When it comes to nutrition, sometimes 1+1=3. Elizabeth Somer, registered dietitian and author of Age-Proof Your Body says that when you pair certain foods, you get a much bigger nutritional bang for your buck in lowering disease risk that far exceeds the individual benefits of either food alone. Supercharge your diet with these combos.
- Watermelon and lemon yogurt
Red fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and watermelon, are rich sources of a phytonutrient, called lycopene that lowers heart disease risk in everyone and prostate cancer risk in men. However, lycopene is a fat-soluble compound, so is poorly absorbed if consumed in a fat-free meal. A study from Ohio State University found that just by adding a bit of avocado, rich in monounsaturated fats, to a fat-free tomato-based salsa, they could increase absorption of lycopene up to 15-fold! But, don't think it is just tomatoes that do the trick. You can get your lycopene from watermelon, too. Just add a little fat to the snack, such as mixing it with some low-fat lemon yogurt or make a salad with watermelon and jicama with a little honey vinaigrette with olive oil dressing.
- Spinach Salad with a glass of OJ
Spinach is a great source of iron, but plant-based iron, called nonheme iron, is poorly absorbed. Only about 5% to 7% of what you take in actually makes it into the bloodstream. However, add a vitamin C-rich food to the meal, such as a glass of orange juice, and you dramatically increase the amount of iron absorbed.
- Extra-lean red meat and beans
Again, the non-heme iron in any legume, from kidney beans to lentils, is poorly absorbed. But mix a lot of beans with a little bit of meat, which contains a very absorbable form of iron called heme iron, and you can boost iron absorption from as little as 5% up to 30%. Make a bean and meat burrito with tomatoes and salsa, or add a little bit of extra-lean red meat to your chili beans.
- Whole wheat bread with peanut butter
Whole grains are a great source of fiber, magnesium, and B vitamins, but an all-carb meal at lunchtime, such as a plate of pasta with marinara sauce, will boost levels of a brain chemical serotonin, which relaxes you and leaves you ready for a nap, not a board meeting. To stay energized, add a little protein to the meal, such as peanut butter, which will block the serotonin effect and keep you energized throughout the afternoon. However, if you want to increase your chances of sleeping like a baby at night, use that serotonin boost to your advantage. Have a slice of toast drizzled with honey or a bit of jam.
- Multi-fruit smoothie
Most people know that colorful fruits are rich in antioxidants. Most also know that antioxidants, such as vitamin C or beta carotene, help lower the risk for almost all age-related diseases, from heart disease to dementia. However, what many people don't realize is that it is the mix of antioxidants that is most effective at anti-aging. Focusing only on blueberries or acai berries or a vitamin E supplement won't give you half the protection that a diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables will provide. Keep in mind that almost 1 million phytonutrients have now been identified in produce, most of which are antioxidants. So, your best bet is to get as many different colorful fruits and/or vegetables as you can into the weekly menu. That's why a smoothie made with blueberries, cranberries, concentrated orange juice, and kiwi will be far more protective against disease than any one of those fruits alone.
- Chicken Breast and Vegetable Soup
There are three magic ingredients for weight loss - water, fiber, and protein. These three fill us up on fewer calories, so we push back from the table before we have over consumed and gained weight. The water can't be in a glass, since studies from Penn State found that the water must be incorporated into a food for it to be filling. Broth-based soups loaded with fiber-rich vegetables combine two of the three biggies - water and fiber. Add some extra-lean protein to that soup, such as chunks of chicken breast, and you have a sure-fired way to cut calories, yet still fill full and satisfied.
- Turmeric and black pepper
Turmeric is a spice used in Indian cooking, that also is found in curry powder. It has a strong anti-inflammatory effect, lowering inflammation and damage in arteries and the brain thus possibly reducing the risk for a variety of diseases, from heart disease to dementia. It also suppresses angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels required for cancer cells to thrive. Why mix with black pepper? Because limited evidence suggests that turmeric is far better absorbed when mixed with pepper. Buy turmeric powder, since curry powder contains only 10% to 30% turmeric. Then mix with pepper and add to stir frys, soups, stews, or as a rub for chicken.
She is a registered dietitian who has carved a unique professional niche as one of the few, if not only, dietitians who is well-versed in nutrition research. For 25 years, she has kept abreast of the current research, packaging that information into easy-to-read books, magazine articles, lectures, continuing education seminars, and practical news for the media.
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