When we eat for our health, we tend to focus on the types of foods and portion sizes on our plate. We usually aim to eat a variety of foods and colours to get a diverse range of nutrients and nourish our body.
However, we don’t often think about what foods we are pairing on our plate and how this can affect our body’s ability to absorb those nutrients. This is known as ‘nutrient pairing’. It’s like a nutrient connection that can affect how much of the nutrients in our food our body can ‘take in’ or absorb.
Our body’s ability to absorb the nutrients in our food is also known as ‘bioavailability’ – basically, how available the nutrients are for our body to absorb. Some foods when paired together can boost the absorption of certain nutrients by our body. This means you can pair food combinations to get the most value from them, leading to better wellbeing.
So what nutrients or foods should you eat together to get the most from them? Here are a few perfect pairs to get to know.
Iron and vitamin C
Iron is an essential mineral that our body needs to help transport oxygen, maintain a healthy immune system and produce energy. Iron is a tough nutrient to absorb, with only around 18% of iron being absorbed from a traditional Western diet.
A simple way to help your body better absorb iron is to pair it with foods containing vitamin C in a single meal. Vitamin C helps your body to break down the iron and absorb it more easily.
This pairing works for iron that is plant-based (known as ‘non-haem’), which can be found in foods such as lentils, chickpeas, beans, nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables.
Combinations to try:
- Almond crusted lamb, mixed beans, spinach and feta salad with citrus dressing
- Orange and lemon baked chicken with lentil salad (lentils, freekeh, spinach, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries)