The usual Pinterest quote purporting “better together” may showcase smiling couples snuggling up on the couch. But it’d be just as accurate if the image featured rice and beans, carrots and walnuts, or yogurt and salmon. A variety of powerhouse food pairings perfectly demonstrate that sometimes two really is better than one. That’s because eating certain foods together provides more nutrition than you’d get if you simply ate them on their own.
“In general, foods (especially wholesome, nutritious foods) have nutrients that we’re interested in already,” says Dr. Wendy Bazilian, author of Eat Clean Stay Lean: The Diet. “When we put some foods together, they not only bring [those nutrients] to the table but they can also enhance the nutrients that exist in the other food.”
Of course, any nutritional food pairing must be tasty in order to be effective. When you take taste into account, Bazilian says, “food pairings can…enhance the flavor of the meal or make the foods we know we should eat more of [such as vegetables] easier to eat.”
So when you create food combinations based on nutritional synergy and delicious flavors, that’s a match made in dietary heaven. Here’s how to find the perfect couples.
RELATED: A Nutritionist’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting (Without Deprivation)
10 Food Pairings To Maximize Your Nutrient Intake
You’re probably already aware of several nutrient-dense food pairings, maybe without even realizing it. Bazilian says that many classic food combinations — such as rice and beans, which together make up a complete protein — have been around for centuries. In fact, many of the most nutrient-enhancing combinations are foods we’ve been eating together all along. But it just so happens that modern science has discovered nutritional benefits to many other common food couplings. The top 10:
1. Salsa and Guacamole
Great news for everyone who loves these classic dips: The healthy fats in avocado enhance the absorption of the lycopene (a powerful antioxidant) found in tomatoes, says Bazilian. Make yourself a delectable spread with one of these must-try guacamole recipes and this easy five-minute salsa recipe.
2. Tomato Sauce and Olive Oil
The quintessential Italian food ingredients! They don’t just taste good together; they also provide a vitamin- and mineral-packed punch, says Bazilian. As with the pairing above, the fats in olive oil enhance the absorption of lycopene from the tomatoes. Enjoy the two great flavors and health advantages with this recipe for Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats.
RELATED: 6 Easy Pasta Sauce Recipes That Aren’t Marinara
3. Red Bell Peppers and Black Beans
“When iron-filled black beans join forces with vitamin C-rich red bell pepper, the body is better able to absorb the iron in the black beans,” say Fresh Thyme Farmers Market dietitians Meghan Daw, RD, LDN and Kerry Clifford, RD, LDN, MS. That’s good news, because iron helps our bodies build strength and sustain our energy levels. Try the combo in this recipe for Black Bean Salad with Corn, Red Peppers and Avocado.
4. Avocado and Kale
On their own, kale and avocado already enjoy acclaimed superfood status. Together, their health benefits are even more potent. “The fat in avocado can boost the levels of the carotenoids in kale by 400 percent or more,” says Bazilian. Enjoy these benefits in this Kale and Quinoa Superfood Salad.
RELATED: Is Your Green Juice Missing One of These Key Ingredients?
5. Carrots and Walnuts
The beta-carotene found in carrots is better absorbed with fat, says Maxine Yeung, MS, RD, CDN, NASM-CPT and founder of The Wellness Whisk. So consider pairing a handful of carrot sticks and walnuts (which are chock full of healthy fats) for a nutrient-rich snack. If you have more time, cook the duo into this recipe for Roasted Squash, Carrots, and Walnuts.
6. Salad Greens and EVOO
Combining fatty oils with salad helps increase the availability of vitamins and minerals in the veggies, says Bazilian. In other words, permission to indulge in the fat in your salad dressing. If you’re worried about preservatives, make your own salad dressing with one of these easy salad dressing recipes. Prefer salads without dressing? Yeung recommends adding eggs to your greens as another way of enjoying nutrient-enhancing fats.
RELATED: 10 Easy Egg Recipes You’ll Crave Every Morning
7. Citrus and Green Tea
Citrus can increase the absorption of green tea’s catechins (compounds that have disease-fighting, antioxidant capabilities) by up to five times, says Bazilian. For a simple combo, she recommends squeezing some orange juice into your green tea.
8. Yogurt and Salmon
“Yogurt is a great source of calcium, which we need to keep our bones in good health — but calcium needs vitamin D for the body to absorb it properly,” say Daw and Clifford. This is where salmon comes into play, as it’s a great source of vitamin D. Not sure how to combine these ingredients? Try this recipe for Roasted Salmon with Cucumber-Dill Yogurt.
RELATED: Vitamin D Deficiency: What You Need to Know
9. Cheese and Eggs
You’ll get similar nutritional benefits to salmon and yogurt from the classic combination of eggs and cheese, says Yeung. Yolks provide a natural source of vitamin D, which helps the body more easily absorb the calcium found in cheese. Give it a go with these Egg and Cheese Stuffed Tomatoes.
10. Turmeric and Black Pepper
“Turmeric has been linked to many health benefits associated with its main compound curcumin, a natural anti-inflammatory and strong antioxidant,” say Daw and Clifford. “When eaten with black pepper, the body is able to increase the absorption of curcumin by 2,000 percent.” Put this power couple to good use in this recipe for Turmeric Tea.
The Benefits of Vitamin B Complex, Plus Top Food Sources
What Sell-By Dates Really Mean and Other Food Safety Tips
5 Easy Ways to Meal Prep for Less Than $20 a Week