Food Synergy

September 25, 2014

It’s well known that eating a rainbow array of foods can pack a powerful nutritional punch. But did you know, that it’s more beneficial still to match specific food combinations, to superdrive the nutritional health benefits as well as tantalise those taste buds?

Researcher David Jacobs, Ph.D. dubbed this concept “food synergy.” The idea is that foods affect our health in a number of complex ways, and we may get even more bang for our buck when certain foods are eaten together. There are some hotels and health retreats that also offer food synergy recipes, and I will blog more on this in the next few days.

Screen shot 2014-09-25 at 2.22.51 PMElaine Magee, MPH, RD, author of Food Synergy, explains that there are all types of food synergy, from different nutrients that are found together in the same whole food, to nutrients in different foods that work better together, to the synergy in certain dietary patterns (like the Mediterranean diet, Asian cuisine, The Portfolio Plan, etc.). She lists a few examples of food synergy in action from recent nutrition research which I’ve summarised below.

  • Tomatoes and broccoli: The combination was more effective at slowing prostate tumor growth than either was alone (from a study in which male rats were given prostate tumor cell implants).
  • Apples with the peel on. It turns out that the bulk of an apple’s anticancer properties are hidden in the peel. The phytochemicals in the apple flesh seem to work best with the phytochemicals in the peel to reduce the risk of cancer.
  • Cooked tomatoes with the peel on, along with olive oil. Ninety-eight percent of the flavonols (powerful phytochemicals) in tomatoes is found in the tomato skin, along with great amounts of two carotenoids. Absorption of these key nutrients is much greater when the tomatoes are cooked and when you eat some smart fat (like olive oil) along with the cooked tomatoes.
  • Cruciferous vegetables. Two phytochemicals naturally found in cruciferous vegetables (cambene and indole 3-carbinol) were more active when combined, according to research that tested the compounds alone and together in rats. The researchers found that the two compounds were able to protect the rats against liver cancer much better together. Both cambene and indole 3-carbinol are known to activate important detoxification enzymes that help the body eliminate carcinogens before they harm our genes. Foods rich in cambene include Brussels sprouts and certain varieties of broccoli. And all cruciferous veggies are rich in indole 3-carbinol.

It’s true that some of the research in the book is from lab or animal studies, and more research is needed. However, I support the idea of food synergy which encourages eating more whole foods and plant foods and fewer processed foods; promotes balance within broad dietary patterns instead of focusing on one or two particular foods or ingredients and looks beyond “low-fat” or “low-carb.”

Are you already pairing foods together to create a food synergy? I’d love to see your pictures and hear your thoughts on this. Please share with me!

Buy Food Synergy by clicking here.

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