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The Princeton Longevity Center Medical News

Boosting the Benefits of the Foods You Eat

By: Karen McPartland, RD

Look through any nutrition-related magazine or website and you’re bound to find articles on the benefits of eating more of a single nutrient like vitamin C or calcium.  This is generally good advice, but did you know that certain nutrients can work together to create greater health effects than what they provide as a single nutrient?  These “connections” are generally defined as “food synergy”. Different nutritional components in a single food may work to benefit our health but - nutrients in a single food can sometimes work BETTER when eaten with nutrients in other foods.  If you are you looking for some quick, convenient ways to boost the benefits of the foods you eat, check out these 5 tips:

  1. To get more energy-supporting iron out of the foods you eat, eat iron-rich foods with vitamin C rich foods.  Here are some tasty combinations:
    1. Add some strawberries (vitamin C) to a spinach salad (iron)
    2. Sauté red peppers (vitamin C) and spinach (iron) together for a tasty vegetable side dish
    3. Eat some steamed broccoli (vitamin C) with a small piece of lean beef (iron)
    4. Have a small glass of orange juice or an orange (vitamin C) with your iron-fortified cereal
  1. To provide better protection for your prostate, cook your tomatoes or use processed tomato products as this enhances the way that lycopene is absorbed and used in the body.
    1. Add some canned tomatoes to your next batch of chili
    2. Sautee some tomatoes in olive oil to make a tasty chicken topper
    3. Eat tomato sauce on top of pasta as well as on other foods like broccoli and zucchini.
  1. To reduce your risk of ingesting cancer-causing HCAs when grilling meats:
    1. Make a marinade with spices & herbs and marinate your meat for a few hours before grilling
    2. Opt for smaller cuts like kabobs, which spend less time on the grill
    3. Pre-cook meats, fish and poultry in the oven or microwave, then briefly grill for flavor
    4. Grill lean, well-trimmed meats as they have less fat to drip into the flames
  1. To absorb more nutrients from your salad, add some healthy fat to your bowl:
    1. Use a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil instead of fat-free dressings
    2. Add some crunchy slivered almonds or chopped walnuts instead of croutons
    3. Toss tasty, sliced avocado with your greens
  1. To get more vitamin C from your vegetables
    1. Store vegetables at low temperatures in the refrigerator
    2. Minimize cooking time; don’t overcook vegetables
    3. Steam vegetables with a small amount of liquid instead of boiling

Food synergy reinforces the fact that it’s important to eat a wide variety of foods for good health.  So, make your plates colorful by eating a lot of different foods at your meals and throughout the day.  Experiment with different combinations of foods for enjoyment and for health!

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