Superfoods That Work Better Together

Some food duos do more than just excite your taste buds.

ByABC News
March 10, 2015, 4:15 AM
Researchers have found that combining tomatoes with olive oil can help boost the plant's antioxidant properties.
Researchers have found that combining tomatoes with olive oil can help boost the plant's antioxidant properties.
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— -- intro: Peanut butter and jelly. Soup and salad. Spaghetti and meatballs. There are a few classic pairings that will never go out of style. But some food duos do more than just excite your taste buds—they could even boost your health. It's a concept called "food synergy." While eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods is key for helping your body stay healthy, the idea is that some foods can interact in ways to provide even more value. So stick to eating your favorite superfoods, but know that serving these 11 combos could pack a more powerful punch of nutrition.

quicklist: 1category: Superfoods That Work Better Togethertitle: Black beans + red bell pepperurl:text:Black beans are a good source of iron. Thing is, the iron in plant foods, known as non-heme iron, isn't as readily absorbed as the iron you'll find in meat. "Just 2% to 20% of the iron in plant foods makes its way from your digestive tract into your blood, compared to 15% to 35% from heme animal-based iron," says Cynthia Sass, RD, MPH, Health's contributing nutrition editor and author of Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast ($27; That's where vitamin C-rich foods, like red bell pepper, come in. They can increase the absorption of non-heme iron by six times, Sass says. Her go-to dish: black bean tacos topped with sautéed red bell peppers.

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quicklist: 2category: Superfoods That Work Better Togethertitle: Whole grains + onions + garlicurl:text:Like beans, the iron and zinc you find in whole grains have low bioavailability, meaning they get metabolized faster than your body can absorb them. "Whole grains contain natural substances that may bind with minerals, which make them less absorbable," Sass says. But research shows that sulfur-rich foods, such as garlic and onion, could make whole grains even more nutritious. A 2010 study in theJournal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that the addition of garlic and onion to cooked or raw food grains enhanced the accessibility of iron and zinc in both cases. Pair the two by baking onions or garlic right into bread, Sass says, or try adding a generous serving of onions to your sandwich.

quicklist: 3category: Superfoods That Work Better Togethertitle: Tomatoes + olive oilurl:text:You already know that olive oil is a heart-healthy fat shown to boost "good" HDL cholesterol and lower "bad" LDL cholesterol that can clog your arteries. When paired with tomatoes, though, it has even more superpowers. A 2000 study in Free Radical Biology and Medicine had people consume tomato products with extra-virgin olive oil or sunflower oil. Researchers found that olive oil raised the antioxidant activity of the lycopene in tomatoes, while no effect was seen with the sunflower oil. "There are numerous delicious combinations, including bruschetta, roasted red pepper pesto, or simply sautéing tomatoes in olive oil with garlic and herbs to toss with lean protein and a small portion of whole grain pasta," Sass says.

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