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Pair Foods for Health Benefits

Pair foods for health benefits

Pairing certain foods together not only tastes great, but it offers super-powered health benefits too.


Pair tomatoes with olive oil

Tomatoes are a great source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been linked to many protective benefits including:

  • Protecting against heart disease
  • Protecting against certain types of cancer, including prostate, breast, lung and bladder cancer

Interestingly, while raw tomatoes contain lycopene, it’s not in a form that’s readily usable the body. What helps absorption? Heat and oil. Processing raw tomatoes using heat (while making tomato sauce, for example) actually changes the lycopene in the raw product into a form that is easier for the body to use. And adding oil, such as olive oil, also helps. So, not only does tomato sauce taste great when it’s made with extra virgin olive oil, it’s also a better way for the body to get lycopene, rather than only eating raw tomatoes.

In the typical North American diet, 85 percent of lycopene comes from tomato products such as tomato juice, tomato sauce or tomato paste. Other foods that contain lycopene include watermelon, pink grapefruit, apricots, and pink guavas. But lycopene is not found in all red-coloured vegetables and fruits - red peppers, for example, are not a source of lycopene.

See the recipe for Tomato Radicchio Crostini (Antipasto)

Tomato Radicchio Crostini

Pair spinach with strawberries

Strawberry-spinach Salad

There are two types of iron-rich foods in the diet:

  • Heme-iron: this refers to the iron found in foods that come from animal sources, such as meat. This type of iron is well-absorbed by the body.
  • Non-heme iron: this refers to the iron in plant foods, such as leafy greens, legumes and cereal grains. This type of iron is not as well absorbed by the body.

In order for the body to be able to absorb non-heme iron, it’s important to pair plant-based iron-rich foods with a source of vitamin C.

Some classic pairings include:

  • Spinach salad with strawberries
  • Cereal with berries
  • Pasta with tomato sauce
  • Kale and red pepper stir fry
  • Oatmeal and blueberries
  • Greens and lemon juice
  • Chickpeas and tomatoes

About 15 to 35 percent of heme iron is absorbed into your system, compared to only 2 to 20 percent of non-heme iron, so having it with vitamin C can help a lot. But the key is to eat the iron and vitamin-C rich foods at the same time – not several hours apart! It’s a great benefit that many of these foods taste so great when they are paired together. Nice work, Mother Nature!

See the recipe for Strawberry-spinach Salad


Pairing rice and beans

Vegetarians have long known about this classic pairing. Neither rice nor beans is a complete protein (with all nine essential amino acids), but when paired together, they form a complete protein. Beans contain the amino acids that are missing from rice, and vice versa.

Try one of these main dishes:

  • Chana masala on basmati rice
  • Jerk kidney beans on short grain brown rice
  • Aduki beans with teriyaki jasmine rice
  • Black-eyed peas on long grain brown rice

See the recipe for Mexican Rice

Mexican Rice

Enjoy a cheese omelette

Vegetable Cheese Omelette

The vitamin D found in egg yolks makes the calcium in dairy more available to your body — important not only for bones, but for heart health as well. Next time you make scrambled eggs or feel like an omelette, add some shredded cheddar or Swiss cheese. Try this Vegetable cheese omelette.

See the recipe for Vegetable Cheese Omelette


Marinate steak in rosemary

Marinate your steak with rosemary before cooking. Make a simple marinade with olive oil, vinegar, garlic and herbs, including rosemary. Why rosemary in particular? The herb is rich in antioxidants such as rosmarinic acid that help neutralize carcinogenic compounds known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that form when steak is grilled at high temperatures. Try this French-style roast with rosemary.

See the recipe for French Style Roast with Rosemary

French Style Roast with Rosemary

Pair carrots with chicken

Chicken and Vegetable BBQ Bundies

Chicken contains zinc, which is what your body needs to efficiently turn the beta-carotene in carrots into vitamin A, a nutrient you need for healthy skin, strong eyes and a robust immune system. So whether you like a traditional chicken pot pie, a vegetable and chicken stir-fry or chicken soup, make sure to pair carrots with chicken!

See the recipe for Chicken and Vegetable BBQ Bundies


Have broccoli with fish

Fish contains the mineral selenium. Broccoli is rich in a disease-fighting compound known as sulforaphane. Studies indicate that these two things – selenium and sulforaphane – should be eaten together. As partners, they are 10 times more effective at slowing cancer cell growth than when eaten individually. Serve tuna with a side of broccoli, Brussels sprouts or cabbage, all of which contain sulforaphane.

See the recipe for Salmon Broccoli Quiche

Salmon Broccoli Quiche

Healthy Bites

Pair garlic and onions – they are a winning combination for heart health.

Sprinkle nuts on broccoli. The vitamins C in broccoli and vitamin E in nuts work well together.


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