From The Desk of Josh Gitalis

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Avocado tomato

In the nutrition world – especially when it comes to food marketing – we often highlight specific nutrients found in foods or recipes. It’s important to realize what’s in our food and how certain nutrients help us, but sometimes we have a tendency to drill down to the minutiae instead of looking at the big picture. Food synergy isn’t often discussed (or researched), but it’s a key element to understanding food and nutrition.

Simply put, food synergy explains how the impact of an entire food is greater than the sum of its parts, and that certain foods paired together have a greater effect than if you ate either of those foods on their own.

There is still a lot we don’t know about food, and nutrition research may look at a single nutrient and how it behaves in the body under certain conditions. This is very useful knowledge, don’t get me wrong. However, when we extract nutrients from a food we are missing out on all of the other co-factors that work in concert to improve or sustain good health. When we remove omega 3s and use them to fortify bread, for example, we’re not going to get as much or the same quality as we would if we consumed a naturally omega-3 rich food like flax seeds or salmon.

Get the most out of each bite by being strategic with food pairings for maximum benefit. These are are my 5 favourite food pairings and the health benefits they provide are far greater than if you were to eat these on their own.

My 5 Favourite Food Pairings

Berries + Chocolate

Berries and chocolate, when consumed apart, are rich sources of antioxidants, and contain minerals and fiber. When eaten together, they have a much higher antioxidant capacity. You can eat any berry to achieve this, though I’m partial to blueberries and strawberries with chocolate. If possible, opt for wild blueberries – they have more antioxidants because they need to protect themselves in harsh, wild climates – or organic berries.

Make The Most Out of This Food Pairing:

  • Add cacao to a fruit smoothie or blend them both in a warm elixir
  • Make trail mix or granola with dried blueberries and cacao nibs
  • Blend fresh blueberries and cacao together and freeze in popsicle molds or an ice cream maker
  • Add berries and cacao nibs/powder to breakfast porridge or chia pudding
  • Add berries to chocolate baked goods or homemade chocolate

Salmon + Dark Leafy Greens

Salmon is high in protein, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats for healing, repair, blood sugar balance and neurological health, and Vitamin D for bone health. The Vitamin D present in salmon helps us absorb the calcium from greens, and the nutritious fats in salmon help us better absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in the greens such as Beta-carotene, vitamin E and K.

Make The Most Out of This Food Pairing:

  • Add cooked salmon to a salad
  • Make salmon patties and serve over raw or steamed greens
  • Add salmon and greens to omelettes or serve them alongside cooked eggs
  • Mash salmon onto gluten-free bread and top with fresh greens
  • Serve cooked salmon on sauteed greens

Avocado + Tomato

Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that has anti-cancer properties and reduces the risk of heart disease. Evidence indicates that the fat present in avocados helps us better absorb lycopene. For example, in one study, salsa combined with avocados enhanced lycopene absortion in participants 4.4 times more than the avocado-free salsa. The same study found that avocado fats also helped to better draw out beta carotene from the tomatoes, too.

Make The Most Out of This Food Pairing:

  • Like the study I mentioned above, pair guacamole and salsa with beans, eggs, fresh veggies or gluten-free tortillas
  • Make avocado toast and top with fresh tomato (you can also layer on protein-rich hummus)
  • Add avocado and tomatoes to pasta salad, greens or eggs
  • Make tacos

Tomatoes and Broccoli

Broccoli is one of my favourite vegetables, rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre and detoxifying and cancer-fighting properties. Studies on animals indicate that combining broccoli with tomatoes inhibits cancer cell growth.

Make The Most Out of This Food Pairing:

  • Broccoli retains the most nutrients when lightly steamed, so steam it along with tomatoes or include the tomatoes raw
  • Add steamed broccoli and fresh tomatoes to salads
  • Use broccoli as a pizza topping
  • Serve a side of broccoli with tomato-based dishes like pasta, lasagna or tomato soup

Strawberries + Dark Leafy Greens

Strawberries are extremely high in Vitamin C, which helps boost immunity, aids with wound healing, supports collagen production, reduces allergic responses and helps with stress. Vitamin C plays another very important role: it helps to enhance the absorption of iron, which is abundant in dark leafy green vegetables.

Make The Most Out of This Food Pairing:

  • Add sliced or halved strawberries to a green salad
  • Blend strawberries into a green smoothie or make strawberry green smoothie popsicles
  • Make a strawberry salsa with green herbs

These 5 food synergy pairs aren’t just beneficial to our health – they taste delicious, too. Try one of these food pairings each week and if you discover new ways to prepare them or have a great recipe, come back and share them.


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