Food pairing has been proven to help your body get the most out of your foods nutrients. Our expert nutritionist Rob Hobson is here to show you how
You may know what nutrients are present in the foods you are buying but do you know how well they are being absorbed by the body? Understanding how to pair certain foods with others can help to increase the absorption of nutrients.
If you are eating a wide range of highly nutritious foods then the chances are you will be getting what is required but there is still the issue of absorption
By becoming your own food mixologist and exploring more about food synergy you can ramp up the nutritional value of your meals. It’s a bit like adding one plus one and getting four!
Key things to think about before you start
1. Understand Food labels
Food labels provide a useful source of information and food companies can flag key nutrients as being present as a source (more than 15% of the DRA) or rich source (more than 30% of the RDA), which is often used to back-up a health claim.
If you are eating a wide range of highly nutritious foods then the chances are you will be getting what is required but there is still the issue of absorption, which is affected by age, diet, stress, life stage and gut health, particularly in the case of conditions such as coeliac and Crohn’s disease that affect digestion and absorption of nutrients from the diet.
When food is eaten, nutrients are liberated by the processes of chewing and the action of enzymes…Not all nutrients can be utilised to the same extent
2. Find out more about bioavailability
Bioavailability is the term used to broadly define the proportion of a nutrient that is absorbed from the diet and used for normal bodily functions. When food is eaten, nutrients are liberated by the processes of chewing and the action of enzymes. Once released into the gut, further enzymes are involved to help with nutrient absorption into the bloodstream, where they are then delivered to the body’s tissues. Not all nutrients can be utilised to the same extent, meaning they differ in their bioavailability.
Cooking and food preparation also helps make nutrients more readily available by the body. For example, whilst raw carrots may be an excellent source of fibre, cooking them allows the body to glean a larger percentage of the carotenoids present (beneficial plant compounds that give the vegetable its orange colour).
Larger nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins are normally well absorbed by the body (more than 90% of the amount digested), whereas vitamins, minerals and bioactive plant compounds such as flavonoids can vary hugely with respect to how they are absorbed and used by the body.
Here’s just a few of nutrition’s dynamic duos:
3. Olive oil and tomatoes
Research has shown that including 3-5g of fat with foods rich in carotenoids can help with their absorption. These compounds found in orange and red foods have antioxidant properties that help to protect the body from disease.
4. Turmeric and black pepper
Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric that has been shown to possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Unfortunately, curcumin is poorly absorbed but this can be increased in the presence of piperine, which is found in black pepper. If you want the health benefits that can be gained from turmeric really the only way to do this is to supplement with it try Healthspan Opti-turmeric have been formulated to help maximise curcumin absorption by increasing its solubility.
5. Beans and cauliflower
Beans contain non-haem iron and are often a key source for people following a plant-based diet, such as vegans. Combining a rich-source of vitamin C with non-haem iron foods can help to increase the absorption of this mineral. Cauliflower is a great source of vitamin C and works well with beans and pulses in dishes such as curries, soups and stews.
6. Salmon and crème fraiche
Salmon is one of the few foods that contain vitamin D. Whilst the best source of this vitamin is sunlight, food sources are still a useful addition to help keep you topped up. Vitamin D is required for the absorption of calcium, which is found in dairy foods such as crème fraiche that can be combined with lemon and herbs to make a tasty sauce for salmon.
7. Milk and honey
There is something in the old wife’s tale about inducing sleep with hot milk and honey. Milk contains the amino acid tryptophan, which is used to make both serotonin and melatonin in the brain (hormones that control mood and sleep). Carbohydrates such as those found in honey help with uptake of tryptophan as the release of insulin lessens the competition from other amino acids.
8. Green tea with lemon juice
Green tea is one of the richest sources of antioxidants that can benefit health and help to reduce the risk of disease. Researchers at Purdue university found that combining green tea with lemon juice increases the amount of antioxidants (catechins) available for the body to absorb.
9. Banana and yoghurt
Yoghurt like other dairy foods is a rich source of calcium, which is required for healthy bones, teeth and muscle function. Research shows that combining foods rich in calcium with those rich in inulin (fibres that belong to a group called fructans) such as bananas can increase the absorption of this mineral.
There are many factors that can affect the nutrient content of the foods we buy and sometimes what it says on the packet may not full reflect what is actually contained. Including plenty of highly nutritious foods into your daily diet can ensure you are getting above and beyond what is required for good health. Bioavailabilty of nutrients from food can impact on your nutritional intake and whilst you cannot control many of the internal
and external factors such as age, clever food partnering can go some way to helping your body get the most from the foods you eat.
Nutritionist Rob Hobson
Runs consultancies Rob Hobson Nutrition and HOPE (Helping Older People to Eat Well) and has built a reputation as a trustworthy and inspirational source of information working for the NHS, private clients and leading food and nutrition companies including supplements provider Healthspan. An obsessed foodie and skilled cook, Rob regularly cooks for celebrity clients and contributes to national press including Stella, Daily Mail, Grazia, Harpers Bazaar, Runners Fitness, Healthy magazine and Women’s Health
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.