For years, we’ve been told that palak-paneer is a healthy, wholesome dish with the goodness of spinach which is rich in iron and cottage cheese which is full of calcium. Turns out it may not be the case.The science of food combinations is tricky but it is worth understanding. Simply put, the secret to healthy eating lies in pairing the right foods together that facilitate the absorption of all the nutrients. According to Ayurveda, if you pair your foods wrongly, it may lead to disrupt the balanced of doshas in your body and lead to indigestion. Wrong food combinations are perhaps the most common culprits of all your tummy troubles.
To be able to make the right choices, you need to know what foods go well together and those that don’t. So, what’s wrong with palak-paneer? Anuradha Madhusudhanan who runs an organic store in New Delhi explains, “When these minerals bind together they prevent nutrient absorption in the body. Studies suggest that calcium reduces iron absorption by 50-60%. ‘Don’t have milk and fish together’ is not just an old grandmother’s tale. This combination forms toxins in the body and destroy the body’s immunity.
While iron and calcium both are essential nutrients that your body requires, taking them together might not be the best thing to do. Some evidence does prove that calcium may inhibit the absorption of iron. For instance, studies conducted by Professor Hallberg and his team, from University of Göteborg in Sweden, found that that giving 165 mg of calcium in the form of milk, cheese or as a supplement of calcium chloride reducediron absorption by 50 to 60 percent. So, if this may not be the right combination, then what is?
(Also Read: Top 6 Vitamin-C Rich Foods)
The iron and vitamin c connection
While calcium may not be considered to be a good companion for iron, vitamin C is believed to be the perfect partner. Another study conducted by Professor Hallberg and his team shows a higher bio-availability of the dietary iron when consumed in combination of vitamin C.
“Eating a big bowl of iron-rich spinach may not be as healthy. The reason is that the oxalic acid in spinach binds with the iron which prevents its absorption by the body. The trick is to add some lime juice to enhance its nutritional perks. Vitamin C helps convert the iron to a ferrous state, which makes it easier for the body to absorb,” says Anuradha. Even the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States emphasizes on eating spinach with foods that contain a high amount of vitamin C improves the absorption of iron. According to them the inhibitors of iron include polyphenols (in certain vegetables), tannins (in tea), phytates (in bran), and calcium (in dairy products).
So, now that you’re aware about the right food combination, experiment and try different ingredients together to get your daily dose of iron. “Beetroot andamla make for a great iron-rich combination. Also, you must try moringa (drumsticks) which is known to help with anemia. It is a wonderful superfood rich in both iron and Vitamin C. It is best to consume a teaspoon of moringa powder every morning with water.”
Bangalore-based Nutritionist Dr. Anju Sood suggests lemon with soybean and also a mix of fruits like guava (rich in iron) and kiwi or oranges with guava as healthy food combinations that you can include in your daily diet to make it wholesome.