You already know superfoods such as tomatoes, salmon, and kale are good for you. But what if we told you that eating them with certain other foods could make them even healthier?
The idea is called food synergy, and while the term is fairly new, “the idea that foods can complement each other is an age-old concept,” says registered dietitian Rima Kleiner.
When two foods have synergy, “there are certain nutrients in one food that interact with or complement certain components in another food,” Kleiner explains. Read on for six superfood combos to start eating now.
1) Cooked tomatoes with olive oil
On their own, tomatoes are chock full of vital nutrients, including phytochemicals and lycopene, a powerful carotenoid associated with heart health. However, you need fat to help knock the nutrients into gear—that’s where the olive oil comes to play. Kleiner says simply sautéing tomatoes in olive oil or whipping up some tomato sauce should do the trick.
2) Salmon and nonfat plain yogurt
Before you grimace, know this: While salmon is a great natural source of vitamin D, which isn’t found in too many foods, calcium is needed to digest it. Yogurt can help with that digestion process, and is also a good source of probiotic bacteria, says Kleiner.
3) Black beans and brown rice
Both of these foods are high in fiber, but black beans in general aren’t a complete protein, Kleiner says. They’re missing an amino acid that’s found in brown rice. “Right there you’ve got a complete protein and a high-fiber dish with a lot of phytochemicals and antioxidants.”
4) Green tea and lemon
Green tea is all the rage these days, thanks to its wealth of antioxidants. Adding a squeeze or slice of lemon helps our bodies absorb those nutrients much better. “The vitamin C helps with antioxidants being released so that the body can absorb them,” Kleiner explains.
5) Citrus with iron-rich food
This superfood combo is a great choice for vegetarians, Kleiner says. “For someone who doesn’t eat much or any animal protein, eating something like spinach or a whole grain that has iron in it is a good idea. However, we can’t utilize [plant] iron very well.” Add citrus, such as an orange or lemon, to unlock the nutrients. “A salad that has orange segments and beans is a superfood combo,” says Kleiner.
6) Two or more types of dark green vegetables.
Research shows that our bodies have a great response to to antioxidants when we eat a combination of different types of dark green vegetables, such as spinach and kale. The same goes for antioxidant-rich fruits, such as blueberries with grapes. “And if you throw in a little bit of olive oil, that oil is going to help unlock the vitamin A and beta-carotene antioxidants in there,” Kleiner explains. “It’s a really interesting concept, and it only helps enhance flavors.”