Good nutrition depends not only on what you eat, but also on how well your body absorbs or uses vitamins and minerals in your food. Some nutrients are best absorbed or utilized when consumed with certain other nutrients. Here are easy dishes that combine complementary foods for a synergistic nutritional bonanza—and taste great.

TO BOOST:

Beta-carotene, which…
• Provides antioxidants that protect cells from harmful free radicals
• Enhances immune function

EAT WITH:

Polyunsaturated fat, which…
• Supports cognitive function
• Fights inflammation

EASY STEPS:

For beta-carotene, steam sliced butternut squash or carrots just until soft…for polyunsaturated fat, serve the vegetables with tuna or herring.
For beta-carotene, bake a sweet potato or half an acorn squash…for polyunsaturated fat, drizzle with flaxseed oil.

TO BOOST:

Calcium, which…
• Builds bones
• Helps control blood pressure

EAT WITH:

Vitamin D, which…
• Strengthens bones and teeth
• Protects against various cancers

EASY STEPS:

For calcium, toss together chopped fresh collard greens and shredded Swiss cheese…for vitamin D, stir into beaten eggs to make an omelet or a quiche.
For calcium, broil salmon or perch and serve on a bed of spinach or dandelion greens…for vitamin D, top with mushrooms.

TO BOOST:

Folate, which…
• Reduces risk for Alzheimer’s disease
• Protects against birth defects

EAT WITH:

Vitamin C, which…
• Neutralizes toxic by-products of fat metabolism
• Improves absorption of iron, needed for red blood cells

EASY STEPS:

For folate, make a spinach and asparagus salad…for vitamin C, toss with orange slices, strawberries and lemon vinaigrette.
For folate, cook great northern beans or black-eyed peas…for vitamin C, stir in chopped tomatoes and red or orange bell peppers.

TO BOOST:

Lutein, which…
• Protects eyesight
• Combats skin cell damage

EAT WITH:

Monounsaturated fat, which…
• Lowers cholesterol and blood pressure
• May combat cancer-causing cell damage

EASY STEPS:

For lutein, make a salad of romaine lettuce, green peas and hard-boiled egg…for monounsaturated fat, add avocado slices, shredded low-fat mozzarella and olive oil.
For lutein, mix up a fruit medley of sliced peaches, papaya and oranges…for monounsaturated fat, stir in chopped hazelnuts, slivered almonds and pumpkin seeds.

TO BOOST:

Potassium, which…
• Promotes function of nerve and muscle cells
• Maintains normal blood pressure and heart function

EAT WITH:

Magnesium, which…
• Regulates heartbeat and muscle contractions
• Strengthens bones

EASY STEPS:

For potassium, combine lentils and lima beans…for magnesium, stir the legumes into quinoa or bulgur.
For potassium, toss together dried apricots and dried banana chips…for magnesium, add bran cereal, pumpkin seeds and Brazil nuts to make trail mix.

TO BOOST:

Zinc, which…
• Strengthens the immune system
• Speeds wound healing

EAT WITH:

Protein, which…
• Helps build and repair body tissues
• Is needed to make hormones and other body chemicals

EASY STEPS:

For zinc, stir-fry diced chicken breast and chickpeas…for protein, sprinkle with chopped cashews.
For zinc, mix wheat germ into enriched breakfast cereal…for protein, top with low-fat yogurt.