What to pair with your health foods to make them *even healthier*

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Photo: Stocksy/Natasha Mandic; Graphic: Well+Good Creative

Even if your wellness game already deserves an A+, there are ways to get extra credit. You may expertly know how to whisk matcha and have a go-to kale salad recipe on lock, but a quick lesson in food pairing will take your habits up a notch.

Here, registered dietitian and BZ Nutrition founder Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, reveals how certain ingredients work together for even stronger results. And all the combos taste delish, too. Talk about a win-win!

Keep reading for 6 better-together health food pairings.

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turmeric and pepper
Photo: Stocksy/Natasha Mandic; Graphic: Well+Good Creative

Turmeric & black pepper

Chances are, you already know about the crazy healing benefits of turmeric. It’s essentially inflammation‘s worst enemy. But it turns out that you can make it even more powerful by pairing it with black pepper. “Piperine—the active ingredient in black pepper—actually slows down the rate the body metabolizes turmeric, so you end up absorbing more of it,” Zeitlin says. And that means, you get even more of those healing properties.

If you’re cooking with turmeric or making a nice, hot cup of golden milk, you can mix the black pepper right in. And if you’re taking your turmeric in supplement form, look for one specifically made with curcumin—the active ingredient in turmeric—and piperine (or black pepper).

matcha and pepper
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Matcha & black pepper

Black pepper doesn’t just help give your turmeric latte extra benefits. Zeitlin says it works with matcha, too—for a completely different reason. “Matcha is really high in an antioxidant called EGCG, and the piperine in black pepper has been shown to help your body increase the absorption of EGCG,” she says. With a sprinkling of pepper, “you’re able to absorb more of that powerful antioxidant from your matcha!”

avocado and kale
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Kale & avocado

While some may argue that avocados make everything better, there’s a reason why Zeitlin calls out kale specifically. “Healthy fats, like avocado, help us absorb fat-soluble vitamins, which include vitamins A, D, E, and K,” she says. “The vitamins are then stored in our fat so we have an ample supply to tap into when they’re needed.”

Dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale are full of vitamin K, an essential nutrient for protecting the body from wear and tear (especially if you work out a lot) and regulating blood flow. Make sure you’re getting the maximum benefits by adding healthy fats to your salad, like olive oil, nuts, or of course, the aforementioned avocado.

olive oil and tomato
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Tomato & olive oil

Olive oil doesn’t just give your greens a healthy boost—Zeitlin says it can kick up the benefits in tomatoes, too. “Tomatoes are high in lycopene, an antioxidant, and olive oil actually raises the activity level of it,” she says. Is it any surprise that the Mediterranean Diet is a fave among medical professionals?

The pairing works whether you’re sauteeing your tomatoes or eating them raw, a la a caprese salad.

spirulina and nut butter
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Spirulina & nut butter

Spirulina is one of nature’s most potent superfoods. Packed with nutrients including vitamin B-12, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, and chromium, it supports brain health and boosts the immune system. If you’re adding it to your morning smoothie, Zeitlin recommends dropping a spoonful or two of nut butter into your blender, too. “Healthy fats will help you absorb the nutrients better,” she explains.

And hey, it doesn’t hurt that it will help mask spirulina’s fishy taste, too. (Not everything good for you tastes as delish as cacao.)

cherries and dark chocolate
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Cherries & dark chocolate

This is one of Zeitlin’s all-time favorite health combos, and they just so happen to be better together: “Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants, one of them being catechin, which is also found in green tea. And dark cherries have an antioxidant called quercetin that’s a powerful antihistamine, which is great for fighting allergies and colds. When you pair them together, they help absorb each other.”

This yummy pairing is good for your heart and keeps your immune system in top form. Don’t you love a dessert with benefits?

Another unlikely but great couple: matcha and beer. And these are the best foods to pair with your collagen.

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