I love cooking; it’s a chance to unwind and get creative. Luckily for my friends and family, the human digestive system is an amazing thing and can deal with pretty much any food combination I throw together! In fact, there are certain foods that are more nutritionally beneficial when eaten together compared to when eaten separately. Need inspiration for your next meal? Read on to discover my Top 5 Ideal Food Pairings.
1. Baked beans and toast
Dietary sources of protein, especially plant-based options, don’t contain perfect amounts of all 9 ‘essential’ amino acids; those needed by our bodies for muscle maintenance, growth and repair. Therefore, pairing different food groups with different amino acid profiles can help enhance the quality of protein we consume overall. Students unwittingly do this with the classic beans on toast; beans are high in lysine but low in methionine, whilst grains and cereals are the opposite.
2. Garlic and pasta
Another student classic; garlic pasta. Pasta and other wholegrains contain a variety of minerals, including zinc. However, it’s harder for our bodies to absorb zinc in plant-based sources than it is to absorb zinc from animal-based products. Luckily, sulphur-containing compounds in garlic can help boost absorption. We always knew Italians were foodie experts!
3. Cereal and fruit
Start your day with a bowl of cereal topped with fruit. Like zinc, iron from plant-based products (‘non-haem iron’), such as cereals and grains, is harder for our bodies to absorb than iron from animal sources (‘haem iron’). However, pairing non-haem foods with those rich in vitamin C helps increase the amount that our bodies absorb. Vegetarians and vegans take note!
4. Salmon and leafy greens
Calcium, found in green leafy veg, is crucial for keeping our bones healthy. However, other vitamins and minerals are needed alongside calcium to ensure optimum bone health. For example, vitamin D found in oily fish such as salmon can help our bodies absorb more calcium. Try throwing together an omelette made of tinned salmon and kale for a bone-boosting brunch.
5. Sweet potato and avocado
Red and orange fruit and vegetables contain beta-carotene; an important antioxidant. Since beta-carotene is fat-soluble, we can help our bodies absorb more of it by pairing foods such as sweet potato with those that are rich in healthy fats, such as avocado. To enhance absorption of beta-carotene even further, add a pinch of pepper.
I’m a huge advocate of the idea that eating healthily doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. The above examples are testament to this; what could be easier and more cost-effective than beans on toast?! The key is keeping things balanced and knowing a few simple principles that you can use to make smart choices every day. This list is a good starting point, but there are tonnes of other food combinations out there you can try. So, go on; get experimenting!