4 healthy superfood pairs

Which foods pack an even bigger nutritional punch when paired up? Registered dietitian Matthew Kadey rounds up four healthy superfood pairs

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woman with food veggies

Dynamic food duos

New research is showing us that some disease-fighting foods do an even ?better job in the company of others. "A number of nutrients and antioxidants work synergistically to produce a health benefit that outweighs what you would get if you ate them on their own," says Wendy Bazilian, a registered dietitian in San Diego, and author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet. We found four dynamic duos that prove when it comes to nutrients, two can be better than one.

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sesame salmon

Pair salmon & sesame seeds to reduce PMS symptoms

When you're shopping at the fish counter or in the canned fish aisle, be sure to cast your line for salmon. Just three ounces (90 g)-that's about half a can-provide more than the daily requirement for vitamin D. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found women who had the highest intake of the "sunshine vitamin," as well as calcium, lowered their risk of PMS by 30 to 40 percent. You can get calcium from dairy, of course, but you can also find it in sesame seeds, almonds and leafy greens such as kale.

Try this: For an easy weeknight supper, make salmon burgers. In a bowl, flake two 160-gram cans of drained sockeye boneless/skinless salmon with a fork. Mix in 1/2 cup (125 mL) rolled oats, 1 large egg (another source of vitamin D), 2 tablespoons (30 mL) sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon (5 mL) cumin, the juice of half a lemon and 1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) black pepper. Form into 4 equal-sized patties and grill over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes per side, or until lightly browned. Serve on 100 percent whole-wheat buns with baby spinach and sliced tomatoes. Enjoy with a glass of skim milk for added calcium.

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soba noodles and broccoli

Pair soba noodles & broccoli for a stronger heart

When LDL ( "bad") cholesterol particles are oxidized, they are more likely to become plaque in artery walls, leading to heart disease. Antioxidants help fight this oxidation. German researchers discovered that the antioxidants rutin and vitamin C work synergistically to halt LDL oxidation. Rutin is found in buckwheat, the whole grain used to make nutty-tasting soba noodles (a Japanese staple found in the pasta and international aisles at grocery stores). And, of course, vitamin C is found in many fruit and vegetables, including broccoli, citrus fruit and tomatoes.

Try this: For an easy-to-pack lunch, prepare a package of soba ?noodles according to directions and toss with 2 cooked and cubed skinless chicken breasts, 2 cups (500 mL) steamed broccoli florets, 2 chopped tomatoes, 2 tablespoons (30 mL) extra virgin olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) red chili pepper flakes. Store in the fridge. Makes 4-6 servings.

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tofu

Pair tofu & jalapenos to reduce inflammation

Scientists in Korea have discovered that genistein (an isoflavone with antioxidant properties found in soy foods such as edamame and tofu) plus capsaicin (an antioxidant that gives chili peppers and jalapeños a fiery kick) helps tame inflammation. Chronic inflammation in the body is known to be a risk factor for heart disease and cancer. Capsaicin also helps reduce blood pressure, offering even more heart-healthy benefits.

Try this: Toss up an easy, meatless stir-fry by combining cubed firm tofu with chopped fresh vegetables and a little fresh ginger and minced jalapeños; splash with low-sodium soy sauce. Or, for a nutritious afternoon snack, prepare 1 cup (250 mL) shelled edamame (found in the frozen vegetable section of most grocery stores) according to package directions and season with 1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) sea salt, a pinch of cayenne or chili powder, and a squirt of fresh lemon juice. Makes about 2 servings.

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chickpeas

Pair onions & chickpeas to get more energy

According to a 2010 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, sulfur compounds in onions, garlic and leeks can help you absorb more iron and zinc from grains and legumes, including chickpeas. "Iron is involved in oxygen transport in the body, so an iron deficiency can cause fatigue and 'brain fog,'?" notes Bazilian. "Premenopausal women need to be diligent about getting iron in their diet due to blood loss through menstruation."

Try this: Make an energy-boosting soup: Sauté 1 diced onion and 2 chopped garlic cloves along with 2 teaspoons (10 mL) vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until onions are soft. Pour in 4 cups (1 litre) low-sodium vegetable broth, one 540-mL can of chickpeas (drained and rinsed), 1 diced carrot, 1 diced celery stalk, 1 teaspoon (5 mL) dried sage, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 15 minutes and garnish with fresh cilantro. Makes about 4 servings.

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