Just as a good marriage elevates each partner, certain foods are better — for health and taste — eaten together. Scientists are beginning to uncover food combinations that work synergistically to boost nutrient absorption and antioxidant potency beyond the beneficial effects of the foods when eaten alone. Many of these pairings enhance each other flavor-wise too. Here are five nutritional power couples that are perfect for the summer season:
1 Tomatoes with extra-virgin olive oil
There is nothing as divine as a ripe summer tomato made all the more luscious with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. It turns out that combination does a whole lot more than taste good. The oil helps your body absorb the tomato’s potent fat-soluble antioxidants, lycopene and other carotenoids, which benefit every organ in the body, especially the skin and heart. Extra-virgin olive oil, also packed with antioxidants and full of deep fruity flavor, is the ideal choice for the job.
2 Spice-rubbed grilled meat
One of the season’s culinary highlights is grilling. But when meat is cooked over high heat, some of its fat forms a compound called malondialdehyde, which has been linked to chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. It turns out, pairing meat with herbs and spices can significantly reduce these damaging compounds — the antioxidants in the spices neutralize them. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported a 71% reduction in these compounds when burgers were cooked with an antioxidant-rich blend of oregano, rosemary, black pepper, paprika and garlic. Try rubbing lean steaks with dried herbs and spices or blending some into burgers before firing them up.
3 Mixed berries
A study in Biochemistry examining the antioxidant power of berries found that a mix of berries eaten together provided significantly more cardiovascular protection than when eaten separately. Each offers a unique array of antioxidants that complements and enhances that of the others. So for color, taste and health, try a bowl of juicy blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries.
4 Spinach with lemon
Dark greens such as spinach and arugula are loaded with vitamins A and C, as well as minerals including iron. Serving them with a spritz of lemon not only brings out the flavor, it also changes the form of iron in the vegetable, making it more easily absorbed. For a simple summer salad, and an iron boost, whisk together the juice of half a lemon with 2 tablespoons olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper and toss with baby spinach leaves.
5 Fish and curry powder
According to a study in the journal BMC Cancer, two big cancer inhibitors, DHA (the healthy fat in fish) and curcumin (an active compound in yellow curry), work much better when eaten together than separately. They also bring a lot to the table flavor-wise. Taking advantage of this dynamic duo is as simple as sprinkling some yellow curry powder on your salmon fillet before cooking.