food pairings

The 10 Healthiest Food Pairings

Watch your good health surge as you add these potent food combinations to your diet.
BY LEAH ZERBE

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The 10 Healthiest Food Pairings: Why Food Pairing Matters
The 10 Healthiest Food Pairings: Steak + Rosemary
The 10 Healthiest Food Pairings: Beet Greens + Chickpeas
The 10 Healthiest Food Pairings: Fish + Broccoli
The 10 Healthiest Food Pairings: Red Wine + Almonds
The 10 Healthiest Food Pairings: Green Tea + Lemon
The 10 Healthiest Food Pairings: Turmeric & Black Pepper
The 10 Healthiest Food Pairings: Pastured Pork + Sauerkraut
The 10 Healthiest Food Pairings: Eggs + Cheese
The 10 Healthiest Food Pairings: Tortilla + Veggies
The 10 Healthiest Food Pairings: Fermented Food + Anything
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Why Food Pairing Matters

In today's world, there's pretty much no limit to what food pairings you can concoct in your kitchen. Exotic, out-of-season, and processed fare are readily available at most supermarkets, and while it may make cooking more exciting, that availability could be doing a number on your health, reducing your nutrient absorption, crushing your immune system, accelerating your aging, and leading to weight gain, according to digestion guru Donna Gates, creator of the Body Ecology Diet. "You are not what you eat, you are what you digest," says Gates, who notes that poor food combinations can wreak havoc on your gut. The top food pairings could make you happier, too. In fact, food synergy is the basis of The Happiness Diet (Rodale, 2011). "Combining whole, natural foods regularly, amplifying their health benefits via synergistic effects," explains Drew Ramsey, MD, coauthor of the book. "One key reason the happiness diet is so good for the brain is the amazing number of food synergies that exist between whole, unprocessed foods."

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Steak + Rosemary

The Health Benefit: Neutralizing of carcinogens created when meat is cooked above 325 degrees Fahrenheit

Why It Works: Rosemary is rich in rosmarinic and carnosic acids that stop cancer-causing heterocyclic amines from forming on cooked meat. "People have a lot of concerns about eating grilled meat," says Dr. Ramsey, who keeps potted rosemary in his kitchen. "This combination is one way that I like to use food synergy to increase the health of a dish."

Try It! Snip a sprig of rosemary, remove the main stem, chop, and add to olive oil, salt, and lemon juice to create a healthy marinade. Choose grass-fed beef for healthier fat ratios and to avoid veterinary drug residues.

Read More: The 9 Nastiest Things in Your Supermarket

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Beet Greens + Chickpeas

The Health Benefit: Natural mood boost from a much-needed mineral

Why It Works: Magnesium is essential for low anxiety and happiness, but 70 percent of Americans don't get enough. Beet greens are loaded with the calming mineral, and the B6 in chickpeas maximizes magnesium absorption in the body.

Try It! Look for local, organic beet greens this spring at your farmer's market, and soak and cook dried, organic chickpeas to avoid hormone-disrupting chemicals that can be found in canned foods.

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Fish + Broccoli

The Health Benefit: A delicious way to stifle cancer growth

Why It Works: Many fish, salmon, and mackerel are rich in the thyroid-protecting, cancer-fighting mineral selenium. When paired with broccoli, a veggie rich in sulforaphane, the compounds are 13 times more effective in slowing cancer cell growth than when eaten solo.

Try It! Avoid farmed salmon and opt for wild-caught Alaskan salmon to avoid parasites and contamination.

Read More: 12 Fish You Should Never Eat

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Red Wine + Almonds

The Health Benefit: A natural combo that keeps your heart happy

Why It Works: The antioxidant resveratrol in red wine and almond's naturally high levels of vitamin E work together to thin the blood and improve blood vessel health.

Try It! Look for organic wine, since conventional versions have been found to harbor pesticide residues. (The same holds true for the almonds.)

Learn More: Why You Need to Eat Organic

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Green Tea + Lemon

The Health Benefit: A delicious way to sip your way to natural cancer prevention while jump-starting weight loss

Why It Works: Vitamin C-rich lemons help to maximize your body's ability to absorb catechins, the heroic disease-fighting antioxidant found in green tea.

Try It! If you drink a lot of tea, consider investing in organic loose-leaf tea and a stainless steel, reusable tea infuser to reduce packaging waste.

Read More: 7 Surprisingly Affordable Superfoods

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Turmeric & Black Pepper

The Health Benefit: Superstar spice combo erases inflammation and could ward off Alzheimer's disease and cancer while combating high cholesterol and improving liver function

Why It Works: Turmeric is one spice that everyone needs to use. Just be sure to combine it with black pepper, which helps your body absorb a thousand times more curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric.

Try It! Tap these 5 turmeric recipes for delicious and nourishing meal ideas.

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Pastured Pork + Sauerkraut

The Health Benefit: Non-starchy and fermented veggies/animal protein combo will keep your gastrointestinal tract on track

Why It Works: Steering clear of starches when eating meat will help your digestive system focus on breaking down the animal protein, boosting absorption and reducing uncomfortable bloating, heartburn, gas, and stomach pain. Fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut, bolster digestion-friendly probiotics in your body, building up your immune system in the process.

Try It! Opt for grass-fed pork. It's free of health-harming antibiotics and chemical preservatives and rich in thiamine, a B vitamin vital for proper nervous system functioning. As a general rule of thumb, Gates notes that animal protein meals go best with non-starchy vegetables like green beans, broccoli, kale, collards, and spinach.

Read More: 10 Foods That Can Wreck Your Mood

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Eggs + Cheese

The Health Benefit: Clearer thinking, reduced PMS symptoms, weight loss

Why It Works: Naturally occurring vitamin D in egg yolks optimizes your body's absorption of the cheese's bone- and heart-protecting calcium. Sufficient calcium levels also promote neurotransmitter health and stabilize hormones, which reduces PMS symptoms and weight gain.

Try It! Look for eggs and cheese from grass-fed farm animals. Find local, sustainable sources at LocalHarvest.org.

Read More: 11 Instant Mood-Boosting Foods

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Tortilla + Veggies

The Health Benefit: A flatter belly, thanks to reduce bloating and gassiness

Why It Works: Pairing vegetables with grains or grain-like seeds like millet or quinoa—and leaving out the meat—will reduce unpleasant bloating and gassiness, according to gut guru Gates. Starchy vegetables like artichokes, peas, potatoes, yams, and corn and non-starchy veggies like broccoli, kale, and green beans will keep your gastrointestinal tract on track. "A corn tortilla filled with stirred fried vegetables like onions, red pepper, zucchini, and broccoli and seasoned with Tex Mex seasoning is actually delicious and so much more easy to digest than a tortilla made with beef or chicken," Gates says.

Try It! Top your tortilla off with a spoonful of cultured veggies to optimize digestion and reduce cravings for sugar later in the day.

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Fermented Food + Anything

The Health Benefit: Sugar cravings float away with kimchi and other sour superfoods.

Why It Works: "I can't say enough how wise it is to add a fermented food to any meal—no matter what you are eating," says Gates. Superstars in the natural food world, fermented foods like kimchi are loaded with feel-good probiotics that not only improve digestion, but also help stave off sugar cravings. "They must be in a program if you are trying to lose weight," Gates adds. "They taste sour and take away the desire for sweets."

Try It! Look for jarred kimchi in your supermarket or save money by doing it yourself: The Easiest Way to Ferment Vegetables.

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