- Colourful vegetables with a little fat.
Many fruits and vegetables contain compounds called carotenoids. These are natural pigments that give foods like tomatoes, carrots and spinach their beautiful hues––from the pigments lycopene, beta-carotene and lutein, respectively. These important compounds are fat-soluble, which means that when you eat your vegetables with a little bit of fat, your body is able to take up more carotenoids. So, adding some healthy fat from avocado or olive oil to your salad, for example, will help you absorb the carotenoids found in the romaine lettuce, carrots and tomatoes.
- Vitamin C with iron-containing vegetables and grains.
Iron comes in two different forms in foods. One form called ‘heme’ iron is found in fish, meat and poultry, and it’s more easily absorbed by the body than the so-called ‘non-heme’ iron found in certain vegetables and grains. When you take in some vitamin C along with a source of non-heme iron, your body will absorb the iron better. So, tomatoes for example in your chili will help you absorb the iron in the beans. Strawberries will help you take up the iron in your cereal. And the iron in spinach will be better absorbed if you toss some orange or grapefruit wedges into your spinach salad.
- Fish and leafy greens.
When you drink milk that’s fortified with vitamin D, contributes to normal absorption of calcium in the milk. But there’s another great way to pair these two nutrients: fish and vegetables. Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel provide vitamin D, and leafy greens like turnip greens, mustard greens and kale provide calcium. Pairing the two will help your body take up the calcium in the vegetables.
Susan Bowerman is Senior Director of Nutrition Training at Herbalife. Susan is a Registered Dietitian and a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics