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Maybe you’ve heard of the food combining principle that states eating certain food groups together optimizes digestion and health. The rules include drinking liquids away from mealtime (with which I agree, because liquids dilute digestive juices); eating melons alone; not combining protein with starchy veggies or legumes–e.g. no chicken with beans (what about Mexican food?!). You basically combine low carb veggies like leafy greens with protein. This is all well and good and may improve digestion, but there is an even more effective way to combine foods so that you get the most bang for your buck.

Vitamins and minerals need “co-factors” such as enzymes, other vitamins, or macronutrients (like fat) to be effectively absorbed in the body. For example, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K need to be consumed with fat or they are not absorbed fully. So when you are drinking fat free milk, guess what? Critical vitamins A & D are not being absorbed because there is no fat to allow absorption. Nature knows what’s best: food in its original packaging. Drink organic, preferably raw, whole milk if you are not sensitive to dairy. Another example is vitamin C: it needs bioflavanoids to be absorbed. Lucky for us, when we eat citrus fruit, the pithy part contains a good dose of bioflavanoids so the C is optimally absorbed. If you take a vitamin C supplement that does not have a bioflavanoid co-factor (often acerola cherry or quercetin & rutin), you are getting ripped off.

Let’s talk iron. Iron is a necessary mineral for oxygenation of the cells and energy. Consume vitamin C with your iron and enhance absorption. High C foods besides citrus include red peppers, tomatoes, and broccoli. I smell a stir-fry with beef! Remember that coffee, tea, alcohol can interfere with absorption of iron, so don’t drink wine with your asian beef & red pepper stir fry.

Vitamin A, necessary for good eyesight, is best consumed with beta carotene, the nutrient that gives foods such as sweet potatoes and pumpkins their yellow-orange color. A great source is red palm oil! Red palm oil is a bit of a super food and is a great fat for high temp cooking. Try it as you would coconut oil (perhaps to stir-fry your beef and peppers). Better yet, make a curried carrot stir-fry with red palm oil. The vitamin A in the carrots with be better absorbed.

Another important point to mention is vitamin B, necessary for stress management, nervous system, and cardio function. We are chronically deficient in B vitamins, which can cause myriad problems such as heart palpitations and memory problems or anemia. Do not take isolated B vitamins if you take a supplement: be aware that they are best absorbed when taken as an entire complex. Again, nature has provided us with high vitamin B foods such as liver & egg yolks that contain B vitamins, both B6 & B12 in particular, two of the most important. Be aware that B vitamins are very delicate and easily destroyed by heat, so consider poaching eggs (or adding a raw yolk from a local farmer’s chicken to a smoothie. WARNING: DO NOT do this with conventional store-bought eggs from factory farmed chickens that may contain salmonella.) Cook meats rare or medium rare to preserve nutrients.

Here is a simple recipe:
Ingredients:
12 oz. grass fed sirloin or similar, cut into strips
2 – 3 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 small onion, sliced
1 small carrot, sliced
1 small red bell pepper, sliced
1 – 2 stalks green onions, chopped
3 – 4 cloves garlic, crushed
1” fresh ginger, peeled & sliced
Sea salt or tamari & pepper to taste
1 head broccoli
Marinade the meat in crushed garlic and sesame oil for approx. 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables. When ready, heat a wok or sauté pan on high heat. Add some coconut oil & sesame oil to the pan. Toss in the garlic, and ginger and stir for one minute. Add in the remainder of the vegetables and stir for about 2 – 3 minutes until they are tender, but not too soft. Transfer vegetables to a dish. In the same pan, add in beef slices with oil & garlic. Season with salt & pepper. Quickly stir fry until meat is still pink inside. Toss back the cooked vegetables and mix well. Serve immediately with chopped green onion on top. Pairs well with greens or brown rice.