When you think of food pairs, dynamic duos like wine and cheese, strawberries and chocolate, and peanut butter and jelly may come to mind. But marrying certain foods together benefits more than just your taste buds. Combining certain vitamins and minerals at the same meal actually enhances their nutrient power, making each of them more effective. Take note of these better-together vitamin and mineral pairs, so you can get more nutrient bang with every bite.
Power Pair: Healthy Fats + Antioxidant-Rich Veggies
Combining healthy fats, like those in avocado or olive oil, with certain veggies can help your body soak up more of the produce’s antioxidants. Some vitamins (specifically A, D, E, and K) actually need fat to dissolve in the body, whereas others, like vitamins B and C, only need water. Cooking fresh tomatoes in olive oil, for instance, can significantly increase the absorption of lycopene, a heart-healthy antioxidant that gives produce its red color. And lutein—an antioxidant that protects your eyes by neutralizing retina-damaging free radicals and filtering harmful light—is also best consumed with healthy fats. Broccoli, spinach, kale, corn, zucchini, and squash are all rich sources of lutein (and, conveniently, would go well together in a stir-fry cooked with olive oil!).
Power Pair: Vitamin C + Iron
One of vitamin C’s many jobs, besides helping your body grow and develop properly (oh, no big deal), is to help you absorb iron. Keeping an eye on your iron intake is especially important if you don’t eat meat, which is a major dietary source of iron, or if you are anemic (when your body doesn't have enough iron to build healthy red blood cells). So next time you’re about whip up some high-iron eats, like red meat, lentils, or spinach, boost your iron intake with a side of vitamin C-rich produce, like broccoli or tomatoes. Here are more great food sources of vitamin C.
Power Pair: Vitamin D + Calcium
Ah, vitamin D: The elusive nutrient that many of us just can’t seem to get enough of. That’s because not many foods have it naturally—main dietary sources include fatty fish and fish oils, beef liver, mushrooms, and fortified dairy. Even though the sun is a significant source, time of day, season, latitude, skin pigmentation, and even sunscreen can keep you from getting the vitamin D levels you need.
With that said, there’s still hope: salmon. Salmon is not only a good source of vitamin D—it boasts about 112% of your daily recommended value in just 3 ounces—but it’s also a great source of calcium. This is important because vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which is an essential nutrient for healthy bones and teeth. It also helps with muscle, blood vessel, and nervous system function. Pair salmon with other calcium-rich foods, like leafy greens, milk, or cheese, or more vitamin D, like mushrooms or fortified dairy.
Now these are what we call matches made in food heaven.