After years of research, new nutritional science is seeing the value in an old piece of advice: Don’t mess with mother nature. The key is in food combinations that work. Take vitamin E, found in spinach, almonds, and broccoli. If you consume these and other E-rich foods regularly, you’re likely protecting your eyes and preventing cognitive problems.
But what if you’re not eating enough healthy foods? Enter the supplement companies. Pop your vitamin E in pill form and you’ll reap the rewards without having to masticate spinach, right?
There’s one problem: New research shows that vitamin E, when isolated, may not have the same protective power. One recent study suggests that supplementing with E in the long term can actually increase your risk of one type of stroke.
And it’s not just E. Experts are now questioning supplements like selenium, green tea extract, and fish oil.
There are smarter and tastier ways to make sure you get the nutrition you need. Certain foods gain superpowers when paired.
Adding olive oil to tomatoes, for example, helps your body absorb the antioxidants in tomatoes. “Our bodies are incredibly complex engines, and at the cellular level they require a complex fuelling strategy to run best,” says MH nutrition advisor Mike Roussell. “A variety of whole, healthy foods seems to provide the best benefits.”
Try these six power combinations:
Steak + Garlic + Onions
Like you needed a reason to eat this stuff. Research suggests that garlic or onions may help your body absorb zinc and iron from grains; the benefit may extend to meat, which is loaded with these minerals.
Zinc may bolster immunity and iron is crucial for muscle performance. To cook ’em, add the garlic and onions to a cold pan with some oil; then turn on the heat. That way the garlic is less likely to burn.
Almonds + Kefir
Think of kefir as a tart, bubbly yoghurt.
If that sounds off-putting, taste and learn: Dump a slug into your next shake to give your gut a batch of beneficial probiotics. While you’re at it, add a handful of heart-healthy almonds.
Preliminary findings suggest that the fibre in almond skins may act as a prebiotic.
And prebiotics are known to feed probiotics, found in kefir. Both can keep your gut in balance so your body can fend off illness causing bugs.
Eggs + Spinach Salad
Fat has benefits.
Men in a Purdue study who ate a salad with three eggs took in nine times more carotenoids—antioxidants that can help your eyes—than those who didn’t have the eggs. A diet high in carotenoid-rich produce, like spinach, carrots, and sweet potatoes, may reduce heart disease and some cancer risk.
You need fat to take in these compounds; that’s where yolks come in.
Don’t want eggs at every meal? Olive oil, avocado, and nuts may work too.
Sweet Potatoes + Cayenne Pepper
Give sweet some heat.
Researchers in India discovered that capsaicin, an ingredient in cayenne, increased absorption of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which your body can convert into sight-saving vitamin A. (It was a rodent study, but still.)
Capsaicin is also the compound that lights the fire in hot peppers.
For a new twist on a baked sweet potato, dust it with cayenne, squeeze on some lime juice, and top it with fresh cilantro.
Rosemary + Grilled Chicken
When you grill meat, potentially carcinogenic compounds called HCAs form in the muscle. Too much char and you may increase your cancer risk.
Limit your exposure by adding rosemary to your marinade. Its antioxidants may prevent HCAs from building, a Kansas State study found. No need to get fancy; just mix the juice of one lemon, a glug of olive oil, the leaves from a sprig or two of rosemary, salt, and pepper. Use on two chicken breasts.
Green Tea + Lemon + Wheat Toast
Ever eat a stack of pancakes with syrup in the morning and then crash later?
That’s because a blood sugar high is often followed by a nap-inducing low.
A Polish study suggests that you may blunt that midmorning drag if you sip green tea while you chew through your morning carbs. Also, researchers at Purdue say a squeeze of lemon may increase the disease-fighting polyphenols that are available for your body to absorb from the drink.