Some foods are better when eaten together. This may be because the flavours mingle with delicious effect, such as when you combine chilli and dark chocolate. However, there are many examples where eating foods together results in the nutrients supporting each other.
A great example is a salad containing tomatoes and an extra virgin olive oil-based dressing. Tomatoes are high in vitamin A (as lycopene) and bell peppers in your salad might also be a good source.
People who are trying to be healthy might mistakenly choose a low-fat dressing or take their salad plain. However, vitamin A is most easily absorbed with fat. Since vitamin A is excellent for your immune system and helps your vision, skin and teeth you will be missing out with a low-fat dressing. Extra virgin olive oil is also packed with anti-oxidants and it is delicious. Add it liberally.
Another possibility is spinach and peas, a great combination in a soup or as a side dish in a white sauce. The iron in spinach is usually not well absorbed but if you add a source of vitamin C, such as peas, this will boost the absorption. So, a watercress and orange salad is better than watercress alone or sardines with lemon juice will not only taste better but have a bigger nutritional punch.
Turmeric is one of my favourite spices when it comes to health benefits and it prefers a ‘threesome’ with fat and black pepper. Both of these work to help absorption. A simple way to combine these elements is in an olive oil marinade e.g. for roast cauliflower. I love to add nigella seeds and cumin also. They may also be combined in a home-made curry sauce.
I will sometimes add ½ tsp turmeric and a little black pepper and cinnamon to natural yoghurt and mix in sliced oranges and chopped nuts for a tangy and very healthy snack. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and also helps to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Take it regularly if you want to get the benefits but not too much at a time.
Red meat should ideally be cooked for a long time at a low temperature. However, if it is to be fried, seared or barbequed it is wise to marinade it first for a few hours in lemon juice, olive oil or even red wine. This will reduce the risk of carcinogens being released (known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAH for short). It is still best not to blacken your meat when cooking it, even on the outside.
I recently wrote about how crushed garlic can help to boost levels of vitamin B1. The latter is found in beans and pulses, wholegrains, seeds and nuts. I love stir-fried fine green beans with garlic.
Finally, there is magnesium and vitamin D. Magnesium helps to improve the release of vitamin D from stores in the body. Foods containing magnesium include dark green leafy vegetables, apricots, pumpkin seeds, oats, nuts and dates. Good sources of vitamin D are eggs, oily fish like salmon and fortified foods.
Of course the best source of vitamin D is sunlight. Magnesium and vitamin D don’t need to be taken at the same time. I would recommend a trip to a sunnier climate, once the restrictions allow it and a smorgasbord of tasty healthy nibbles!
Wishing you all a healthy and happy festive season!