Better together: healthy food combos

Emma Brown - Nutritionist | 01 Oct, 2018

We all know some foods are more nutritious than others, but did you also know that some foods work better together than others?

Individual nutrients are important, but sometimes the whole can be greater than the sum of the parts. With the right powerful combo, you won't just enjoy your meal more, you'll be getting more vitamins and minerals too!

Nutracheck nutritionist, Emma Brown, looks at some of these nutritional superheroes: "Food scientists are aware of thousands of bioactive phytochemicals in fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, and whole grains, and have discovered that these chemicals often work better in pairs or groups.

"The Mediterranean diet is a great example of how well certain foods combine brilliantly; sardines, for example, give you an easily available form of iron for energy, and if you finish your meal with cheese, the vitamin D in the sardines will help your body absorb the calcium from the cheese – a win-win!

"Being aware of some easy food pairings could help with a healthier diet – here's some of my favourites:"

Eat cheese with an omelette for a calcium boost


Chuck some cheddar into your breakfast omelette and make egg and cheese your new BFFs. The calcium in cheese is great for protecting our bones and heart, and the vitamin D found in eggs optimises the body's absorption of that calcium.

Eat peas with rice for a metabolic boost


Rice is full of protein but low in the amino acid lysine. Peas on the other hand are bursting with lysine – meaning that when eaten together, your body receives complete proteins, which help to build muscle and boost metabolism – result!

Eat banana with low fat natural yoghurt post-workout


Put the pre-packed protein shake or energy bar to one side – this combo is your best bet to boost your body post-exercise. To fight the often inevitable blood sugar dip following a full on spin class or treadmill session, carbohydrate (courtesy of the banana) replenishes blood sugar levels while protein (in the yoghurt) is important to aid muscle recovery. Consuming the two nutrients together also makes them more effective – quite the power couple.

Add olive oil to roast veggies


Eating vegetables with added fats helps improve the absorption of the beta-carotene in the veggies – and adding olive oil to roasted veggies is a classic. It also works well with raw ones like tomatoes.

Dunk lemon in green tea


Catechins, the main health compound in tea, unfortunately isn't absorbed very well in the intestines. The vitamin C in lemon juice can help the body take in more of the catechins (antioxidants) in green tea.

Eat broccoli with griddled steak for an iron boost


Red meat delivers an energising punch of iron – and that's where the broccoli comes in. Iron-rich foods are absorbed into the blood more readily when a food that's high in vitamin C is eaten at the same time. A simple, pan-seared steak and roasted broccoli are perfect together.

Eat dark chocolate with raspberries


The flavonoids in raspberries (quercetin) combined with the flavonoid in dark chocolate (catechin) may help maintain a healthy heart. Simply grate a little dark choc on to your raspberries and enjoy!

Drink a glass of wine with fish


Scientists believe that heart-healthy polyphenol antioxidants in wine might help absorption of healthy omega-3 fats from fish including salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines and tuna. Whether you prefer Chardonnay or Merlot, you can still get the same health benefit – but please drink wisely and limit wine consumption to one or two glasses per day.

Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.