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.).
- 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).Here are a few examples of food synergy in action from recent nutrition research:
- 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 of cancer.
- 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.