There are plenty of superfoods out there that are nutritious on their own, but when you combine them with other superfoods, even more magic happens. That’s because some nutrients work together synergistically, meaning your body can absorb and use the nutrients more efficiently together than when eaten alone, or other cases, the nutrients work together to benefit your health in a similar way. Pair up the healthy foods below to give your body an extra boost.
1. Carrots & Hummus for Skin-Boosting Nutrients
When the nutrient beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A by your body, it is used by your skin to encourage healthy cell production, which keeps your skin youthful and glowing. Vitamin A also stimulates fibroblasts—the cells that are responsible for developing the tissues that keep your skin firm and healthy—in the deep layers of your skin.1 However, your body requires a healthy source of fat to absorb and convert its supply of beta-carotene.
How do you get this nutrient duo in your daily diet? Carrots are naturally abundant in beta-carotene, and a hummus dip is typically made with a healthy, monounsaturated fat source like olive oil. You can grab an on-the-go snack pack from the grocery store or whip up a batch of homemade hummus yourself. Either way, you're giving your skin what it craves.
2. Yogurt & Bananas for Post-Exercise Muscle Recovery
Both bananas and yogurt are superheroes of the post-exercise recovery world.2 Bananas provide a healthy dose of carbohydrates that your muscles use to replenish depleted glycogen stores, as well as the important electrolyte potassium, which supports muscle comfort. Meanwhile, yogurt is a quality source of protein, which your muscles need for healthy growth and tissue repair. But when you eat bananas and yogurt together, the combination of carbohydrates and proteins help allow your muscles to absorb nutrients like amino acids and glucose more efficiently, aiding in muscle recovery and helping them become stronger.
The best way to enjoy this post-workout pairing is in a fresh smoothie. Blend 1/2 cup of plain yogurt, 1/2 cup of milk of your choosing, a banana, 1/2 cup of blueberries and 1 tablespoon of honey or maple syrup.
3. Black Beans & Red Bell Pepper for Better Non-Heme Iron Absorption
Iron is a vital mineral that helps your body carry oxygen via your blood to your brain, heart, muscles and more. Black beans contain a healthy amount of non-heme iron, the type of iron that's commonly found in plants but isn't readily absorbed by the body. In fact, you can only absorb 2-20% of the iron in plant-based foods compared to the 15-35% you can absorb from animal-based options.3 However, eating foods rich in vitamin C, like red bell pepper, alongside plant-based sources of iron like black beans can help your body absorb up to 6 times more non-heme iron.
Black bean tacos topped with sautéed red bell pepper are an easy and delicious way to pair these powerhouse ingredients. For an even bigger nutritional punch, top the tacos with avocado slices, shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes. Avocado provides a boost of healthy, monounsaturated fat while lettuce and tomatoes are two more great sources of vitamin C.
4. Tomatoes & Olive Oil for Extra Antioxidant Power
Extra-virgin olive oil is a key component of the ever-popular Mediterranean diet. It's a heart-healthy fat source that can help maintain healthy blood lipid levels within the normal range. But pairing it with tomatoes gives it even more of a nutritional punch. In one study, participants consumed tomato products with either extra-virgin olive oil or sunflower oil, and the researchers found that those who paired the savory fruit with olive oil reaped more antioxidant benefits from the lycopene (a phytonutrient) found in the tomatoes.4
One easy way you can enjoy this superfood pairing is by simply sautéing tomatoes in extra-virgin olive oil with garlic and herbs and adding a lean protein like skinless, boneless chicken breasts along with a small portion of whole grain pasta. Toss, serve and enjoy!
Check out Discover Which Turmeric is Right for You to learn about even more amazing turmeric pairings for better health and wellness.
5. Wine with Rainbow Trout for Better Omega-3 Fatty Acid Absorption
Fish like trout, sea bass and sardines are full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids that keep your cardiovascular system in top shape. And wine (both red and white varieties) contains heart-healthy polyphenols, antioxidants that can help with omega-3 fatty acid absorption. So guess what happens when you drink a glass of wine as you sit down to a lovely fish dinner—you may absorb even more omega-3s!5 Just remember to limit your wine consumption to 1-2 glasses per day to reap these cardioprotective benefits as well as avoid the downsides of alcohol.
A great way to enjoy wine's health benefits without drinking it is to use it in a marinade. Combine equal amounts of olive oil, soy sauce and a dry wine like sherry in a bowl. Then add rainbow trout filets (or another type of fish that's high in omega-3 fatty acids). Marinate the fish for an hour in the refrigerator before grilling or pan-searing it. You can also get the heart health benefits of the antioxidant resveratrol from red wine in a resveratrol supplement. Read Resveratrol Benefits to learn more.
6. Kale & Salmon for Bone Health Nutrition
We all know that calcium is important for our bones, heart, muscles and more, but it can be surprisingly difficult for our bodies to absorb this crucial mineral. However, when you combine it with a solid dose of vitamin D, your body can use it much more efficiently.6 One of our favorite whole food pairings that provides this dynamic duo of nutrition actually belongs on a dinner plate—kale and salmon. Kale is an excellent plant-based source of calcium and salmon is a great, heart-healthy source of vitamin D.
Not sure how to cook these two ingredients in the same meal? Here's a super tasty recipe that integrates both salmon and kale as the main stars.
