Food synergy is the combo you did not know your body needed

Dristi Sharma
Dristi SharmaOct 01, 2023 | 08:00

Food synergy is the combo you did not know your body needed

Food synergy actually works as many of these nutrients often work together in a synergistic manner to enhance their individual effects. GIF: Gify

Combos are always better, whether is buying and getting one free, your favourite Chinese food platter, or certain skincare combos that could work miraculously for your skin. But did you know that there are certain kinds of foods that you can eat to increase the efficiency of the food that you eat? Enter, food synergy. 

What is food synergy? 

Anoushkaa Garsa, a dietician and lifestyle coach, describes food synergy as

  • a concept in nutrition that suggests that the "combined interactions of various nutrients and compounds that can have a greater and more beneficial effect" on health than individual nutrients or supplements taken in isolation.

In simple terms, certain combos are better for your health. 

According to Anoushkaa, food synergy actually works, as many of these nutrients often work together in a synergistic manner to enhance their individual effects.

For example, vitamin C in oranges can enhance the absorption of iron from spinach when consumed together.

Another reason is that many foods, especially plant-based ones, contain bioactive compounds known as phytochemicals (like flavonoids, carotenoids, and polyphenols).

  • These phytochemicals can have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and may work together with other nutrients to provide health benefits.
  • For instance, the combination of lycopene (a carotenoid) in tomatoes and healthy fats in olive oil can be more effective in reducing the risk of certain diseases than consuming each component separately.

A study released in 2009 by the US government says that consuming only purified nutrients, as in supplements, without the coordination found in food may not promote optimal health. This is where the food synergy comes into play, which can help in utilising food up to its maximum nutrients. 


The good ones

Dr Darshini Bali, a certified nutritionist from Noida, says that there are various examples of food synergy that we can use for better absorption of nutrients. They are: 

1. Tomatoes and olive oil

The combination of tomatoes (rich in lycopene) and olive oil (healthy fat) enhances the absorption of lycopene, which has antioxidant properties and may reduce the risk of certain cancers. (hi, Italian food)

2. Iron and Vitamin C

The Vitamin C in lemon juice can increase the absorption of food that is rich in iron -- for instance, spinach or sprouts -- in a more effective way to combat iron deficiency. Another example of a great combination of Vitamin C and Iron according to Dr Bali is bell pepper and eggs. 

3. Turmeric and black pepper

According to Dr Bali, the piperine in black pepper enhances the bioavailability of curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  

4. Green tea and citrus

If you mix Vitamin C from citrus fruits, it can improve the absorption of catechins in green tea, enhancing its antioxidant properties and potential for promoting weight loss and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.


5. Milk and healthy fat 

Dr Bali says that milk, which also contains fat-soluble Vitamin D, can have its absorption facilitated when consumed with healthy fats like chia seeds. This, in turn, makes Vitamin D more easily digestible.

"Every household should know and use these kinds of combinations."
- Dr Darshini Bali

The not-so-good ones

Now, point to remember: there are various bad food combinations too that might look healthy but are not. Take a look at what you can avoid: 

Caffeinated drinks and nuts

When consuming coffee or tea with nuts, the nutritious value of the nuts may not be fully utilised due to the presence of caffeine, says Dr Bali. 

Iron and calcium 

Iron and calcium if consumed together in one a single dish, interfere with each other and neither of them gets absorbed properly. She gives one such example: Palak Paneer. 

Fried foods with sugary beverages 

Pairing deep-fried foods with sugary drinks can create a combination that's high in calories, unhealthy fats, and sugars. Regular consumption can lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

White bread and jam 

If you intend to incorporate refined grains and sugary items into your diet, it's advisable to consume them separately. This is because when you mix multiple foods with high glycemic indices, it can lead to a rapid rise in your blood sugar levels.

Subsequently, you may experience a sudden drop in sugar levels, resulting in fatigue and mood swings. 

Last updated: October 01, 2023 | 08:00
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