5 Powerful Food Combos To Max Your Nutritional Gains

by | Aug 1, 2018

This, friends, is nothing short of plate-based sorcery. As new book The Magic Of Food reveals, healthy eating is all about synergy – that is, eats that work way better together than apart. 

The thinking is some nutrients are more bioavailable – or readily absorbed by the body – than others, and when eaten together they can have a powerful effect on the body. Dr Michael Murray, a natural medicine expert and the book’s author, says food pairing is key to getting the most from your meals. “My work focuses on synergetics – the way foods work together to achieve effects greater than the sum of their parts,” he explains. “This interaction can control things like inflammation, hormone changes, blood flow and cellular ageing.” Ready to couple up?

Turbo charge tomatoes with oil

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Think of chopped tomatoes drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and you can almost feel the sun on your face.

“Tomatoes contain lycopene, which is protective against heart disease and major cancers, such as breast, colon, lung, skin and prostate,” says Murray. “And like all fat-soluble nutrients, taking it with oil increases its absorption.”

The science stands up: an Australian study by Deakin University found that people who consumed tomatoes with olive oil enjoyed an 82 per cent increase in the concentrations of lycopene in their blood plasma. But don’t think any old oil will do. “In another study, it was found that, while sunflower oil also increases plasma lycopene levels, it’s extra virgin olive oil that triggers the greatest improvement in lycopene’s antioxidant activity,” Murray adds. Noted.

RELATED: This Diagram Explains Exactly How To Read A Nutrition Label

Cancel out carcinogens with greens

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You know you should eat your veg – duh. But according to Murray, greens like parsley, spinach and kale have cancer-combating properties that make them worthy of a place on your plate – and even more so when paired with food that’s been fried, roasted or grilled.

A study by Japan’s Kyushu University found the urinary presence of cancer-causing compounds was halved when 70g parsley was consumed with a 150g portion of fried salmon. Another study by the University of Arkensas found rosemary had a similar effect when eaten with grilled meat. “Grilled and fried meats [have been linked to] the formation of cancer-causing compounds known as HCAs,” Murray explains.

“The phytochemicals in parsley and other greens are especially effective at neutralising these toxic compounds by preventing their direct damage to cells, as well as aiding in their breakdown to non-toxic compounds.”

Elevate carrots with avo

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To get more nutritional currency from the orange crudité favourite, add some avocado.

According to research by Ohio State University, eating them together enhances the absorption of the beta-carotene compounds in carrots and increases their conversion into an active form of vitamin A – the nutrient responsible for skin, skeletal and eye health.

“The study compared a raw carrot meal and the same dish with the addition of an avocado. It was shown to significantly increase the conversion of the inactive provitamin A to the active vitamin A, and boost beta-carotene (an antioxidant that protects cells from free radical damage) absorption by six and a half times,” says Murray.

Plus, it more than quadrupled the uptake of the antioxidant alpha-carotene, which is associated with increased life expectancy. Double whammy.

Go nuts with berries

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Reckon your cholesterol levels are a problem for future you? Findings published in the Annals Of Internal Medicine showed that having high cholesterol in your 20s and 30s can increase your risk of coronary artery calcifications (a precursor to heart attack and stroke) by 44 per cent. But according to Murray, dietary measures alone are extremely effective in lowering cholesterol levels. He suggests eating nuts and berries together.

“They contain complementary ingredients – the cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fats in the nuts pair with the cholesterol-lowering flavonoid components of berries.” And there’s more magic to be found in this combo.

A study in the American Journal Of Nutrition found the synergy of nutrients in nuts and berries could have a beneficial effect on brain function, too. Not bad going for a grab-and-go snack.

Soup up kale with citrus

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Chances are you’re probably already nailing this combo – kale with lemon is a taste winner. “Combining vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits, with those high in iron, like dark green leafy vegetables, increases your body’s ability to absorb the iron from the latter,” says Murray.

Vitamin C converts iron into its more bioavailable, non-oxidised state – haem-iron. Handy, since around 25 per cent of women have low iron levels, and those who work out regularly are more at risk of deficiency.

Iron is responsible for making red blood cells that move oxygen around the body, giving you energy – so if you’re lacking, you can forget about smashing that PB. “A deficiency can cause tiredness, dizziness and breathlessness, among other symptoms,” says Dr Murray. “Making it more bioavailable is particularly beneficial for vegetarians.” Lemon is officially your greens’ new squeeze.

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Women Fleeing Domestic Violence Can Now Receive A One-Off Support Payment

It’s been labelled the shadow pandemic and the fact remains that for many women across Australia, domestic violence is a lived reality that doesn’t discriminate by age, occupation, or socio-economic status. Researchers have found that during Covid-19 lockdowns, there was a surge in family and domestic violence, with agencies experiencing a surge in demand as nearly half their clients reported an increase in controlling behaviours. 

As many who have lived through such turmoil and trauma can attest, the roadmap to fleeing such situations at home can be fraught with challenges and extremely difficult to navigate, particularly when such bureaucracy makes it even harder. Now, it’s been announced that women fleeing a violent relationship will be given a one-off $5,000 payment as part of a federal government trial scheme. 

Known as the “escaping violence payment scheme,” the government has set aside $144.5 million over the next two years to give women $1,500 cash, with the remainder to pay for goods and services, bond, school fees and other necessaries to establish a new safe home. UnitingCare Network will be tasked with delivering the payments while helping link women and their children with relevant community services. 

As the Daily Telegraph reports, “An analysis of domestic violence data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that while it is more common for women from poorer areas, women from high socio-economic areas are not immune from experiencing partner violence.”

As Women’s Safety Minister Anne Ruston explained, the trial has been introduced with the aim to help women overcome the financial barriers that might deter them from leaving a violent relationship. “We know that financial hardship as well as economic abuse - which may involve interfering with work or controlling or withholding money - reduces women’s ability to acquire and use money and makes it difficult to leave violent relationships,” she said. 

“The payments will assist people who need financial support to leave. We know the size of the house a woman is fleeing doesn’t matter. Often she bundles the kids into the car, maybe the dog too and they leave with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.”

To be eligible for a payment, women must be facing financial stress and have some evidence of domestic violence such as a referral from a family and domestic violence service provider with a risk assessment and safety plan, or an AVO, court order or police report. As UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little said, “We believe that all people, especially women and their children, have the right to live freely and without fear, and this payment is an important step forward to ending violence against women and children.”

If you require immediate assistance, please call 000.

If you’d like to speak to someone about domestic violence, please call the 1800 

Respect hotline on 1800 737 732 or chat online. 

Under 25? You can reach Kids Helpline at 1800 55 1800 or chat online.