Perfect Pairs: Maximize Your Nutrient Absorption


by Kristen Troy

Eating balanced meals that offer the proper amount of nutrition can feel daunting. Meal planning can become even more daunting when you learn that some nutrients don’t absorb well on their own. Similarly to people, how couples bring out the best in each other, so do some of our nutrients. 

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Iron + Vitamin C

Did you know about 20% of women, 50% of pregnant women, and 3% of men don’t have enough iron in their body?

Iron is a mineral that helps produce hemoglobin in red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout the body. There are two forms of dietary iron, heme and nonheme. Heme iron is found in red meats, seafood, and poultry and has a 15 – 35% absorption rate. Plant sources contain nonheme iron, which has a lower absorption rate of 2 – 20%. Not having enough iron in the body can cause an individual to feel weak, tired, and irritable. To help increase the absorption of iron, compliment your iron-rich foods with vitamin C rich foods. 

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin because the body cannot produce it on its own. The body uses vitamin C for growth, development, and repair of all body tissues. Consuming Vitamin C at the same time as nonheme iron, the vitamin c pairs with the iron to increase the solubility of iron in the small intestine. 

Try the following Perfect Pairs to increase your iron absorption: 

  • Black Beans + Red Pepper
  • Chickpeas + Red Pepper
  • Spinach + Strawberries
  • Tofu + Lemon
  • Apricots + Strawberries

Calcium + Vitamin D

Did you know approximately 10 million Americans have osteoporosis, and another 44 million have low bone density?

Calcium is a mineral that the body used to maintain strong bones and helps the heart, muscles, and nerves function properly. If the body is lacking calcium, health problems could arise, such as muscle cramping, fatigue, dental problems, depression, brittle nails, and osteoporosis. Making sure to have Vitamin D rich foods in your diet will help calcium absorption. 

Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut. It also helps calcium with bone health. In addition to healthy bones, vitamin D helps with cell growth, immune function and reduces inflammation. Not only can you get vitamin D naturally in some foods, but you can also get fortified food products, vitamin D through sun exposure, and supplements.

Try the following Perfect Pairs to increase your calcium absorption:


  • Baked Salmon with a Yogurt Cucumber Dill Sauce
  • Egg, Broccoli, & Cheese Omelet
  • Swordfish + Broccoli

Turmeric + Piperine

Sometimes referred to as a superfood or the “golden” spice, turmeric gets most of it’s healing properties from a chemical called curcumin. Curcumin is an antioxidant that helps decrease inflammation, among other benefits. The content of curcumin in turmeric is relatively low, 3% by weight, and has poor absorption in the bloodstream because it moves through the body too quickly. Some studies have been done and found that pairing turmeric with black pepper can help absorption by up to 2,000%! Piperine is an alkaloid found in black pepper, slows the body’s processing of curcumin because it is an inhibitor of intestinal absorption, causing more curcumin to absorb.

Try the following Perfect Pairs to increase curcumin absorption:

Vitamin K + Healthy Fats

This fat-soluble vitamin helps with blood clotting to reduce excessive bleeding. There are very few Vitamin K deficiencies, but pairing some foods together could help you maintain a sufficient amount. Since this vitamin is fat-soluble, it is absorbed better when it is consumed with healthy fats. 

Try the following Perfect Pairs for Vitamin K absorption:

  • Brussel Sprouts + Olive Oil
  • Kale Chips made with Olive Oil
  • Cooked green beans with almond slivers

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