Top 10 Food Synergy Super Foods

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There’s more and more evidence that certain components in the foods and beverages we consume (like minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals, fiber, and fats) interact with each other to give our bodies extra disease protection and a higher level of health. This new nutritional concept is called food synergy, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, as more and more baby boomers pass or near the half-century mark (myself included). While writing my new book, Food Synergy, I noticed that 10 particular foods kept popping up in various chapters. I call these the 10 Synergy Super Foods because they have all sorts of synergistic potential going for them.

There are all types of food synergy, from different nutrients that are found together in the same whole food, to antioxidants, phytochemicals, and often, phytoestrogens. With all those nutrients in one package, it’s no wonder whole grains provide so many health benefits, including protection from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, , obesity, and some cancers.

  • Veggies — Especially Dark Green Ones
    Whether it’s the two vegetables high in viscous fiber (eggplant and okra); the cruciferous veggies (like kale and broccoli) with their anticancer organosulfur compounds; or the carotenoid family (like carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach) with their rich mix of phytochemicals, the message is clear: The more the merrier! Eat as many vegetables as you can, as often as you can. Dark green veggies, in particular, showed up on all sorts of food synergy lists in my book: for vegetables high in ; foods with multiple carotenoids; foods high in potassium, calcium, and ; and good sources of vitamin E.
  • Nuts
    Nuts contain mostly monounsaturated fat, and antioxidant phytochemicals (like flavonoids). Most also contribute phytosterols, which in sufficient amounts may help lower cholesterol, enhance the immune system, and decrease the risk of some cancers. Nuts also have some vitamins and minerals we tend to lack, like vitamin E, potassium, and magnesium. Two forms of vitamin E tend to work best together (alpha- and gamma-tocopherol), and you’ll find them in almonds, cashews, and walnuts. Walnuts also contain some plant omega-3s.
  • Tea (Especially Green Tea)
    With each sip, you get two potent flavonoids — anthocyanin and proanthocyanidin — plus a healthy dose of catechin, which may enhance the antioxidant activity of alpha-tocopherol (a form of vitamin E). Green and black teas also contain antioxidant polyphenols, thought to block cell damage that can lead to cancer. Phytochemicals in tea have a half-life of a few hours, so have a cup now and another later to get the biggest bang for your tea bag.
  • Olive Oil.
    There are 30-plus phytochemicals in olive oil, many of which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action in the body, helping to promote heart health and protect against cancer. They’re also found in the olives themselves, of course.
  • Fish
    Fish offers -healthy omega-3 fatty acids, along with a dose of potassium. It’s also a rare natural food source of vitamin D. A recent Norwegian study found that the intake of fish and fish products was strongly linked to higher mental performance in a group of men and women aged 70-74. And because lean fish had the same health benefits as fatty fish in this study, it may not be just the omega-3s at work, but perhaps a combination of components found in fish. Fish omega-3s may also have some synergy with plant omega-3s and olive oil, so cook your seafood with a little canola oil or olive oil. Or, serve your seafood with a side dish rich in plant omega-3s or lightly dressed in olive oil.
  • Tomatoes
    Tomatoes contain all four major carotenoids, which have synergy as a group. Few fruits and vegetables can say that! Tomatoes also contain three high-powered antioxidants thought to have synergy together (beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C) as well as lycopene, which has synergy with several food components.
  • Citrus
    The whole citrus family is loaded with synergy because it boasts plenty of vitamin C and the phytochemical subgroup flavones, which are thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action in the body, as well as other benefits. Oranges also offer two carotenoids: and zeaxanthin. Grapefruits are rich in the antioxidant lycopene.
  • Flaxseed
    Ground flaxseed seems to have synergy within itself on many levels, through fiber, lignans (plant estrogens), and plant omega-3s. But the seed may have synergy with several other foods, such as fish omega-3s and soy, and these are just the ones we know about. Remember, it’s ground flaxseed you want to add to your yogurt or cereal. All those healthy components aren’t absorbed and available to the body until the seed is ground.
  • Low-Fat Dairy
    Dairy foods deliver a team of players that’s important for (calcium, vitamin D, protein, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamins A and B6), some of which have synergy together. combined with vitamin D, for example, may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Including a couple of low-fat dairy servings a day is also part of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet to lower hypertension.
  • The Bottom Line to Food Synergy

    The bottom line wisdom to food synergy is evident. I predict it will still be evident five years from now after hundreds more studies are published, and I wanted to get this exciting news out as soon as possible. And here’s the bonus: The more you incorporate powerhouse foods and beverages into your day, the less room there is for the more processed and nutrient-poor foods and beverages that now monopolize so many of our diets.