Power couples

Grilled asparagus salad with fried egg 

Some food combinations just seem to go together: peanut butter and jelly, tomato soup and grilled cheese, milk and cookies. Sometimes food combinations do more than just taste good together; they can also promote nutrition, reports NPR’s The Salt.

The NPR team took a look at a recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which “concludes that adding eggs to salads makes it easier to absorb the carotenoids in the raw vegetables.” Carotenoids are the yellow and red pigments that supply color to fruits and vegetable ; the most famous are beta carotene (think carrots) and lycopene (found in tomatoes). These phytonutrients play important roles in our health.

What researchers found was that adding eggs to salads increased the absorption of carotenoids 3.8 times when compared to salads with no eggs. It’s the fat in the eggs that does it, and you can achieve similar results by using an oil-based salad dressing. (The research was conducted by Purdue University at the behest of the American Egg Board, which is why eggs were the focus of this study.)

Other food “power couples” also help boost nutrition. Eating foods “high in vitamin C, like a red pepper, helps convert the nonheme iron in plant foods and iron-fortified foods into a chemical form that promotes absorption.” So Tex-Mex dishes that feature beans and peppers are winning combinations.

One intriguing beneficial food pairing is that of turmeric and black pepper. According to Drew Ramsey, a Columbia University psychiatrist-turned- kale evangelist, “this combination makes curcumin, the pigment in turmeric that has anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties, easier for the body to access. One study showed that the alkaloid in the pepper boosted the availability of curcumin in turmeric by 2,000 percent.” So throw plenty of black pepper in your next curry.

There’s always a down side to these arrangements, however. Sometimes power couples fight with each other. One kind of acid – phytates – found in things like coffee may decrease the absorption of iron and zinc. Pairing bacon with your morning coffee may be habit, but it’s not the most nutritious path to breakfast.

Photo of Grilled asparagus salad with fried eggs  from indexed blog What’s Gaby Cooking



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