”

Fish such as salmon and tuna are high in vitamin D, so take a cue from the Asian diet and eat fish with a side of edamame.

Peanuts & Whole Wheat
According to Diane Birt, P.D., a professor at Iowa State University and a food synergy expert, the specific amino acids absent in wheat are actually present in peanuts. You need, and very rarely receive in one meal, the complete chain of amino acids (the best form of protein) to build and maintain muscle, especially as you get older. In short, while this combo exhibits only what Birt calls a “loose definition” of food synergy, it gives good evidence that a peanut-butter sandwich isn’t junk food if it’s prepared with whole-wheat bread (not white) and eaten in moderation (once a day).

So enjoy a peanut-butter sandwich right after a workout instead of drinking a terrible gym-rat shake. Just make sure the peanut butter doesn’t have added sugar, chemical ingredients you can’t pronounce, or cartoon characters on the label.

Red Meat & Rosemary
Grilling over an open flame produces nasty carcinogens, but if you get a little more experimental with your spices, you can temper the cancer-causing effects of the charred flesh.

The herb rosemary, which mixes well with all kinds of grilled foods and contains the antioxidants rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid, was recently shown in a Kansas State University study to lower the amount of the cancer-causing heterocyclic amines (or HCAs) that appear in the charred meat when you grill at temperatures of 375°F to 400°F. Why? It’s thought that the herb’s antioxidants literally soak up the meat’s dangerous free radicals.

Turmeric & Black Pepper
A tangy yellow South Asian spice used in curry dishes, turmeric has long been studied for its anticancer properties, anti-inflammatory effects, and tumor-fighting activities known in nutrition-speak as anti-angiogenesis. The active agent in the spice is a plant chemical, or polyphenol, called curcumin.

One of the problems with using turmeric to improve your health, according to Kennedy, is its low bioavailability when eaten on its own. But there’s a solution, and it’s probably in your pantry.

“Adding black pepper to turmeric or turmeric-spiced food enhances curcumin’s bioavailability by 1,000 times, due to black pepper’s hot property called piperine,” says Kennedy. “This is one reason it’s thought that curry has both turmeric (curcumin) and black pepper combined.” Translation: You’ll get the benefits of turmeric if you pepper up your curries.

Garlic & Fish
Most seafood lovers don’t realize there’s a synergy of nutrients inside a piece of fish: Minerals such as zinc, iron, copper, iodine, and selenium work as cofactors to make the best use of the natural anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-reducing fish oils EPA and DHA.

What’s more, cooking your fish with garlic lowers your total cholesterol better than eating those fillets or cloves alone. A study at University of Guelph, in Ontario, found that garlic keeps down the small increase in LDL cholesterol that might result from fish-oil supplements.

Eggs & Cantaloupe
The most popular (and an awfully complete form of) breakfast protein works even better for you when you eat it with the good carbohydrates in your morning cantaloupe.

According to Kennedy, a very basic food synergy is the concept of eating protein with foods that contain beneficial carbohydrates, which we need for energy. Protein, Kennedy reminds us, slows the absorption of glucose, or sugar, from carbohydrates.

“This synergy helps by minimizing insulin and blood-sugar spikes, which are followed by a crash, zapping energy. High insulin levels are connected with inflammation, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases. By slowing the absorption of glucose, your body can better read the cues that you are full. This helps prevent everything from overeating to indigestion.”

Almonds & Yogurt
We already know that good fats help increase lycopene absorption. But did you know that many essential vitamins are activated and absorbed best when eaten with fat?

Vitamins that are considered fat-soluble include A, D, and E. Carrots, broccoli, and peas are all loaded with vitamin A and should be paired with a healthy fat such as the kind found in olive oil. Vitamin D—rich products include fish, milk, yogurt, and orange juice.

So toss some almonds into your yogurt, eat full-fat dairy foods, and pair your morning OJ with a slice of bacon. To get the most vitamin E with fat-soluble foods, try baked sweet-potato slices or spinach salad topped with olive oil.

source Flickr/David Lenker

  • If freshly bought bananas, melons, or greens rot quickly in your kitchen, you’re probably storing your produce incorrectly.
  • Some fruits (and a few vegetables) emit a gas called ethylene, which breaks down chlorophyll, the chemical that keeps plants green and helps them make energy.
  • Some fruits and vegetables make lots of ethylene, some wither in its presence, and some are unaffected.
  • Here’s where to store produce to prevent rot and decay.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

If you’ve ever bought bananas, avocados, apples, or greens only to find them rotting the next day, take note: You could be storing the wrong fruits and veggies together.

Many fruits produce a barely detectable chemical called ethylene as they ripen. Too much ethylene can lead to a loss of chlorophyll, the pigment that makes plants (and their bounty) green and allows them to convert light into energy. When chlorophyll breaks down, leafy greens turn yellow or brown.

The more ripe an ethylene-producing fruit or vegetable is, the more gas it produces. If certain produce items are nearby, the gas will lead them to ripen more quickly as well. (Even some fruits and veggies that don’t naturally produce ethylene may have been sprayed with the chemical to make them ripen faster.)

