What is Food Combination?
Certain foods when combined together provides best of the nutritional value and are termed as the technique of food combination. Macronutrients like carbohydrates, proteins and fats get absorbed in the body to almost around 90% but same is not the case with vitamins and minerals.
Few food combinations can be the best combination and few can be hardly letting any nutrients absorbed from them. This is the science of bioavailability which means the degree of absorption of nutrients from food.
Let’s learn about 5 such combination of foods which enhances the absorption of one or both of the nutrients multi-fold.
- Vitamin C and Iron: Non heme or iron from vegeterian origin does not get absorbed very well in the body but when combined with Vitamin C, the absorption can be increased to almost double. eg. spinach with lemon juice, dried figs with orange slices, dates with strawberry.
- Pulses and Cereals: Cereals and pulses have certain set of essential amino acids which individually do not complete the requirement of protein, but when combined together it does eg. dal rice, dal roti, khichadi, idli or dosa, chole chawal or rajma chawal.
- Calcium and Vit D: Calcium hardly gets absorbed without the presence of Vitamin D. Vitamin D enhances the calcium absorption to almost double adding to the bioavailbilty. eg. omlette with egg yolk with a small piece of cheese, fortified cereals with milk.
- B-carotene with Zinc: B-carotene from vegetables and fruits like carrots, beetroots, pumpkin mangoes or bell peppers when combined with zinc can be effectively transformed to Vitamin A in the body. eg. mangoes with milk, chicken with carrots or pumpkin.
- Fat soluble vitamins like Vit A, D, E and K with Good Fats: Fat soluble vitamins get best absorbed when combined with good fats from ghee, edible oil or butter. eg. carrot halwa, palak subzi with a teaspoon of ghee.
So always try to look for combining these ingredients together to get the best of their absorption.
Also there are certain combinations of food which does not go well with each other.
Let’s understand about 2 such food or ingredient combinations which hinders nutrient absorption.
- Calcium with non-heme iron: Calcium and non-heme iron compete for absorption as they get attached to the similar transporter in the body. Avoid combinations like: dates milkshake, spinach with paneer.
- Nutrients with tannin or caffeine: Calcium does not get absorbed in presence of tannin or caffeine. Similarly iron also does not get absorbed in presence of tannin or caffeine. Avoid combining chocolate with milk, coffee with milk to meet the daily calcium intake. Avoid iron rice dates, raisins as snack with tea or coffee.
5 Best food combinations from an Indian food plate:
- Khichdi with ghee: A complete meal with all the essential amino acids from cereals and pulses. A dallop of cow’s ghee will add on to the nutritive value.
- Idli or dosa with vegetable sambar and coconut chutney: A healthy complete protein with fibre of vegetables in the sambar and good fats from coconut.
- Vegetable omlette: Vegetables like carrots combined with zinc and good fats from egg makes the carotene effectively convert to Vit A in the body.
- Gajar ka halwa(controlled portion): Gajar ka halwa is a rich traditional dessert. The ghee helps the carotene from the carrot to get readily absorbed. As gajar ka halwa is high in calorie, portion control is a must along with the right time to relish the dessert.
- Fruit plate with dates and raisins: Vit C rich fruits like orange, guava and sweet lime can be combined with few raisins or dates to get the best of the iron absorbed from the dry fruits.
5 Not so good food combinations from an Indian food plate:
- Palak paneer: Calcium from paneer and iron from palak leaves both the nutrients not being absorbed completely.
- Plain raw carrot: B-carotene from carrots does not get absorbed so well without the presence of a fat with it. Drizzle some olive oil on the raw salad to get the best out of it.
- Poha with tea: Poha being rich in Iron when combined with tea leaves the iron go waste.
- Milk tea or coffee: Even though milk is a rich source of many essential nutrients like calcium, zinc, Vit D, caffeine from the coffee or tea hampers the nutrient absorption from Milk.
- Dates with milk: Dates with milk or dates milkshake a favorite combination for many kids, make the absorption of both iron and calcium difficult.
Make a conscious effort and plan your meal accordingly to avoid loss of nutrients and get the best form of nutrients in the body.
Do pay attention to common mistakes made unknowingly and avoid it.
- Water with meal
- Coffee or Tea with meal or post meal
- Fruit post meal
- Skipping breakfast
- Starting day with Tea or Coffee
- Not including Carbs in diet
- Adding lemon during cooking
- Curd with sugar or salt
Try to pay attention to the above mentioned tips to get the best from the food you have.