Nutrients go best in pairs

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Author: Dr Ryan Harvey, House Call Doctor

When we think of nutrition we tend to focus on the benefits of individual nutrients, but what we don’t think about is how the nutrients in our food can work together.

Segmenting nutrients in our mind can be beneficial, as it helps us remember their benefits and avoid deficiencies. However, it’s also important to know which nutrients are best paired together.

The correct pairing of nutrients (i.e. foods) will create the best absorption possible and leave you feeling happy and healthy at the end of a meal.

This is the reason why healthy, natural food enriched with nutrients is preferred over nutrient specific supplements in most situations.

Here are the nutrient pairs that can give your body the best advantage at absorbing nutritional value.

1. Calcium & Vitamin D

What can Calcium do?

• Strengthen your bones and teeth
• Carry messages from the brain to all body parts in the nervous system
• Regulate muscle functioning, such as contraction and relaxation
• Support heart function

You can absorb calcium from dairy products, leafy green, fish, nuts and seeds, soy and tofu.

What can Vitamin D do?

• Reduce the risk of flu and diabetes
• Regulate cell growth

Vitamin D can be absorbed from sunlight, fish oil, fatty fish.

Calcium and vitamin D are best suited together, because vitamin D helps unlock the benefits of calcium into the body.

2. Iron and Vitamin C

What can Iron do?

• Responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood and providing energy
• Preserves cognitive function and supports the gastrointestinal system
• Gives energy for better exercise and work performance

Iron is heavily sourced in green vegetables, red meats, lentils and beans, nuts and seeds, dried fruit, grains.

What can Vitamin C do?

• Create healthy skin and bones
• Help repair and regenerate tissue
• Lessen the duration and symptoms of the common cold

Fruits, (tomatoes, berries, citrus fruits), vegetables (leafy greens, peppers, cauliflower), breads and grains are enriched with vitamin C.

Vitamin C is essential for helping the body absorb the benefits of iron.

3. Potassium and Sodium

What can Potassium do?

• Lower high blood pressure
• Improve cardiovascular health
• Enhance muscle strength

You’ll find potassium in vegetables and fruits like leafy greens, avocados, mushrooms, tomatoes, and bananas.

What can Sodium do?

• Raise low blood pressure
• Regulate fluid levels
• Support muscle and nerve functions

Sodium (i.e. salt) can be found in soups, cheese, cold cuts, and cured meat.

Keep in mind, sodium should be eaten in moderation.

You can be at risk of increased blood pressure and a potential heart attack if your sodium intake is too high.

4. Vitamin B12 and folate

What can Vitamin B12 do?

• Maintaining healthy nerve cells
You will find vitamin B12 in meat, eggs, and milk.

What can Folate do?

• Help make DNA and other genetic material

Folate is found in vegetables, fruits, fruit juices, nuts, beans, peas, and grains.

Folate (also called folic acid) is one of the eight B vitamins and depends on B12 to be absorbed, stored, and metabolised.

Together, they aid growth and development by supporting cell division and replication. They also help iron to work well in the body and are involved in immune function.

5. Niacin and tryptophan

What can Niacin (Vitamin B3) do?

• Support the digestive process by breaking down carbohydrates, fat, and proteins and converting them into energy
You will find niacin in food like meats, eggs, legumes, almonds, tuna, and mushrooms.

What can Tryptophan do?

• Prevent the development of pellagra (a disease with symptoms like diarrhea, rashes and dementia)

You will find tryptophan in food such as nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs.

Tryptophan is a source of niacin, as your liver uses tryptophan to produce niacin.

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Dr Ryan Harvey

Dr Ryan Harvey is the Deputy Clinical Director at House Call Doctor. Dr Harvey is highly experienced in paediatrics, and has administered medical care to children living in remote overseas communities. He now works with many families, administering acute care when unexpected medical situations arise overnight.