What you eat is important, but so is how you eat it. Turns out you can pair certain foods together to increase how many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you absorb — and, in some case, to reduce risk of disease. Give these four pairings a try!
Broccoli + citrus juice
Squeeze lemon juice onto steamed broccoli, or mix a little orange juice into a sautéed broccoli dish. The vitamin C in the citrus will help your body absorb more of the plant-based (aka non-heme) iron in the spinach. This also works with other sources of plant-based iron, such as broccoli, beans and tofu.
Recipe to try: Lemon Broccoli (pictured above)
Eggs + veggies
“Eggs are a nutrition powerhouse on their own, with one large egg offering 6 grams of high-quality protein,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies. “Pairing them with veggies like spinach can provide you with even more nutritional gains.” Case in point: A study in The Journal of Nutrition found that adding whole eggs to a raw vegetable salad may help you better absorb vitamin E, a powerful health-promoting antioxidant.
Recipe to try: Skillet Spring Greens Asparagus Frittata (pictured above)
Rice + beans
Foods like eggs, chicken, and beef are complete proteins, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids your body needs to create muscle, collagen, and other proteins. Your body can’t make these essential amino acids on its own, so they must come from food sources — otherwise, your body’s cells will take part their own proteins to get the missing amino acids. When a food is missing some essential amino acids, it’s important to pair it with another food containing those amino acids. “Although both rice and beans are healthy choices, separately they do not provide all the amino acids you need,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen. “However, once you pair them together, the amino acids found in rice complements those found in beans, making the combination a high-quality protein.”
Recipe to try: Rice and Bean Salad (pictured above)
Grilled meat + rosemary
“Grilling meat can create carcinogens called heterocyclic amines (HCAs),” say Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CFT and Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CFT, co-authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure. “Adding spices like rosemary to the meat, as well as marinating it first, may cut the HCAs by as much as 70 percent.” Marinating meat can prevent formation of the carcinogens, and the antioxidants in rosemary are thought to have a HCA-reducing effect.
Recipe to try: Red Wine-Rosemary Grilled Flank Steak
Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, NJ. She’s a regular contributor to many publications, including ReadersDigest.com, Shape.com, FitnessMagazine.com, Dr. Oz the Good Life, Runner’s World, and more—as well as WeightWatchers.com, where she was a longtime editor. She also pens a recipe-focused blog, Amy’s Eat List.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.