Rob Base and D.J. E-Z Rock once sang: “It takes two to make a thing go right”—and the lyric rings true for both relationships and healthy eating. Certain foods work to nutritionally complement one another in the same way mac ‘n’ cheese electrifies your tastebuds. That’s why the folks over at Harvard Health have named three specific nutrient pairings that are just too good for you to keep apart.
In a recent edition of the Harvard Health’s “Focus on Nutrition” newsletter (much of which is reprinted here), the health pros from the esteemed university dropped need-to-know knowledge into my inbox. In short, certain nutrients come together as “power couples.” They’re the J. Lo and A. Rod of cuisine—and once you get the knack of pairing them together, your basically become a diet-hacking queen.
You learned it on from old Yoo-hoo commercials, but I’ll repeat it again here: calcium helps build strong bones. According to Harvard Health, calcium is principally absorbed through the small intestine—a process that benefits from the help of good old Vitamin D. “Calcium is important because it strengthens bones, but the body often needs vitamin D’s assistance to absorb the nutrient,” write the experts.
Currently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends males and females between the ages of 19 and 50 consume 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. After age 51, the recommended amount for women jumps up to 1,200 —and both sexes should consume that much after the age of 71. Vitamin D recommendations vary greatly based on both sex and age, so make sure you know your recommended number.
To eat these two together: Drink a glass of milk
Salt is a sneaky part of so many packaged foods these days. The average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day, while the recommended amount is less than 1,500. When you have a desire for chips or French fries, Harvard Health recommends pairing the snack with calcium-rich foods. “[P]otassium encourages the kidneys to excrete sodium,” says the newsletter. “Many studies have shown a connection between high potassium intake and lower, healthier blood pressure.”
Current guidelines recommend adults get 4,700 mg of potassium daily.
To eat these two together: Up your intake of fruits and veggies—and watch the salt hidden in processed foods.
“Vitamin B12 and folate (also one of the eight B vitamins) form one of nutrition’s best couples. B12 helps the body absorb folate, and the two work together to support cell division and replication, which allow the body to replace cells that die,” says the newsletter. Now if that’s not a blessing to marry these nutrients every single day, I don’t know what is.
According to the NIH, we should all shoot to consume about 2.4 micrograms of B12 and 400 micrograms of folate daily. If you’re already eating a well-balanced diet, the Harvard experts say you’re probably already ticking these boxes. However, vegans might need to make a little extra effort to fulfill their B12 needs.
To eat these two together: Pair meat, eggs, and milk with green veggies, beans, and other legumes.