Maintaining a nutrient-dense diet will promote overall wellbeing and productivity and decrease the risk of several diseases, but unfortunately, it might not be enough to achieve the maximum absorption of nutrients that your body can then act upon. By knowing which nutrients should both pair and be avoided together due to interaction side effects, you'll be better able to reap the benefits and prevent nutritional waste.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on including more essential nutrients in their diets and in pairing foods properly in order to keep digestion smooth and to give the body the vitamins and minerals it needs to function. Without adequate nutrient intake, the body will break down and performance will drag. Many vitamins and minerals have strange interactions that can either enhance or hinder the other's effect, and many people do not consider these interactions when designing a plate of food. By being mindful of these effects, you'll be better able to serve your body and allow it to be in the best shape possible.
Here are nine nutrient combinations that you should either work in together or eat separately for maximum absorption. Your body and mind will definitely thank you!
1. Vitamin C + Iron = Yes
"Accompany your iron rich foods or iron supplements (make sure to discuss with a doctor first) with vitamin C, found in oranges or orange juice," says running coach and personal trainer Susie Lemmer over email correspondence with Bustle, as vitamin C optimizes absorption of iron. Foods that are high in iron include lean and organ meats, such as beef, liver, chicken and turkey, as well as leafy greens, salmon, lentils and dried fruit. Substantial sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, bell peppers, kiwi, broccoli, tomatoes and berries. "The vitamin C will also help ease digestive distress," adds Lemmer.
2. Iron + Calcium = No
According to experts, calcium can block the absorption of iron. "Avoid calcium for 30 minutes before and after for maximum absorption," advises Lemmer. Foods that are high in calcium include dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese, cruciferous vegetables, such as bok choy and soy products, such as tofu or edamame. Also be wary of medications. For instance, some birth control pills contain iron, so it's best to take the pill without the presence of calcium.
3. Lycopene + Healthy Fats = Yes
Lycopene, found in "red" fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon, tomatoes, red bell peppers, and guava, is beneficial for your heart, prostate and overall health. When lycopene and healthy fats are paired, they can increase absorption of nutrients for each other. Healthy fats include omega 3's and monounsaturated fats, which are found in fish, avocado, nuts, flax and chia seeds, and olive oil. Drizzle an avocado or olive oil dressing on veggies for optimal intake.
4. Sulforaphane + Selenium = Yes
Both fight cancer, but together, they fight it four times harder. Sulforaphane is found in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, and can work incredibly well with selenium to boost anti-cancer effects. Foods rich in selenium include Brazil nuts, fish, wheat germ and sunflower seeds. Pairing veggies with fish, nuts and seeds is easy, so combine them for your next dinner at home.
5. Caffeine + Iron = No
Experts share that some properties in tea and coffee can hinder uptake of iron within the body, due to the caffeine content and other properties found in the beverages. Next time you want your morning cup of coffee or tea to wind down before bed, go decaf or drink either prior to or after consuming an iron-rich meal. Stick with water whenever possible.
6. Green Tea + Lemon = Yes
Not only is green tea tastier with the addition of lemon, but the lemon also enhances its cancer fighting and antioxidant effects and can ease any possible hindrance from the presence of iron. Lemon can deactivate the negative interaction between iron and caffeinated beverages, so next time you want to have tea with your chicken dish, squeeze some fresh lemon into your cup.
7. Folate + Vitamin B12 = Tricky
Studies show that consuming a proper ratio of folate and B12 can boost health, strengthen the heart and decrease risk of Alzheimer's; however, if there is too much folate present, it can interfere with absorption of B12, and visa versa. Thus, maintaining a healthy amount of each is the only way to prevent a deficiency from occurring. Folate is high in leafy greens, beans and broccoli, while B12 is found primarily in animal products, such as fish, organ and lean meats, dairy and eggs. Think of your diet as a whole, and be mindful of the ratio.
8. Inulin + Calcium = Yes
Foods containing the fiber, inulin, such as bananas, asparagus, leeks, onion and garlic, can increase calcium absorption when combined. Studies show that inulin and calcium work together to build strong bones and ward off onset of osteoporosis. This would be especially beneficial for people who are younger, as it helps strengthens bones to help them once they approach an older age and are more susceptible to disease. Pair Greek yogurt with a banana or ricotta with asparagus for a tasty combination. Side note: calcium and vitamin D also work well for enhanced absorption, so include an egg on top of that asparagus dish for an extra boost!
9. Red Wine + Omega 3 = Yes
Experts share that the properties and polyphenols in red wine can increase absorption of omega 3's, found in foods, such as, fish, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds and olive oil. Pair a glass with a piece of fish or with veggies sautéed in olive oil. Just remember, drinking too much is bad for your health, so stick with one glass for women and two for men.
Understanding the power that certain nutrient interactions can have on our bodies is so important in making sure we absorb the vitamins and minerals we need to get through our day productively, easily and happily. Our bodies should be nourished, and if we take some time to be mindful and combine accordingly, we can take our physiques, minds and energy levels to greater heights.
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