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Get the Most Nutrition Bang for Your Buck with These Food Pairings

Eating healthily is no easy feat. It can be challenging to get the 7-13 daily servings of fruits and vegetables recommended by the USDA. And meeting our requirements for protein and fiber can also be tricky. Luckily, there are tricks to getting the most nutrition out of the healthy foods you do manage to eat. By pairing foods in specific combinations, you can actually increase their nutritional value. That’s why I was excited to see the following food pairings featured in a recent blog post on The Salt, NPR’s health blog.

Salad + Egg

Leafy greens and carrots both contain carotenoids, phyto-nutrients that are linked to numerous positive health outcomes such as rosy skin and healthy breasts. According to a small study just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the fat in eggs helps the body absorb carotenoids. In fact, folks who ate a salad topped with three eggs absorbed three to eight times more carotenoids from the vegetables than those who ate salad alone.[1]

I love a big salad for lunch most days, so as far as I’m concerned, anything that helps me absorb the precious phytochemicals in raw veggies is a welcome addition to my diet.  Previous research has shown that full-fat salad dressings also have the same effect of increasing carotenoid absorption.[2] But eggs and a good dousing of olive oil and vinegar are a better bet, as packaged salad dressings are full of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients.

Here’s a recipe for my favorite salad, chock full of plenty of healthy fats:

· A big bowl of mesclun greens
· Half an avocado
· Half a Portobello mushroom, sautéed in coconut oil and tamari (or soy sauce)
· One grated carrot
· Some chopped sugar snap peas
· A little chopped purple cabbage
· Some blue cheese crumbles
· A sprinkling of sunflower or pumpkin seeds
· A handful of nuts: walnuts, cashews, pecans, or macadamia nuts
· A fried or soft-boiled egg
· Extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Black beans + Red Bell Pepper (or Mango)

Iron is one of the most difficult nutrients to absorb. As a result, it’s one of the most common nutritional deficiencies. In fact, up to 16 percent of menstruating women are iron-deficient (including me!).[3]

Fortunately, foods high in vitamin C help you absorb iron, so adding some diced red pepper to your black beans makes them more nutritious. Or try tossing those beans with mango chunks and lime juice for a delicious summer lunch. This simple salad from Whole Foods Market looks fantastic.

Hummus + Whole Wheat Bread

Eating hummus with whole-grain pita seems like a natural food pairing. Maybe your body instinctively knows that it’s providing balanced protein intake. That’s because the amino acids naturally present in chickpeas and tahini paste (made from sesame seeds) are different than those found in whole wheat bread. Combine them, and they make a complete protein.

You can buy store-bought hummus, but it’s easy to make at home. Just looking at the photos in this recipe makes me want to whip some up right now!

Speaking of healthy combinations, Juice Plus+ Garden and Orchard Blend capsules add 20 different fruits, vegetables, and grains to your diet, all in one convenient package. You’ll notice that the label recommends you take Juice Plus+ every day with a meal. Why? Because the fats present in your meal — whether in your breakfast yogurt, your lunchtime salad, or your dinnertime salmon — will help you absorb all the fat-soluble nutrients Juice Plus+ contains, such as carotenoids, vitamin A, and vitamin E.

Do you have any healthy food pairings you can recommend? Share them below!



[1] Kim JE, et al. Effect of egg consumption on carotenoid expression from co-consumed raw, vegetables. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jul;102(1):75-83.

[2] Brown MJ, et al. Carotenoid bioavailability is higher from salads ingested with full-fat than with fat-reduced salad dressings as measured with electrochemical detection1,2,3. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Aug;80(2):396-403.

[3] Thompson D. The basics on iron-deficiency anemia. Everyday Health. Last updated 2010 March 24.


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