A bonus is that fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that not only help boost your immune system, they also may prevent cancer, reduce your risk of heart disease, and possibly protect against Alzheimer's disease. Although further studies are needed on antioxidants, there is evidence suggesting that certain combinations of food enhance their positive qualities. We all know that 1+1=2, but when it comes to food, perhaps 1+1=13 or even more when it comes to nutritional value. This new science is called "food synergy."
Here are a few suggestions for dynamic duos:
Apples + Dark ChocolateThe antioxidant quercetin in apples combined with the antioxidant catechin found in dark chocolate (or blueberries, grapes, red wine, and tea) helps prevent clogged arteries and decrease the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Tomatoes + AvocadoesTomatoes contain high levels of the antioxidant lycopene, which may reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. However, the monounsaturated fat ("healthy fat") found in avocadoes helps our bodies absorb up to seven times more lycopene that it normally would.
Green Tea + LemonGreen tea is a great source of antioxidants called catechin polyphenols. Green tea helps boost metabolism, may reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis while helping with high cholesterol and infections. When green tea is combined with lemon (or other foods high in citric acid and Vitamin C such as oranges), our bodies absorb up to 13x the antioxidants as it would just consuming green tea alone.
Orange Juice + OatmealResearch shows that consuming both freshly squeeze orange juice and old fashioned oatmeal reduces the risk of having a heart attack by twice as much as if you were to eat either food on its own. The phenols found in both foods work together to stabilize the low-density lipoprotein ("bad cholesterol") levels.
Food synergy not only plays a part in the role of how antioxidants interact with each other, but it also impacts how vitamins and minerals are absorbed into one's body. Certain combinations of food and spices impact the nutritional value. (For example, spinach + lemon increases the amount of iron absorbed by 6x the normal amount!) The point is, eating a variety of fruits and vegetables and trying new combinations can be very healthy and nutritious!
Sara Mackiewicz, BSN
Public Health Nurse
Bayfield County Health Department