Delicious meals are something that everyone craves and enjoys. We may on occasion enjoy basic meals (1-2 ingredients, when we do not have much time) to more complex meals (multi ingredients, if we have a bit more time).
Some foods certainly taste good together. Is it possible to maximize the chance of your body easily absorbing the essential vitamins and minerals it needs through food combination? Healthy meals can play a significant role in strengthening your immune system.
Can certain foods when eaten together give your body the best absorption rate of essential nutrients it needs? Which nutrient-rich foods complement each other?
Certain foods pair well and seem to be a match made in heaven, while other foods do not and could cause gas, bloating, and discomfort.
Imagine eating a large serving of spinach by itself, thinking you´re doing your body a favor. However, your body cannot absorb iron from plant sources easily hence, vitamin C is necessary for easier absorption.
So, you just ate all that spinach but how much of it was actually absorbed by your body? You could have added some lemon to the spinach for proper absorption (or had a cup of orange juice with your meal).
(Please note that consuming too much iron could cause hemochromatosis, an iron overload that can cause serious damage to your liver).
We are used to eating cereal with milk or peanut butter with jelly. These habits have been around forever it may seem.
Are there foods, when eaten together, which can improve your body´s absorption rate of essential nutrients? This article explores the possibility of maximizing nutrients from your meals.
Benefits of healthy eating
- promotes digestive health
- healthy weight management
- adds variety and quality to your diet
- increase your intake of vitamins and minerals
- optimize health
- increase intake of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
- you can eat enough and feel full (many encouraged foods are high in volume and fiber but low in calories)
- limit gas and bloating
- offers flexibility in meals
- takes stress off of the digestive system to work smarter, not harder
- enriches the quantity and the quality of foods
Scientifically speaking and from a biological viewpoint, your body may be able to use food synergies for it to function properly. This simply means that certain foods when eaten together can get the most absorption of the nutrients they give, instead of alone, which is defeating the purpose like our spinach example from before.
The concept of Food synergies is nutrients working together to create better health effects. (In Dec 2004 the Journal of Nutrition indicated that pairing broccoli with tomatoes helped reduce prostate tumors in rats.
This was based on experiments performed on 3 groups of rats. One group of rats was fed broccoli and tomatoes, another group broccoli alone, and the last group tomatoes alone. The group of rats with both broccoli and tomatoes had fewer tumors than the rats in the other 2 groups).
Some foods are easily absorbed by your body in the presence of another.
Some interesting food facts
Tens of trillions of good bacteria live in your gut.
75% of the immune system is in the stomach (gut health is important).
60-70 million adults in the US have digestive issues.
Everyone´s optimal digestive health is different; one size does not fit all here. It is more of a case-by-case situation.
Digestive diseases are one of the most prevalent causes of disability in the workforce.
Exercise can kick your gut into gear.
Your stomach needs sleep too (insomnia does not help).
Get the most out of your meals!
- Starches (potatoes, squash)
- Proteins (meat, poultry, fish, dairy)
- Nuts, seeds, and dried fruits
- Neutral foods (non-starchy vegetables)
Your digestive system breaks down macronutrients at different rates and by different enzymes. Carbs are broken down by the enzyme amylase. Fats and proteins take longer to digest than carbs.
If you are suffering from any gut issues, keeping a food journal may help you narrow down which foods may be the culprits.
It is important to keep the lines of communication open with your doctor, if any strange symptoms should arise, your doctor can advise you on the proper treatments/procedures.
Rule of thumb
The Vegetable is king and goes with everything!
Choose one main food group for each meal from starches/whole grains. You can complete the meal with lighter foods in the neutral category with non-starchy vegetables. Try to keep things simple when you are first starting.
Cut back or avoid unhealthy foods which may worsen digestive problems or cause inflammation, such as:
- sugary beverages
- refined grains and white carbs
- foods with added sugar
- foods with artificial sweeteners
- high-sodium processed foods
Wait 3-4 hours between meals. If you need to snack, try vegetable snacks. It is optimal to eat fruits on an empty, not on a full stomach.
Proteins take a longer time to digest fully.
Some Practical food tips
Vitamin C and iron
Iron comes in two forms heme from meat and non-heme plant sources. Your body´s rate to absorb heme is better than non-heme. So, it would be wise to pair up non-heme foods with citrus fruits for maximum results.
This combination could help people with all sorts of anemias. If you do not suffer from anemia you should not consume too much iron as this can cause hemochromatosis, which could damage your liver. Iron sources from plant sources ( tofu, beets, beans, and spinach) are best absorbed in the presence of vitamin C.
Vitamin B3 and fish oil
Vitamin B3, also called Niacin, can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Niacin alone may cause liver problems in high doses, but in the presence of fish oil, which has anti-inflammatory properties, it is beneficial in balancing the good and bad cholesterol in your body. An example meal of sautéed mushrooms with tuna salad and sesame peanut dressing is highly recommended.
Vitamin D and calcium
Your body needs calcium to have strong bones and to fight off the threat of osteoporosis. Vitamin D helps your gut absorb calcium from calcium-rich foods.
This combination works hard to help keep your bones healthy. An example meal: broccoli and cheese with grilled salmon.
Vitamins A, D, E, and K can be paired with healthy fats for optimal absorption.
Fats and vegetables
Eating a small amount of healthy fat (avocado or olive oil) with your vegetables may help your body absorb phytochemicals like lycopene from tomatoes and lutein from dark-green vegetables.
Additional nutrients: Flavonoids and vitamin C. Turmeric with black pepper.
Almonds with berries this combination can reduce LDL cholesterol.
Blue cheese and grape salad with onions can improve heart health (onions and grapes may prevent blood clots).
Garlic and honey have antibacterial properties and may reduce the growth of pathogenic bacteria.
Mother nature has packaged natural foods (vegetables and fruits) with amazing nutrients. There is still more to be learned and explored about the wealth of nutrients they give as we do not have all the answers yet.
Food can be medicine for your body. Therefore, it is better to be mindful of eating healthier meals and staying away from unhealthy junk foods.
Adding variety to your meals may increase your chances of getting more of the necessary vitamins and minerals that your body needs. You can experiment to see what can work best for you.
Remember your gut health is individual to you.
Your body will indicate what works and what doesn´t in clear and explicit terms because your body speaks to you (through symptoms).
And it would be wise for you to be more sensitive to what it has to say, by actively taking the steps necessary to sustain your health.
Remember to seek advice from a trusted physician should you have any concerns or questions and especially before starting any diet.
Disclaimer: The information given in this article is only for information and encouragement to change unhealthy habits into healthier ones.
If you feel like, you may have a health condition, we strongly urge you to consult a primary physician and get on the right track to claiming back your health.
Are you worried about not getting the required vitamins and minerals from your meals? Read this.
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