Eat together

Certain combinations of nutrients work better together. Dietitian Ashleigh Feltham outlines four key ones.

1 The key to unlocking iron

There are two types of iron: haem iron from animal sources and non-animal sources called non-haem iron. The latter can be more difficult for your body to use, so this where vitamin C in various vegetables can help, as it helps the body absorb non-haem iron easier. Add these combos to your meals:

  • Kidney beans and broccoli.
  • Spinach and capsicum.
  • Rolled oats with strawberries.
  • Mixed cashews and almonds with dried apricots or sultanas.

2 Increase cancer-fighting properties in your veggies

Plants contain phytonutrients, which act like shields, so when you eat vegetables and fruits, they can reduce the risk of some cancers. By adding olive oil to veggies, your body absorbs more phytochemicals. Consuming 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil daily is recommended. Try adding 1 tablespoon to:

  • Half a cup of vegetables.
  • Half a cup of beans, peas or lentils as part of a salad.
  • Half a medium potato or sweet potato at dinner.
  • A medium tomato as part of a cooked breakfast.

3 Avocado and spinach, please!

Two specific nutrients are found in spinach: lutein and beta-carotene. Lutein is good for eye health and can decrease your risk of macular degeneration, while beta-carotene is a plant form of vitamin A, which helps boost your immunity. By adding a healthy fat like avocado, these two nutrients are better absorbed – eight times the beta-carotene is absorbed with the avocado! Here are some ways to combine the two:

  • A cup of cooked spinach next two a quarter of an avocado with two pieces of wholegrain toast and boiled eggs.
  • Add a handful of baby spinach and a quarter of an avocado to your salad.
  • Try a sandwich with a quarter of an avocado, tuna in spring water, capsicum and some baby spinach.

4 Add a barrier to prevent bad cholesterol build-up

If bad (LDL) cholesterol builds up on your artery wall and oxidises, it can increase your risk of heart disease, although certain foods can help prevent this. Pairing vitamin C with wholegrains or plant oestrogens like those in tofu can stop the LDL cholesterol from oxidising. Vitamin C also works together with vitamin E to do the same thing. Here are some winning combos for a healthy heart:

  • 30g of almonds with an orange.
  • A sandwich with two pieces of wholegrain bread and some capsicum, lettuce, cheese and lean chicken breast.
  • 170g of hard tofu with ½ a cup of brown rice and a cup of steamed Asian-style vegetables.
  • 1 tablespoon of 100% nut butter with two or three wholegrain crackers or vegetable sticks.