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Try these dynamic food duos to boost your health

Holly Layer

Holly Layer

By Holly R. Layer – Contributing Writer

You’ve heard the phrase “two heads are better than one,” right? Well, there are certain pairs of nutrients that work better together in our bodies than they do alone. Pair the following dynamic duos to get the healthiest results!

Calcium + Inulin = better digestion, strong bones

Inulin, which is a type of fiber, increases calcium absorption and promotes healthy bacteria in the GI tract. Calcium is found in more than just milk and yogurt; the mineral is found in canned salmon with bones, almonds, kale and broccoli. Inulin is found in artichokes, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, bananas and whole-wheat flour.

Tasty Team-Up: Whole wheat banana muffins made with yogurt, or make a salmon salad with plain Greek yogurt, dill, chopped onions and asparagus.

Calcium + vitamin D = strong bones

Vitamin D must be present in sufficient levels in the body to promote absorption of calcium, which is why a deficiency of the vitamin can lead to softening of bones. Pair sources of calcium (above) with salmon, light tuna, sardines, egg yolk or fortified milks. Tasty Team-Up: Cooked fish and broccoli, or a two-egg omelet with cheese and kale.

Vitamin E + vitamin C = better vision

Vitamin C helps make the vitamin E (which helps prevent macular degeneration) you eat more “available” in your body. Vitamin E is in almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, wheat germ and soybeans. In addition to citrus, vitamin C is high in bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes and potatoes.

Tasty Team-Up: Add wheat germ to pancake mix; top cooked pancakes with peanut butter and sliced strawberries.

Iron + vitamin C = increased energy

Iron carries oxygen in red blood cells all over your body, which helps prevent fatigue. Vitamin C helps iron from plant sources be absorbed in the body. Find iron in meat and eggs, as well as spinach, oatmeal, tofu, quinoa and beans.

Tasty Team-Up: Cook quinoa and mix in orange segments, chopped bell pepper, black beans, drizzle with olive oil and orange juice.

Vitamin K + fat = healthy heart

Healthy fats (monounsaturated and omega-3’s) help us lower our cholesterol and absorb certain vitamins, like K.  “Good” fats include all kinds of nuts and olive oils, as well as avocados. Vitamin K is high in greens (spinach, chard, kale), broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

Tasty Team-Up: Halve Brussels sprouts and roast with olive oil, toss onto a kale salad with walnuts, dried cranberries and balsamic vinaigrette.

Vitamin A + fat = good skin

Vitamin A is another vitamin that needs fat to be absorbed in the body, and it promotes healthy immune and reproductive systems as well as clear skin. Sources of beta-carotene (which turns into Vitamin A) are orange fruits and fruits and vegetables that include carrots, apricots and sweet potatoes, as well as kale and spinach.

Tasty Team-Up: Toss spinach leaves, shredded carrots, cubed cooked sweet potatoes and chopped avocados with olive oil and lemon juice.

Zinc + sulfur compounds = better immune system

Zinc plays a role in wound healing and a healthy immune system, and sulfur compounds found in onions and garlic increases the body’s absorption of the mineral.  Whole wheat, brown rice and legumes are good sources of zinc.

Tasty Team-Up: Cooked brown rice tossed with chopped garlic, onion, black beans, tomatoes and green peppers dressed with balsamic vinaigrette.


Too much salt? Try potassium

Perhaps you had a canned soup for lunch, or Chinese take-out for dinner. Both of these meals are very high in sodium, but by eating potassium-rich foods, you can lessen the effects on your blood pressure. Lots of fruits and vegetables are high in potassium, but the best are spinach, sweet and white potatoes, kale, Brussels sprouts, winter squash, artichokes, bananas, grapefruit, apricots, avocados and beets. Fish, milk and yogurt are also high in potassium.

The Fix: Pack a banana along with a low-sodium canned soup for work, or make your own stir-fry at home and load it up with veggies.

Too much bread? Try vinegar

Just 2 teaspoons of vinegar can help lessen the rise in blood sugar after eating foods high in carbohydrates. If you have or are at risk for diabetes, consider adding a bit of vinegar to each meal with lots of carb-y foods, like breads, cookies and crackers.

The Fix: Use a vinaigrette on your salad or as a dressing for cooked chicken.

Adapted from a Nov. 17, 2011 Women’s Day article by registered dietitian Joy Bauer.


Holly R. Layer is a registered dietitian who provides nutritional counseling to students at SUNY Buffalo State and teaches fitness classes at the Southtowns YMCA. An avid cook and baker, you can find her in her East Aurora kitchen most days whipping up something yummy. You also can find her at



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