Dr. Gary Kaplan is a leader in the field of integrative medicine, which combines the best elements of Western medicine and alternative treatments. That's why we're thrilled to feature him on mindbodygreen and share his expertise on nutrition.
To maintain optimal health, our bodies need vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts, are packed with these important compounds. They naturally help us boost our immune system, fight inflammation, and ward off chronic illness.
But as a physician and founder of the Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine, I also explain to my patients that optimal nutrition can go one step further. Have you heard of food synergy? It's an idea that has gained popularity in recent years and it maintains that certain components of different foods can work synergistically to bring greater nutritional benefit to our bodies.
For example, turmeric combined with black pepper (or more specifically peperine, a compound found in black pepper) increases the absorption of turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin. Curcumin has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent free radical damage and calm the inflammatory process at the root of many chronic diseases. This is a great illustration of food synergy at work — in which the right combination of substances work together to increase nutritional value and bring greater benefits to your body.
Interested in adding this idea to your diet? You might not realize it, but many common snacks and meals you already eat put the concept of food synergy into practice. Here are a few key examples of these pairings, and why they work: