Have you ever thought about how your foods work together? By pairing certain foods, you can get more bang for your buck as well as optimize your nutritional intake. From inexpensive spices to dry good pantry staples—try these favorite affordable food pairings along with a few recipes ideal for maximizing their benefits together.

Vitamin C + plant-based iron

Iron found in plant-based foods such as beans, lentils and spinach is best absorbed when paired with vitamin C. To reap the most benefit from this duo, it is best to eat them in the same meal, not just the same day. Examples include:

  • Bell peppers and black beans
  • Tomatoes and spinach
  • Sweet potatoes and lentils

Recipe: Try this Wheat Berry Salad with Tomato, Cucumber and Feta on a bed of spinach.

Turmeric + black pepper

Many people take a turmeric supplement for its anti-inflammatory properties. However, pairing turmeric with black pepper actually allows for better absorption. Specifically the piperine in black pepper can enhance the absorption of curcumin in turmeric by 2,000 percent! Enjoy these spices combined in a stir-fry or sip in golden milk.

Recipe: Add a bit of black pepper to this Super Seasoned and Savory Baked Cauliflower Floret Bites.

Vitamin D + calcium

Vitamin D and calcium are both vital for bone health. Similar to turmeric and black pepper, vitamin D affects how much calcium your body absorbs. This nutrient combo is unique because you can often find them naturally in the same foods such as:

  • Dairy
  • Fortified soy milk
  • Orange juice

Recipe: Replace a full meal with this quick and easy Watermelon Strawberry Chia Smoothie.

Rice + beans

Rice and beans is a classic budget-friendly meal offering multiple benefits. Plant-based sources of protein alone only have some of the essential amino acids, or protein building blocks, but when paired with different options, you build one complete protein. Rice and beans are a prime example. Beans also provide fiber, which help prevent blood sugar spikes from starchy foods like rice.

Recipe: This combination is so easy you don’t even need a recipe! Just combine cooked brown rice and rinsed canned beans of your choice in a bowl. Top with your favorite salsa, avocado and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt or shredded cheese.

Fat + fat-soluble vitamins

Some vitamins are absorbed using fat, namely:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K

Not only is a veggie-only salad a little boring, you’ll also miss out on sources of vitamin A and vitamin K from those leafy greens alone. Try adding a little extra crunch and nutrient boost by topping your salad with avocado, seeds or olive oil.

Recipe: Serve up Kathy’s Amazing Salad with Goat Cheese and Toasted Pecans topped with grilled chicken or pork tenderloin for extra protein.

To schedule a one-on-one nutrition consultation or learn more about Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655.

Article provided by Katie Goldberg, MCN, RDN, LD, and Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.