Written by Jonathan Aluzas

I remember hearing about “synergy” for the first time in ninth grade in a class called Public Health and Safety.? It was one of those cautionary classes; don’t drink, don’t smoke, drive safely and don’t get anyone pregnant, the sort of information our parents were supposed to pass on to us but were generally too embarrassed to do so.? When I first heard of “synergy” we were talking about Marilyn Monroe.

“Marilyn Monroe died of an overdose of alcohol and barbiturates,” the teacher, Mr. Cook, said.? “Combining alcohol and barbiturates significantly increases the potency of each substance.? That’s called “synergy.”? When synergy is present, 1 + 1 doesn’t equal 2, it equals 10.? Did you get that?? 1 + 1 = 10.”

1 + 1 = 10.? I never forgot that equation, but I never had much cause to use it, not being a barbiturate user myself (what the hell is a barbiturate?? It must be an old-school intoxicant because it sure seemed to crash through Old Hollywood like a tornado, leaving bodies in it’s wake).

That old 1 + 1 = 10 equation came to mind recently when I came across some information about what some people are calling “food synergy.”? This concept theorizes that foods are much more potent nutritionally when combined than when they are eaten singularly.? To me, this makes sense.? After all, no single food item contains all the necessary nutrients for human survival.? We have been told for years to eat a variety of foods; fruits, vegetable, grains, proteins, etc., in order to amass a comprehensive intake of nutrients.? Recent studies show that there is a sound reason for this: The nutrients in certain foods, when combined, act synergistically and increase nutrient potency.

Although it’s difficult to determine whether synergy is a constant when combining foods, research has determined that combining the following foods has definitive synergistic advantages:

Tomatoes and Broccoli

  • Slows prostate tumor growth.? A curious combination, but I’m sure someone with greater culinary skills than I have can make a tasty meal including these two super foods.

Apples with the peel on

  • Not quite sure why a the pulp of a fruit combined with the peel equals synergy, but that’s what the articles said.? The peel of the apple seems to possess the mother-lode of anti-cancer properties.? The phytochemicals in the apple flesh appear to work best with the phytochemicals in the peel in a way that reduces the risk of cancer.? So, don’t peel your apples!

Cooked, UNPEELED Tomatoes combined with Olive Oil

  • Again, don’t peel your fruits and veggies.? In the case of the tomato, almost 100% of the flavonols are found in the skin, along with two important caretonoids.? Absorption of these vital nutrients is enhanced greatly when the tomatoes are cooked and combined with a healthy fat, like olive oil.? I’m guessing this is a good pasta sauce combination.

Cruciferous Vegetables (kale, cabbage, Brussels sprout, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.)

  • There’s a mind-numbing explanation as to the benefits of combining cruciferous veggies, but I’ll sum
    Nasty looking, but healthy!
    Nasty looking, but healthy!

    it up; doing so protects us against liver cancer and activates detoxification enzymes that rid us of carcinogenic substances.

Apples, Onions, and Berries + Green Tea, Purple Grapes and Grape Juice

  • Or any combination of the first group of foods with the second, although onions seem to throw a bit of cold water on this collective, from a taste-perspective anyway (Grape/Onion Juice, anyone?).? Quercetin and catechin, important phytochemicals, work together to stop platelet clumping, a cause of heart attacks.

Peanut Butter Sandwich

  • Pairing peanut butter with whole wheat bread enables the body to get the proper sequence of amino acids, which help in making protein.? Individually, each element is incomplete, but together they make a complete protein.? Not sure where jelly fits into the equation, but I’m just going to throw in some of my dad’s homemade Pomegranate Jelly and celebrate the addition of antioxidants!

Vitamin C and Iron

  • Combining Vitamin C with plant-based iron sources renders the iron more readily absorb-able.? What the heck, I’m not much for chick peas and Brussels sprouts, but I’ll toss some Mandarin oranges onto my spinach salad.

These are only a few of the synergistic combinations recently discovered.? I’m sure that, as time passes, we’ll reveal more and more information about how foods work together to maximize health. Mother Nature is no fool.? If she was, she wouldn’t have made so many different foods so delicious.

For more in-depth information about food synergy, check out the articles below:






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Jonathan Aluzas is the owner of Arena Fitness in Encino, California.