Healthy Food Combinations

Healthy food combinations that create food synergy

Healthy food combinations to create food synergy isn’t just about creating food that tastes good, it’s about creating good health! Putting the right kinds of food together can make you feel better and even prevent disease.

“The art of cooking involves the blending of complementary ingredients and the melding of flavors to synergistically create a palate pleasing meal for one’s culinary delight and enjoyment.”

Food synergy

Up until recently, this was my concept of “food synergy.” I’ll admit that I’m a self-proclaimed foodie that enjoys combining common and unusual ingredients in the kitchen to create healthy, great tasting healthy food combinations. However, this idea of food synergy drastically took another course when I started learning about recent and ongoing scientific discoveries about how foods, in particular the micro-nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in whole foods, worked together to create better health.

The benefits of healthy food combinations are not the same as eating “nutrient dense foods”. By definition, the word synergy means, “The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.”1 For those individuals interested in better health for themselves and their families, this means that healthy food combinations can compound the nutritional value. Of course, eating nutrient dense foods helps to expand the potential of food synergy.

The science of food synergy is new

healthy food combinationsMost of the research done in the past focused on individual constituents in food and not on the combination of full-spectrum constituents in whole foods. The benefits of consuming vitamin C and iron together are well documented. We know that vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron, but again we are looking at isolated constituents and the benefits of those two constituents. Whole foods provide an entire range of nutrients. Looking at one or two components isn’t looking at the “whole” picture, and that is where recent studies are providing new information.

Researchers are continually discovering new food elements which make nutrition an exciting field of study for those individuals in the health fields and for informed consumers. A great example of this would be phytonutrients or phytochemicals, which are powerful constituents in plant-based foods. Researchers have identified about 8,000 of these phytonutrients, but they estimate that many more are yet to be discovered. Even once these compounds are identified, more research is needed to understand their functionality in promoting health and how they interact with other compounds.

Combining food is natural

When we look at how we eat, it is natural for us to combine foods. As a Dr. Sears, Health and Wellness Coach, I like to refer to Dr. Sears’ recommendation of salads and smoothies from the Prime-Time Health Program. Both salads and smoothies are easy, tasty, and effective ways to benefit from healthy food combinations through eating or drinking (as with smoothies) whole foods.

Colorful salads with raw whole vegetables are easy healthy food combinations that create food synergy. Research shows that the combination of tomatoes and broccoli help fight prostate cancer. If you want to be a little adventurous with your salad, try topping your greens off with something a little out of the ordinary. There are promising preliminary studies that show that alfalfa sprouts and cherries eaten together could help lower cholesterol.

In Dr. Sears’ Prime-Time Smoothie recipe, two of the ingredients are tofu and flaxseeds. Again, emerging science is indicating that “soy and flaxseed may be more beneficial than soy alone in controlling breast cancer growth.”2

It’s natural for us to create healthy food combinations when cooking. In essence, food synergy is something we do naturally. Emerging science is simply backing up something we humans have done intuitively. By making a few scientifically-based nutritional choices, we can eat well and be both healthy and informed consumers at the same time!

We will be exploring other ways healthy food combinations can produce food synergy in future posts, so subscribe or check back for more articles.


  1. Website:, Accessed 2/3/2013
  2. Elaine Magee, MPH, RD. Food Synergy. New York: Rodale, 2007

Lee Ann Cimperman is a Dr. Sears L.E.A.N. and Prime-Time Health Coach and a health and wellness advocate. She has taught fitness and martial arts for over 10 years and has coached children, families, and adults to build strong bodies and strong minds. As an adult, Lee Ann returned to school to follow her passion in life which is a holistic approach to health and nutrition mixed with culinary arts. She is the owner of Olive Tree Health and Wellness in Pittsburgh, PA which provides both national and local health and well programs, workshops, lectures and online classes.