To help you figure out which fruits and veggies to keep apart, we’ve compiled a list of produce items that you should store on their own, foods to keep away from other fast-ripening produce, and fruits and veggies that you can store virtually anywhere.

source vijay chennupati/Flickr

Store ethylene producers alone

These fruits and vegetables give off a lot of ethylene gas and are also pretty susceptible to it. They should all be stored separately:

  • Apples
  • Apricots
  • Avocados
  • Bananas (If you want to slow the ripening process down, place plastic wrap over the stems. This should keep the ethylene from getting released.)
  • Melons, including cantaloupe and honeydew
  • Mangoes
  • Onions
  • Pears
  • Persimmon
  • Plantains
  • Tomatoes

Other items produce lots of ethylene but aren’t very sensitive to it. These can be stored all together, but should be kept away from other ethylene-sensitive produce:

  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Bruised or damaged potatoes

However, if your bananas, avocados, or other ethylene-sensitive items aren’t quite ripe enough, feel free to snuggle them up together. If one piece of fruit is going bad, though, consider moving it away so that it doesn’t speed up decay for the others.

source Flickr / jules

Store ethylene-sensitive fruits and veggies away from ethylene producers

These fruits and veggies don’t make a lot of their own ethylene, but are sensitive to it:

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Green beans
  • Grapes
  • Leafy greens, like spinach or kale
  • Lettuce
  • Okra
  • Squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Watermelon
  • Zucchini

source Flickr / THOR

These fruits and veggies don’t emit or react much to ethylene gas, so you can store them anywhere:

  • Bell peppers
  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc.)
  • Cherries
  • Citrus fruits, like lemons, limes, and oranges
  • Corn
  • Garlic
  • Jicama
  • Mushrooms
  • Undamaged potatoes
  • Pineapples

If you’re looking for a quick way to remember these rules, it’s mostly fruits that produce lots of ethylene, while vegetables are more likely to wither in their presence.

To refrigerate, or not to refrigerate

source Crystal Cox/Business Insider

Refrigeration can be a controversial, since unlike rot, it’s mostly a matter of personal preference. There are some good rules of thumb, though.

The following foods should not be stored in the fridge:

  • Cucumbers (unlike most veggies, they will actually rot faster in the fridge)
  • Garlic
  • Melons (when whole and uncut)
  • Onions
  • Potatoes

If you’re not going to use them within a day or two, the following foods will last longer in the fridge:

  • Apples (but remember to store them separately from other produce – they’re big ethylene emitters)
  • Asparagus
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Grapes
  • Leafy greens, like spinach or kale
  • Melons (when cut – they can grow bacteria if unrefrigerated)

Most vegetables should be stored in a crisper drawer to avoid moisture that could cause rot or wilting.

In general, all fruits and vegetables need to breathe. Don’t squish them too close together, and if you put them in plastic bags, make sure there are air holes.

Ethylene is an invisible, odorless, naturally occurring gas that aids in the ripening process of fruit. As a fruit produces more ethylene, it begins to create enzymes which help break down cell walls and starches, making the fruit softer and sweeter over time. If it weren’t for this small hydrocarbon gas, the shelf lives of most fruits could last well over a year.

There are however a few simple steps you can take to control how quickly your fruit produces ethylene, and by extension, manage its shelf life. With proper storage and temperature control, Apples can stay fresh and edible for up to a year!

Image via staticflickr.com

The window of perfect ripeness can be difficult to nail. For bananas in particular, it turns out those brown spots are actually a good thing. They signify that the resistant starches in the banana (which can’t be broken down by your digestive system) have turned to body-fueling sugar.

Image via staticflickr.com

Now, if you have a bunch of bananas or a bag full of apples, together they will release a lot of ethylene. This, of course, will cause them to ripen much faster than they would on their own.

So, we must divide and conquer.

If you want to keep your fruits fresher for longer durations, you need to separate them a much as possible. Obviously, you don’t want bananas and avocados stashed in random spots around your house, but by separating them, you can slow down the ripening process.

It’s as simple as removing packaged fruits from their bags and placing a few in the fridge and a few on the counter. You can also store individual fruits in ziploc bags to keep them crisp. After you eat them, just rinse and reuse the bags to cut down on waste.

This separation is super easy to do and will help keep your fruits fresh until you want to eat them.

However, not all fruits emit this gas.

Most berries will maintain their ripeness whether they’re stored together or separated. But if you place a bunch of berries next to a bunch of bananas, the ethylene from the bananas will still cause the berries to ripen more quickly.

Image via staticflickr.com

For the chemists out there, you can also inject some carbon dioxide into a container of fruits to keep the ethylene level low and prevent the fruit from producing more.

The opposite works, too. If you’re looking to ripen those avocados or apples quicker for guacamole or apple sauce, toss them into a paper bag and let them sit on the counter for a day or so. They’ll get super ripe, super quick. You can also wrap them separately in newspaper or bury them in uncooked rice to concentrate the ethylene.

Image via staticflickr.com

Test it out for yourself. With a few minor changes, you should be able to extend the shelf life of your produce, which means less wasted food and money. For a complete list of fruits and veggies that produce ethylene (or are sensitive to it), check out this guide by The Kitchn.

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