Food Synergy: Nutrients That Work Better Together

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Sometimes in life, we don’t see the forest for the trees. And the field of nutrition is no exception. We can get so focused on the health benefits of a certain vitamin or phytochemical that we miss an important point: Different components in a single food can work together to benefit our health, and so can components in different foods that are eaten together.

I remember sitting in green tea, purple grapes, and grape juice) worked together to help stop platelet clumping. Platelets are a component in that play an important role in forming clots. Platelets’ clumping together is one of several steps in blood clotting that can lead to a heart attack.

  • The Mediterranean-style diet is a perfect example of food synergy because it includes several healthful food patterns. (It’s rich in plant foods, whole grains, legumes and fish; low in meat and dairy products; and contains more monounsaturated than saturated fats because of its emphasis on olives, olive oil, and walnuts.) A recent study concluded that the Mediterranean diet may reduce the prevalence of both metabolic syndrome (a condition that includes excess body fat, high blood fats, and high blood pressure) and the cardiovascular risk that goes along with it. Another study found that a Mediterranean diet was associated with a 23% lower risk of early death from all causes.

All these examples remind us of just how complex nutritional relationships are. In my opinion, Mother Nature knew what she was doing when she created plant foods: There is magic in the packaging.