We all have an idea of what foods we like to eat. Bread with butter, salami and cheese, breaded with french fries, strawberries with cream or fresh and sweet potato. But sometimes, the combination of foods is not only more palatable, but also it is better for our body. By putting two foods on the same plate we can improve the way our body absorbs nutrients and even prevent disease. According to the Argentine Council on Food Safety and Nutrition, these are some of the pairs of foods that are good for health:
- Cereals and legumes. If cereals with legumes are consumed in the same or in different meals, the protein quality is increased, an ally combination of healthy eating.
- Steaming and food sources of carotenes. Steaming (until the pigment separates from the structure and appears in the water) increases the absorption of carotenes found in foods such as spinach, chard, carrots, squash and corn, among others.
- Biotechnology and food. Healthier foods can be achieved. For example, him golden rice produces and stores beta carotene (precursor of vitamin A) in its grains and aims to provide this vitamin to populations that do not consume enough daily.
- Food sources of vitamin C and foods of plant origin. For example, accompanying spinach with a food source of vitamin C, such as bell pepper, increases the absorption of iron from spinach.
What our grandmothers said about the iron in lentils is true, but with some footnotes. Legumes have much less iron than, for example, meat. In addition, the type of iron in vegetables is absorbed only between 5% and 20%. As if that were not enough, legumes contain an antinutrient called phytic acid, which combines with iron and other minerals and prevents their absorption. For this reason, vegetarians and vegans have to pay more attention to their iron levels.
Legumes should always be soaked and cooked well because it reduces the phytate content and iron absorption can be increased while eating foods rich in vitamin C, such as fresh spinach, peppers, tomatoes or broccoli. This stops the phytic acid from stealing the iron and makes it easier for cells to absorb.
Milk is a wise food that combines the three substances most important for bone formation and maintenance. We are mammals and we take mother’s milk as our first food to grow and develop rapidly. A cup of milk contains the 30% of the daily needs for calcium, 25% of those for vitamin D and 20% for phosphorus.
If you do not want to drink milk or dairy products, you have to choose to combine foods rich in calcium such as soy, seaweed, sesame, with foods rich in vitamin D such as cod liver oil or fish oil, salmon, sardines, eggs and foods rich in phosphorus like egg and shellfish. A plus: taking 5-10 minutes of sun each day also helps calcium absorption because UV rays stimulate the skin’s natural vitamin D production.