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Mindful Eating: Synergistic Food Combining

Just as vitamins and minerals play roles in the functions of your body's cells and systems, in certain combinations they also can help one another to function more effectively. This might look like:


- Nutrient X enhancing the absorption of Nutrient Y

- X and Y having a similar function, therefore mutually boosting efficacy of that function

- X preventing a deficiency of Y by helping to retain it in tissues

- X being necessary for the transport of Y

- X being necessary for the conversion of Y to an active/usable form


And these are just a few examples.


With this in mind, I compiled a list of these synergistic combinations, skimming over the details for a more direct route to your grocery list. If you are like me and find the mechanisms behind these relationships endlessly interesting, I recommend you take a look at this article by Dr. Deanna Minich, who goes into more detail about how each of these relationships work. Here I'll briefly cover each of the major vitamins and minerals, their top food sources, and the foods you can pair them with to maximize their health benefits.


You can print this list out as a reference for improvising your own recipes or adding ingredients to boost the nutrition of tried and true favorites. For the strict recipe-followers out there, I found one recipe for each nutrient combo using Fridge to Table, which allows you to search for recipes based on their ingredients. So no matter your cooking style, read on and there is something here for you. If you end up creating a recipe based on this post, please share it with me!


A couple of side notes:

- Just as there are synergistic relationships, there are also antagonistic relationships between certain nutrients. For example, some combinations inhibit absorption or can cause or mask deficiency. I chose to exclude this information, because I want to focus on which foods to include rather than exclude in your diet. In the aforementioned article by Dr. Minich, this aspect is covered in detail.

- I combined all of the B vitamins into one category to keep this article more concise, as many of their functions and synergies overlap.

Vitamin A

Functions: bone growth, skin and teeth health, vision, reproduction, immunity.



Top foods:

- Sweet Potatoes

- Carrots

- Spinach


Pair them with:

- Sunflower Seeds

- Almonds

- Tofu & Soybeans

- Collard Greens

- Seaweed

- Cod

- Lentils

- Beef

- Lamb


recipe


B Vitamins

Functions: converting food to energy, cellular function, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, circulation, hormone & neurotransmitter production, red blood cell & hemoglobin production, skin and hair health, detoxification, reproduction. --- So, basically everything.



Top foods:

- Almonds

- Sunflower Seeds

- Sardines


Pair them with:

- Pumpkin Seeds

- Spinach

- Beef

- Lamb


recipe


Vitamin C

Functions: antioxidant, immunity, skin/nail/hair health.



Top foods:

- Papayas

- Bell Peppers

- Broccoli


Pair them with:

- Sunflower Seeds

- Almonds

- Sesame Seeds

- Cashews

- Soybeans

- Lentils

- Brazil Nuts

- Tuna


recipe


Vitamin D

Functions: immunity, bone development, anti-inflammatory, neuromuscular function.


Top foods:

- Salmon

- Sardines

- Tuna


Pair them with:

- Tofu

- Collard Greens

- Pumpkin Seeds

- Spinach

- Brazil Nuts


recipe


Vitamin E

Functions: antioxidant, cholesterol-regulating, cardiovascular function.



Top foods:

- Sunflower Seeds

- Almonds

- Spinach


Pair them with:

- Sweet Potatoes

- Carrots

- Papayas

- Bell Peppers


recipe


Vitamin K

Functions: bone health, blood clotting and metabolism, cardiovascular health.



Top foods:

- Kale

- Spinach

- Mustard Greens


Pair them with:

- Salmon

- Sardines


recipe


Boron

Functions: bone health, essential for utilizing vitamin D and calcium.




Top foods:

- Raisins

- Almonds

- Hazelnuts


Pair them with:

- Pumpkin Seeds

- Spinach


recipe


Calcium

Functions: bone growth, cellular function, neurotransmitter release, muscle contraction.



Top foods:

- Tofu

- Collard Greens

- Spinach


Pair them with:

- Sweet Potatoes

- Carrots

- Salmon

- Sardines

- Kale

- Beet Greens

- Swiss Chard


recipe


Magnesium

Functions: cellular function, energy production, DNA & RNA production, anti-inflammation, mental health and nervous system function.



Top foods:

- Pumpkin Seeds

- Spinach

- Swiss Chard


Pair them with:

- Almonds

- Sunflower Seeds

- Salmon

- Sardines

- Beet Greens

- Raisins


recipe


Potassium

Functions: cellular function, nerve function, cardiac function, muscle contraction.



Top foods:

- Beet Greens

- Swiss Chard

- Spinach


Pair them with:

- Tofu

- Collard Greens

- Pumpkin Seeds


recipe


Copper

Functions: red blood cell formation, iron production and storage, cellular energy production, tissue formation.



Top foods:

- Sesame Seeds

- Cashews

- Soybeans


Pair them with:

- Papayas

- Bell Peppers


recipe


Iodine

Functions: thyroid hormone function, immune support. (note: thyroid hormones play a role in almost every cell of the body)



Top foods:

- Seaweed

- Cod

- Potato, with peel


Pair them with:

- Sweet Potatoes

- Carrots


recipe


Iron

Functions: holds oxygen in blood for transport to body, organ and muscular energy production and metabolism.



Top foods:

- Soybeans

- Lentils

- Spinach


Pair them with:

- Sweet Potatoes

- Carrots

- Papayas

- Bell Peppers


recipe


Selenium

Functions: antioxidant, especially for the brain; thyroid function.


Top foods:

- Brazil Nuts

- Tuna

- Shrimp


Pair them with:

- Sunflower Seeds

- Almonds

- Papayas

- Seaweed

- Cod

- Bell Peppers

- Salmon

- Sardines


recipe


Zinc

Functions: cellular function, skin health, sensory organ function, immunity.



Top foods:

- Beef

- Lamb

- Sesame Seeds


Pair them with:

- Sunflower Seeds

- Almonds

- Sweet Potatoes

- Carrots


recipe

Resources:


Ballantyne, Sarah. Paleo Principles: the Science behind the Paleo Template, Step-by-Step Guides, Meal Plans, and 200+ Healthy & Delicious Recipes for Real Life. Victory Belt Publishing, Inc., 2017.


https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/natural-foods-high-in-iodine.php

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=112

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=53

https://www.deannaminich.com/your-antioxidant-protectors-vitamins-a-e/

https://www.caasn.com/synergism-and-antagonism-in-sports-nutrition.html

https://www.algaecal.com/algaecal-ingredients/boron/boron-sources/




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