5 Complementary Food Duos To Maximize Nutrition

by Ashley Martinez, MFN, RDN, LD

Last Updated: July 30, 2020

There are many things in life that belong together: peanut butter and jelly, thunder and lightning, salt and pepper, and the ever popular...tomatoes and avocados? This pairing may seem a little odd, but certain foods naturally work better with others. Nutrients interact in a unique way affecting absorption, boosting effectiveness of vitamins, and neutralizing toxins in meals, which makes understanding how they coexist very important. Food synergy maximizes these interactions to create a powerful, nutrient-packed meal with ingredients that complement one another. Just like high school sweethearts, some foods are just made for each other.

We’ve put together a few examples of dynamic food duos that will help your body absorb the essential nutrients it needs.
  1. Tomatoes & avocados.
    This dynamic duo may help prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease. Tomatoes are full of a phytonutrient called lycopene, a carotenoid that gives tomatoes their luscious red color. With the addition of “good fat,” like avocados, carotenoids become more bioavailable, allowing your body to absorb it in higher amounts. When making your next batch of homemade guacamole, try adding some tomatoes to maximize the benefits both food items have to offer.
  2. Lemons & leafy greens.
    Plant-based iron found in leafy greens, like spinach and kale, becomes easier for the body to absorb when combined with Vitamin C. Iron plays an important role in metabolizing proteins and producing red blood cells, which helps to reduce muscle fatigue throughout the body. A dash of lemon juice in your salad will help convert the plant-based iron in those dark leafy greens into a more effective form. Together, they support the immune system and keep us feeling energized throughout the day.
  3. Apples & grapes.
    If you’re looking to make a fresh fruit salad on a hot summer day, be sure to mix in some apples and grapes. Grapes are high in catechin, a type of antioxidant that may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and cancer. Apples contain an anti-inflammatory flavonoid called quercetin, which may potentially reduce your risk of heart attack, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and certain cancers. Together, this duo is the perfect anti-inflammatory match.
  4. Oatmeal & 100% orange juice.
    This common breakfast pair works together to maintain healthy heart function. Organic compounds found in both foods, called phenols, help to stabilize the cholesterol levels in your body and keep arteries clear. This breakfast of champions is a great way to start the day off right. Try making oatmeal over a stove top and add orange juice instead of water. Top with toasted walnuts.
  5. Beef & carrots.
    Beef and carrots can be the perfect, hearty meal to support your immune system. The Vitamin A in carrots is best absorbed when paired with the protein found in beef. The mineral zinc can also be found in beef, which protects the functionality of the immune system. Additionally, the Vitamin A in carrots protects your vision by preventing the deterioration of photoreceptors in the eyes. This powerful duo makes for a great way to create a healthier body overall.

Thinking carefully when planning meals can be beneficial in fighting off certain diseases and promoting healthy living. Our bodies depend on us to provide the proper nutrients it needs to function at an optimal level.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.


Ashley Martinez, MFN, RDN, LD

Ashley Martinez, MFN, RDN, LD

Eating is all about the experience, and Ashley believes no food should be off limits. As a non-diet, culinary-focused dietitian, Ashley helps others practice the art of intuitive eating, leading to a successful, guilt-free relationship with food. As a personal trainer, incorporating fitness into her routine is also an important part of Ashley’s balanced approach to wellness. She’s got you covered with expert info on everything from blueberries to burpees.