Pan-Seared Salmon with Kale Salad
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Inactive time: 10 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
- 4 center-cut salmon filets
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons (divided) olive oil
- Salt (to taste)
- 1 bunch kale, ribs removed with leaves thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup dates
- 1 apple
- 1/4 cup finely grated pecorino cheese
- 3 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds
- Black pepper (to taste)
- Whisk together the lemon juice, a tablespoon of olive oil and salt in a large bowl. Add the kale, toss to coat and let it stand 10 minutes.
- Cut the dates into thin slivers and the apple into matchstick-like pieces. Add the dates, apples, cheese and almonds to the kale. Season with black pepper, toss and set aside.
- Sprinkle the salmon with salt and some black pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat and then increase the heat to medium-high. Place the salmon skin-side up in the pan. Cook until golden brown on one side, or about 4 minutes. Flip the salmon over with a spatula and cook until it feels firm to the touch, or about 3 minutes more.
- Divide the salmon and kale salad evenly among four plates.7
7. Turmeric & Black Pepper for Better Curcumin Bioavailability
Turmeric's amazing wellness benefits are largely due to its antioxidant compounds called curcuminoids. Curcumin, one of the three curcuminoids in turmeric, is understood to be the most active and powerful. The body doesn't absorb curcumin very well when it's consumed alone, but when you pair it with black pepper, you can benefit in big ways. Black pepper contains a substance called piperine, which studies show increases the bioavailability of turmeric's antioxidant compounds by as much as 2,000%.8 Piperine also enhances the beneficial effects of turmeric by making curcuminoids more accessible by the body.
Looking for an easy way to use this superfood pairing? Simply sprinkle turmeric and black pepper on your meat or poultry before baking it in the oven or tossing it on the grill. Turmeric is fat-soluble, so the naturally-occurring fats in your meal will help too.
8. Dark Chocolate & Apples for Cardiovascular Health Nutrients
Both dark chocolate and apples are excellent options when it comes to healthily satisfying your sweet tooth, as well as supporting your cardiovascular system. A flavonoid called quercetin is found in the skins of apples and has antioxidant properties that can help fortify the body's defenses against free radicals.9 Meanwhile, dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants called catechins, which can help support your heart health.10 (It has six times more catechins than milk chocolate!) When you pair dark chocolate and apples in the same meal, their heart-health benefits reach even further.
The easiest way to indulge in this sweet superfood pairing is to cut a fresh apple into slices and munch on them alongside a piece or two of dark chocolate. But if you're feeling fancy, you can melt your chocolate and dip your apple slices in the sauce.
9. Green Tea & Lemon Juice for A Boost of Antioxidants
Green tea is a true superfood with a bounty of health benefits, many of which relate to the heart. A 2006 study involving more than 40,000 Japanese adults discovered that those who drank a cup of green tea each day were less likely to experience cardiovascular issues than those who didn't drink green tea.11 Green tea also contains catechins, which are powerful antioxidants. But you can better use catechins when you combine green tea and lemon juice in the same meal. Research suggests that consuming these two ingredients in tandem can prevent the breakdown of catechins, allowing your body to absorb (and use) more of them.12
Luckily, it's incredibly easy to boost your antioxidant intake with green tea and lemon. All you have to do is brew a mug, add a splash of lemon juice and sip away. You can enjoy your citrus-infused tea either hot or cold and still reap the same nutritional benefits.
There are plenty of other powerful food pairings out there that can help you nourish your body and mind more efficiently. So, take a little time to experiment in the kitchen and find the tasty combinations that tailor best to your personal needs. And if you're taking any medications, be sure to consult your doctor before integrating new foods into your diet, as some foods may interact with certain medications.
If you've enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy Eating Healthy on a Budget: 12 Tips to Keep You & Your Wallet Fit, and 18 Science-Backed Superfoods For a Healthier You. Also, be sure to sign up for Swanson Health Emails to get expert wellness advice and our best promotions in your inbox.
1 The Benefits and Limits of Vitamin A for Your Skin. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/vitamin-a-for-skin
2 8 Recovery Foods That Won't Undo Your Workout. Men's Journal. https://www.mensjournal.com/food-drink/8-recovery-foods-wont-undo-your-workout/
3 6 Iron-Rich Food Combos—No Meat Required. Health. https://www.health.com/nutrition/vegetarian-iron-food-combos
4 Lee A, et. al. Free Radical Biology and Medicine. 2000 Nov 15. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11084294
5 A Little Wine Boosts Omega-3 In The Body: Novel Mechanism For A Healthier Heart Found. Science Daily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081204133610.htm
6 Calcium/Vitamin D. National Osteoporosis Foundation. https://www.nof.org/patients/treatment/calciumvitamin-d/
7 Pan-Seared Salmon with Kale and Apple Salad. Food Network. https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/pan-seared-salmon-with-kale-and-apple-salad-recipe-3361718
8 Shoba, et al. Planta Medica. 1998 May. doi: 10.1055/s-2006-957450. https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-2006-957450
9 Boyer J, et. al. Nutrition Journal. 2004 May 12. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-3-5. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC442131/
10 Gottumukkala R, et. al. International Scholarly Research Notices. 2014 Oct 28. doi: 10.1155/2014/628196. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4897191/
11 Green tea: Health benefits, side effects, and research. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/269538.php
12 Citrus Juice, Vitamin C Give Staying Power To Green Tea Antioxidants. Science Daily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071113163016.htm
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease