Combining Foods for Optimal Nutrition

New research shows that some food combinations are more nutritious when eaten together.

The flavors of some foods just go together—but new research shows that some foods that taste great together are also more nutritious when eaten in combination. Here are four powerful pairs that are better together:

—Jessica Girdwain, May/June 2012 EatingWell Magazine

Watch: See how to cook broccoli


Broccoli & Mustard

Broccoli & Mustard

Raw broccoli is a good source of the powerful cancer-fighting compound sulforaphane. But cooking destroys the enzyme (myrosinase) in broccoli that makes sulforaphane available to your body. The fix? Combine broccoli with mustard (yes, the condiment) or another raw cruciferous veggie, such as wasabi or arugula—the extra dose of myrosinase will help you absorb more sulforaphane, reveals a 2011 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.


Coffee & Sugar

Coffee & Sugar

If you take your coffee with sugar, good news—it may make you more productive on the job, suggests a small 2010 study published in the journal Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental. When study participants drank the two together, researchers found that areas of the brain associated with attention worked more efficiently than when sipped solo. If you don’t like coffee, try green tea with a drizzle of honey.


Adzuki Beans & Raspberries

Adzuki Beans & Raspberries

Pairing adzuki beans—classically used in Japanese desserts—with raspberries may bump up the duo’s antioxidant power by 45 percent, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. That was the biggest boost researchers saw among 55 combinations of different fruits, veggies and legumes. Top a spinach salad with adzukis; for dessert, dig into fresh raspberries.


Turmeric & Fish

Turmeric & Fish

Curcumin (a component of turmeric) and DHA (an omega-3 fat in oily fish) protect against certain cancers by keeping cancer cells from multiplying. Combining the two may slow tumor growth and the spread of a type of breast cancer cells more so than when the compounds interact with the cancer cells separately, says a 2011 study in BMC Cancer. Researchers think DHA helps cells to utilize curcumin. Rub salmon or trout with turmeric or curry (a spice blend containing turmeric).