Susan B. Sloane, BS, RPh, CDE, has been a registered pharmacist for more than 20 years and a Certified Diabetes Educator for more than 15 years. Her two sons were diagnosed with diabetes, and since then, she has been dedicated to promoting wellness and optimal outcomes as a patient advocate, information expert, educator, and corporate partner.

Oh no, another food rule? Not exactly. The combination of foods for maximum efficiency has been studied for many years. This is a very interesting concept, and in many cases well studied. Now keep in mind this is just a brief overview of why pairing certain foods may have a health benefit. You don’t have to go crazy preparing meals like this, but the concept is, shall I say, “food for thought.”

Tomatoes and healthy fats

Let’s start with a basic salad with tomatoes, for example. We all know that tomatoes are a healthy food, and they have been touted for having anti-inflammatory effects to help prevent cancer. This is because tomatoes contain lycopene, which is an antioxidant carotenoid. It is said that fats make these antioxidants more viable. This does not mean that you should eat a Big Mac with your tomatoes! Instead, try sprinkling some almonds or low-fat cheese on your salad next time.

Vitamin C and iron

You also may have been told to take vitamin C with any iron supplements you may be taking to help with absorption. This is because vitamin C helps iron be absorbed more efficiently. What you can do here is make a fresh citrus salad with spinach, or sprinkle some citrus juice over your greens. 

As a side note, never take iron supplements without your doctor’s approval; feeling tired can mean more than anemia, and a proper diagnosis is critical. Too much iron when you don’t need it can cause health problems. Also remember that dark green leafy vegetables can cause blood thinners to be stronger, so be careful if you are on medications like warfarin. That’s the pharmacist in me talking!

Apples and grapes

Buy organic apples to avoid the pesticides because eating the skin is very healthy, adding important fiber into your diet. Apples contain a substance called quercetin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Grapes, red wine, and green tea contain a substance called catechin, which, when eaten with products containing quercetin, was found to help keep blood from clotting in a recent study. You can pick your combo; just use your imagination!

Good carbs and protein

Mixing good carbs, such as those found in cantaloupe, for example, with protein like eggs can keep blood sugars stable because absorption is slower with the carbs added to the protein. Peanut butter on whole wheat bread is another good option, and often a good “comfort” food. 

Bonus: a spicy combo

I have written much about the good properties of turmeric, often used in Indian cooking. Black pepper seems to enhance the good qualities of turmeric.

Look for healthy combinations to enhance your diet

This is just the beginning of how the science of foods can help you make good dietary choices. It is interesting to begin to understand the properties of what we eat—while you can never make radical changes in lifestyle or diet all at once, with the proper knowledge, you can begin a healthful journey. A trip to the grocery store can be a great adventure, and you don’t have to make complex recipes to eat healthy. 

Bon appétit!