Pairing Power Foods

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Certain foods seem to go together naturally, like milk and cookies. And then there are foods, power foods, that are better when consumed together.

"Pairing certain foods can help the body absorb, store, and utilize nutrients," says Michelle Davenport, a nutritionist, and researcher at NYU School of Medicine.

You're most likely eating some of these combinations already. Here, we show five pairings that add up to more than just good food.

Lemon and Spinach

Spinach is packed with a plant-based form of iron that is not easily absorbed by the body. Vitamin C, found in high concentrations in citrus fruit, changes the molecular structure of this type of iron, making it more digestible. Similar pairings: broccoli and tofu, and orange juice and fortified oatmeal.

Peanut Butter and Banana

Bananas are an excellent source of potassium, which causes the body to retain less of the sodium found in salty foods such as peanut butter. "When potassium enters our cells, sodium exits, and vice versa," says Davenport. Too much sodium can result in hypertension and water retention. Similar pairings: Caesar dressing (vegan) and romaine lettuce, or asparagus and soy sauce.

Tomato and Olive Oil

Red-colored foods such as tomatoes and watermelon contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that when paired with fat, is absorbed through the intestinal wall. Unsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil, avocados, and nuts, are the healthiest. Similar pairings: Pink grapefruit and avocado.

Whole-Grain Cereal and Milk (non-dairy)

Most non-dairy milk, as well as sesame, pumpkin, flax, chia, and all dark leafy greens contain calcium, which is necessary for healthy bones and teeth. Without magnesium, found in whole grains, nuts, and soy, your bones and teeth cannot retain calcium long enough for the mineral to do its job. Similar pairings: Brown rice and kale.

Beans and Leafy Greens

Zinc, found in beans and nuts, produces a protein that transports vitamin A (present in carrots, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens) to the retina. The retina needs vitamin A to make retinal which is a molecule necessary for low-light and color vision. So the next time you eat a taco salad or add nuts to your leafy greens, you can feel good knowing what's on your plate is more than just a meal, it's a power meal! Similar pairings: Sweet potatoes and pecans.