Food Combinations - The Do's and Dont's

I read a great article in "To Your Health" magazine (, and I thought I would summarize it.  It was titled “Mix and Match – the Do’s and Don’ts of Pairing Foods”.  Many times we don’t think about how we combine foods and the positive and negative effects that this may have on our health.  You can enhance the positive effects of certain foods by mixing them with other foods. Conversely, other food combinations can endanger your health.  Let’s review some of the examples used in the article:

The Do’s:

Grilled Steak and Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli, or Cauliflower:
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower contain certain cancer fighting chemicals that may help rid the body of carcinogens that can form on over-cooked meat on the grill.  Your best bet is to not over-cook your steak, but just in case add some cruciferous veggies to the meal.

Tomatoes and Avocado:
We already know that tomatoes are great to eat since they contain a chemical called ‘lycopene’ which is a super antioxidant.  But did you know that if you eat avocado along with your tomatoes, that you can increase the body’s absorption of lycopene by seven times.  The fat in the avocado acts like a lycopene turbo-charger for your body.

Spinach and Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (EVO):
By adding a drizzle of EVO to your spinach or other dark green vegetables you can unleash the ‘lutein’, another antioxidant that may help protect against age-related macular degeneration.

Spinach and Oranges:
Iron, a mineral, is a carrier of oxygen in the body and aids in immune function, cognitive development, temperature regulation, energy metabolism, and work performance. Spinach is a great source of iron but our bodies don’t absorb it well when we eat spinach by itself. If you add a small amount of Vitamin C to your spinach, like that found in an orange, the iron in spinach is converted into a form that your body can easily absorb.

The Don’ts:

Don’t mix Alcohol and Energy Drinks:
Vodka mixed with energy drinks is popular, but potentially dangerous.  This combo can cause heart palpitations and breathing difficulties in many people.  By overloading the body in stimulants like caffeine and then combining them with depressants and a diuretic like alcohol, it can put tremendous stress on the central nervous system.

Don’t mix Alcohol and Diet Soda:
This combo can make the alcohol a bit more potent.  In a recent study, it took just 21 minutes for half a diet coke cocktail to leave the stomach and reach the small intestine, where alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream.  The same amount of a non-diet cocktail took 36 minutes.

Don’t mix Coffee and Breakfast Cereal:
This one goes back to the iron conversation we had earlier.  Most breakfast cereals are fortified with iron, but the polyphenols, an antioxidant in coffee, can limit the body’s ability to absorb iron.  Even some teas, including chamomile and peppermint, may reduce iron absorption up to 94 percent (hot cocoa cuts it by 71 percent).  The solution is simple though, have your coffee or tea one hour before or after your cereal.  According to the American Journal of clinical Nutrition, a cup of coffee consumed one hour before an iron-rich meal didn’t affect absorption.


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