Our nutritionist tells you what food duos you should be eating to reap the rewards.
Credit: Illustration: Sarah Wilkins

You probably already know that eating whole foods and lots of colorful produce is important to staying healthy. But did you know that the ingredients you use in your salad or what sides you pair with your salmon can affect the absorption of vitamins and other important compounds in your meal?

We asked our Director of Food and Nutrition, Brierley Horton, MS, RD, to weigh in on the best foods to pair together for the most health benefits (because you should get bonus points for making healthy choices!). Here are the wholesome food duos she approves of.

Credit: Photo: Colin Price

Iron + Vitamin C

This study showed that eating vitamin C and iron together helps your body absorb the iron more efficiently.

Try: This Berry Green Smoothie. The spinach provides lots of iron, while the berries boost the vitamin C.

Credit: Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

Eat Vitamins A, D, E, and K + healthy fats

Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble, so eating them with healthy fats helps your body absorb them more efficiently.

Try:Spinach, Bacon, and Grueyere Breakfast Strata. The spinach, dairy, and eggs provide vitamins A, D, E, and K, while the bacon and milk provide a healthy dose of fat.

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Meat + Rosemary

Cooking meat at high temperatures forms heterocyclic amines, chemicals linked to certain cancers. Rosemary boasts certain antioxidants which can help prevent the formation of heterocyclic amines.

Try: This Olive-Oil Basted Grass-Fed Strip Steak. The steak is seared at high temps and basted with oil and sprigs of rosemary for a delicious (and nutritious) meal.

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Calcium+ inulin fiber

You probably know that calcium is key for healthy teeth and bones, but did you know that consuming inulin fiber-rich foods can also assist in the absorption of calcium to help improve your bone mineral mass? You can find inulin fiber in foods like bananas, garlic, and onions. Bonus: inulin fiber is a prebiotic that can help promote and feed good bacteria in your gut.

Try: Potato and Leek Gratin. The leeks provide inulin fiber, while the cheese gives a boost of calcium (and tastes delicious!).

Credit: Caitlin Bensel

Vitamin D + Calcium

Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium and supports strong bones and healthy teeth. The National Osteoporosis Foundation says, "Too many Americans fall short of getting the amount of calcium they need every day and that can lead to bone loss, low bone density and even broken bones. " On average, both men and women should be consuming 1,000 mg of calcium daily.

Try: Smoked salmon breakfast casserole. Cheese provides calcium, while fatty salmon boasts vitamin D.

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Zinc + vitamin A

The American Optometric Association says, "Zinc is an essential trace mineral, or 'helper molecule'. It plays a vital role in bringing vitamin A from the liver to the retina in order to produce melanin, a protective pigment in the eyes."

Try: These Roasted Oysters with Pancetta for a zinc boost, and pair them with a side of our Balsamic Onion and Thyme Carrots for a hefty dose of vitamin A.

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Green tea + lemon

Green tea is full of antioxidants called catechins that can boost your metabolism and help fight disease. Squeezing some fresh lemon juice not only helps perk up the flavor of your tea, but a study by Purdue University actually found that adding citrus juice to green tea increases the body’s ability to absorb its antioxidants by more than five times.

Credit: Photo: Greg Dupree

Fruit + chocolate

Go ahead, give yourself an excuse to drink wine and eat chocolate (as if you needed one). When you pair quercetin, the antioxidant found in red apples and grapes, with catechins, an antioxidant found in red wine, dark chocolate and berries, they can further help prevent heart disease by inhibiting blood clots and boosting heart health.Try: A square of dark chocolate with a glass of wine or 1/2 cup of raspberries. 

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Turmeric + Black Pepper

Turmeric has an antioxidant in it called curcumin. Researchers have associated curcumin with health benefits such as weight loss, improved blood lipids, improved insulin sensitivity, and reduced risk for atherosclerosis. The only problem? Curcumin isn't easily absorbed by the body unless it's paired with piperine, a component found in black pepper. Paired together, piperine can improve curcumin's bioavailability by 1000 times, Time reported.