Top 10 Food Synergy Super Foods
Boost your health with these super-healthy foods.
There's more and more evidence that certain components in the foods and
beverages we consume (like minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals, fiber, and
fats) interact with each other to give our bodies extra disease protection and
a higher level of health. This new nutritional concept is called food synergy,
and it couldn’t have come at a better time, as more and more baby boomers pass
or near the half-century mark (myself included). While writing my new book,
Food Synergy, I noticed that 10 particular foods kept popping up in
various chapters. I call these the 10 Synergy Super Foods because they have all
sorts of synergistic potential going for them.
There are all types of food synergy, from different nutrients that are found
together in the same whole food, to nutrients in different foods that work
better together, to the synergy in certain dietary patterns (like the
Mediterranean diet, Asian cuisine, The Portfolio Plan, etc.).
Here are a few examples of food synergy in action from recent nutrition
- Tomatoes and broccoli: The combination was more effective at slowing
prostate tumor growth than either was alone (from a study in which male rats
were given prostate tumor cell implants).
- Apples with the peel on. It turns out that the bulk of an apple’s
anticancer properties are hidden in the peel. The phytochemicals in the apple
flesh seem to work best with the phytochemicals in the peel to reduce the risk
- Cooked tomatoes with the peel on, along with olive oil. Ninety-eight
percent of the flavonols (powerful phytochemicals) in tomatoes is found in the
tomato skin, along with great amounts of two carotenoids. Absorption of these
key nutrients is much greater when the tomatoes are cooked and when you eat
some smart fat (like olive oil) along with the cooked tomatoes.
- Cruciferous vegetables. Two phytochemicals naturally found in
cruciferous vegetables (cambene and indole 3-carbinol) were more active when
combined, according to research that tested the compounds alone and together in
rats. The researchers found that the two compounds were able to protect the
rats against liver cancer much better together. Both cambene and indole
3-carbinol are known to activate important detoxification enzymes that help the
body eliminate carcinogens before they harm our genes. Foods rich in cambene
include Brussels sprouts and certain varieties of broccoli. And all cruciferous
veggies are rich in indole 3-carbinol.
Was it too early to write a book about this topic? While it’s true that some
of the research in the book is from lab or animal studies, and more research is
needed, the idea of food synergy leads us down a path that I’m completely
comfortable recommending. It’s a path toward eating more whole foods and plant
foods and fewer processed foods; a path that seeks balance within broad dietary
patterns instead of focusing on one or two particular foods or ingredients.
It’s a path that leads us beyond "low-fat" or "low-carb."
The truth is that there are all sorts of examples of food synergy at work in
research published over the last five years. We know now that in so many cases,
the power in food is in the package, not the individual components.
I learned while writing Food Synergy that all of this seemingly
disparate scientific research actually comes together in a way that makes
perfect sense: When we nourish our bodies with the best foods that nature has
to offer, our bodies respond in kind.