Healthful food combinations

January 31 2009 post. The most recent Cancer Compass newsletter ( gives us some good food combination ideas. For instance, if you are preparing a spinach salad, add a mandarin orange to it or, another suggestion (=mine), some lemon juice. The vitamin C contained in citrus fruit not only makes spinach taste better but also helps our bodies absorb the iron present in this vegetable and other leafy greens.


My note: an excellent way to eat spinach, the Italian way, is to steam it (lightly), then toss it in a separate pan with a bit of olive oil and chopped up garlic (or whole garlic, if you prefer). Stir it all up for a few minutes, then take it off the heat and add lemon juice. It’s an easy peasy tasty method that can be applied to any leafy vegetables–chicory and kale, for instance. Another suggestion: to absorb more of the iron contained in red meat, I always eat it with a green salad or steamed broccoli/spinach flavoured with olive oil and…lemon juice.


Spinach is in season now, and I have been buying it freshly picked at the local farmers’ cooperative. A bit of a drag to clean (best to let it soak for a while), but such a delightful food, and sooo good for us. I recently tried a new Indian recipe for lentil and spinach curry, adding more turmeric and ginger than the original recipe recommended, and it was so delicious that even my father-in-law, who eats only Italian food and is suspicious of anything remotely exotic, had three helpings.


Back to Cancer Compass (you can sign up for the free newsletter, btw). Another good food combination: broccoli and tomatoes. Too bad they aren’t really in season together. After reading Barbara Kingsolver’s new book (“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”), I am sticking to local vegetables in season. At any rate, when we add, e.g., olive oil to tomatoes and other carotenoids, we are helping our bodies absorb their healthful nutrients.


Carotenoids, by the way, can be found in foods as diverse as carrots, apricots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, pink grapefruit, salmon, milk and egg yolks. Odd list, huh? Well, just have a look at the World’s Healthiest Foods excellent page on this topic: Interesting WHF suggestion: cayenne pepper or hot chili pepper added to carotenoids also enhance nutrient absorption. Hmmm, not at all a bad idea!


The Cancer Compass article ends with more than a hint of disapproval toward fat-free salad dressings. I was very happy to read this part, since I have always thought that fat-free foods taste like cardboard. Years ago, in the U.S., I tried fat-free or 1 or 2% fat milk. Horrible, tasteless, might as well drink water (= better for you, too). Hence, in my opinion, it is better to eat less but have some…fat. Obviously, I refer to the “good” fats. Anyway, according to the article, the reason to use “fat” salad dressings is that olive oil, for instance, makes many healthful nutrients more bioavailable to us…nutrients such as lutein in the green peppers, the capsanthin in the red peppers, the lycopene in the tomatoes, even the limonene in the lemon. There you go. So…go ahead and enjoy a bit of fat!


I love the article’s final suggestion: The best way to spot synergy on your plate — and to ensure a nutritious meal — is to make sure it has a minimum of three colors and contains healthful fat (avocado, olive oil or nuts).


Note: this is my 500th post (!). And, since I began this blog, I have had 1705 comments. Wowie!

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