6 Healthy Food Combos to Supercharge (and Synergize!) Your Nutrition
Sandwiches, Soy, and Super-Absorbable Iron
The Superfood: Peanut Butter
The Sidekick: Whole Wheat Bread
Synergize! The sandwich you loved as a kid should definitely not be dropped from your adult menu -- it's packed with nutrition. The vitamin E-rich peanuts cram in about seven grams of healthy protein in two tablespoons, the perfect amount to cover a slice of bread. The two already seem made for one another, so it makes sense that they're nutritional complements. Wheat and peanuts both contain essential amino acids, used by the body to make protein. The animo acids wheat lacks, peanuts contain -- and vice versa. So eating wheat and peanuts together makes a so-called "whole food," allowing the body to create complex proteins. Another perfect amino acid combo? The Mexican staple of tortillas and beans.
Make It Healthier: Look for peanut butter with no trans-fat, partially-hydrogenated oil, or added sugar and salt, suggests Steven Pratt, MD, author of Superfoods HealthStyle (HarperCollins, 2006). And don't overlook other nut butters that also make a delicious (and synergistic!) sandwich: try almond, cashew, and soy.
The Superfood: Soybeans
The Sidekick: Orange Juice
Synergize! Soybeans, alongside soy-based products like tofu or miso, are among the highest plant-based sources of iron available. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, plant-based iron sources are your main source of iron, an essential part of your diet. But in order for your body to actually absorb the wealth of iron found in sources like soy, you need acids to be present in your digestive system. Easy-to-find orange juice fills this role well. "Choosing an acidic food is the best way to enhance non-heme [the iron found in plant sources] absorption," said nutritionist Alice Lindeman, PhD, RD, of Indiana University. "Try juice, tomatoes, or wine, too."
But one beverage to never pair with iron-rich soybeans? Tea. "Anything labeled 'tea leaf' can inhibit iron absorption due to the tannins found in tea -- the brown scum you see in your cup after you've finished drinking," said Lindeman.
Make It Healthier: Don't like soy or soy-based products? Try pumpkin seeds, kidney beans, or black-eyed peas instead. And getting a little more iron into your diet is as easy as choosing the pan you cook in, says Lindeman. "Try cooking spaghetti sauce in an iron skillet -- a little iron from the pan will leak into the sauce," she says. The acidic Vitamin-C rich tomatoes combined with iron from the skillet makes supper perfectly synergized.
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