The dinner you eat tonight may (or may not ) be working to it’s best potential to promote your health. An amazing concept called Food Synergy teaches us how certain food combinations or even components within a single food can work synergistically together to increase the effectiveness of the nutrients in protecting our bodies from harm, such as free radicals and carcinogens. Food combinations also promote the absorption and retention of nutrients, needed for basic functions in our bodies. Even components within a single food do this effortlessly. A simple basic concept such as tomatoes cooked in olive oil will improve the absorption of the carotinoid lycopene by the monounsaturated fats in the oil. Many combinations exist such as folic acid + vitamins B6 + B12 to reduce heart disease risk. Vitamin E and Lycopene may reduce both risk for heart disease and prostate cancer. There are dozens more. Once you get the basics down, you can optimize your plate every day to give you the most bang for your buck – nutrition wise.
Emerging research in the field of nutrition is just tapping the surface. Whether it comes from single food items, combinations or food systems – it’s easy to promote risk reduction and health with every bite you take. Whole foods provide macro and micro nutrients as well as phytochemicals and bioactive substaces that not only have a singular purpose, but also interact together in ways not completely understood. You cant’ get those benefits from a bag of chips or a box of oreos!
David Jacobs, a researcher from the University of Minnesota propose to think “food first” with strong evidence for certain dietary patterns rather than individual food constituents. An article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by Jacobs explains how unless one is in a state of deficiency, individual dietary constituents are best delivered by foods rather than supplements, based on the biological environment and significant interrelations between the constituents. This idea supports variety, nutrient-dense whole foods to promote health.
Add even more positive effects by chosing foods grown fresh, locally and sustainably so that nutrients are retained better. This translates to way more nutrition for your body as the produce hasn’t been stored for long, losing valuable vitamins and minerals. As you bite into each forkful be mindful of not only where the food has been grown and transported, but how your body is assimilating and utilizing each component in combination or alone. It’s a perfect example of how even the human body works in perfect synergy with nature when you feed it amazing, fresh whole food.
The challenge: Use culinary expertise or just plain old creativity to come up with delicious recipes using these principles to support and improve health. You’re only limited by your imagination.
Heres a recipe which gives a double dose for preventing oxidative damage and heart disease by combining foods with both vitamin C and b-carotene plus garlic + onion for anti -platelet activity and reducing serum lipids.
Baked chicken with cherry peppers and tomato bruchetta
4 boneless organic chicken breasts
3 plum tomatoes, diced
1/2 c onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt
fresh ground pepper
1/2 c hot sliced cherry peppers
Prepare bruchetta by combining tomatoes, onion, garlic, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Set aside in a non-reactive bowl for 15-30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375. Place chicken breasts in a baking dish and top with bruchetta. Place hot cherry peppers on top and bake for 40 minutes until cooked through, Serve over more B-carotene rich leafy greens and some fresh shaved parmesan.
Food Synergy at Work
What possibilities can you come up with?
Mix and match these for cardioprotective benefits:
Vit C rich foods: kiwi, berries, citrus, tomatoes, papaya, bell peppers, brussels sprouts, cauliflower
B-carotene rich foods: sweet potato, carrots, spinach, mustard greens, swiss chard, kale, romaine, butternut squash, cantaloupe, red peppers, dried apricots, peas, broccoli.