While food combining may mean different things to different people, there exist certain foods that pack an extra healthy punch when paired together.
In fact, I think of these healthy food combinations the same way I do healthy relationships. They’re fine on their own but made better with the right partner.
It’s amazing how modern nutrition is less than 100 years old, yet many cultures have been pairing these foods together for much longer than that. In fact, a lot of these healthy food combinations may already be familiar to you.
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1. Turmeric + Black Pepper
I’m starting with this “couple” because I’ve seen a rise in turmeric hype over the past few years. Turmeric root has a compound within it called curcumin, which is a powerful antioxidant that’s also quite anti-inflammatory.
Unfortunately, curcumin isn’t well absorbed by the body…unless piperine is involved. Piperine is a compound found in black pepper. By pairing turmeric with freshly ground black pepper, you’ll maximize the potential benefits. Black pepper and turmeric is a popular combination in Indian and Ayurvedic dishes. Click here for a great summer recipe, which includes black pepper and turmeric together.
PS – Piperine provides the same benefit to our ability to absorb resveratrol, the beneficial compound found in red wine. Think about that the next time you pair your cacio e pepe with a nice red!
2. Broccoli + Tomatoes
Speaking of Italian food, broccoli marinara is a traditional side dish in some parts of Italy. I may only be 50% Italian, but I am 100% on board with the powerful vitamin C action happening when these two foods are combined. Make it a threesome by cooking them together in olive oil (another Italian staple), which increases the body’s ability to absorb the lycopene in the tomatoes. Lycopene is an antioxidant with heart health benefits.
3. Hummus + Pita
Directing our attention now to the Middle East, combining hummus and pita creates the ultimate complete protein. This is especially helpful for vegans and vegetarians. This is because proteins are made up of amino acids. There are 9 amino acids essential to our body. Animal proteins are complete proteins, but there are few vegan proteins considered complete on their own. By pairing vegan foods together, it’s possible to get all 9 of those essential amino acids and create a complete protein. One such example is hummus and pita. Hummus is made with chickpeas, which are rich in lysine, the one essential amino acid wheat (the pita) is low in. A perfect match!
4. Rice + Beans
Middle Easterners aren’t the only ones who know how to form a complete protein from plants. A staple in the Latin American diet (although many cultures throughout the world also eat this combination), rice and beans form a complete protein in a very similar way to the hummus and pita pairing above. Rice, like wheat, is low in lysine, which beans are rich in. Conversely, beans are low in methionine, whereas rice is high in this particular amino acid.
To improve digestibility, try pressure cooking both your rice and beans. Although I have a pressure cooker, I usually use it for the rice and use Eden’s organic canned beans because they pressure cook their beans and add kombu to increase the mineral content.
5. Meat + Herbs
When my husband and I went to Greece a couple of years ago, we loved the gyros, which consisted of grilled meats marinated in herbs such as rosemary. As it turns out, not only is this combination delicious, but it’s an ideal way to offset the potential carcinogens found in cooked meat.
When meat is cooked at high temperatures, heterocyclic amenes (HCAs) are produced, and these increase the risk for cancer. Herbs, and rosemary in particular, significantly reduce the production of HCAs. A good reason not to skip the marinade.
6. Edamame + Beer
Truthfully, Japan has some fantastically healthy food combinations, but I wanted a fun and surprising one to close out this post. Also, considering my husband runs a craft beer brewery, how can I call myself a supportive wife if I don’t give his business a shout out? 😉 Okay, so hear me out. Yes, I’m a health coach, and perhaps beer and health coaches don’t seem to go hand in hand.
Drinking alcohol is a personal choice, and when done mindfully and with a healthy mindset, alcohol can be part of living a healthy life. Some of the world’s healthiest cultures drink alcohol – and I’m talking straightforward alcohol, not sugar-ridden, chemically-flavored drinks – on the regular. One downside to alcohol, however, is it can be a lot for your liver to process. As our body’s master detoxifier, we want the liver to run at optimal levels.
Enter edamame. First of all, soybeans are a complete protein with an – in my opinion – undeservedly bad reputation. We already know a complete protein is a good thing, but the amino acid methionine found in soybeans is particularly helpful in helping the body to break down alcohol. Same goes for vitamins B1 and C, also found in soybeans. Apparently, enjoying steamed edamame with an ice cold beer is a popular summer treat in Japan. Hope to one day find out in person…(hint, hint Steven Gabel if you’re reading this)!
While we’re on the subject of food combining, would you be interested in learning about other food combining theories in a future post? Let me know below!