Studies have shown that certain nutrients maximize bodily absorption when paired with other specific nutrients. For example, milk provides a substantial dose of calcium but the total amount of calcium is not fully absorbed unless a source of vitamin D is consumed at the same time. Likewise, the amount absorbed is reduced when oxalic acid, found in many leafy greens like spinach, is present. Knowledge of these not so obvious combinations is important to help get the daily dose of nutrients that keep our bodies functioning and energized. Follow this guide to see which elements to pair together and which to eat separately.

Copper and Iron

Copper enhances iron absorption in the body to keep hemoglobin production in red blood cells and oxygen transport running smoothly. Copper also plays a vital role in healing wounds and keeping glucose and cholesterol levels in check. Only about 2 milligrams of copper are required per day, so deficiencies are very rare.

Sources of Iron: red meat, tofu, shellfish, sesame seeds, dried apricots
Sources of Copper: shellfish, almonds, beans, whole grains, leafy green vegetables

Match: mussels with spinach; quinoa, apricot, almond salad with tofu chunks

Avoid: calcium and vitamin D

Pair Nutrients to Maximize Their Benefits

Photo by Julia Maguire

Magnesium and Calcium

Magnesium and calcium work together to reap maximum benefits; without magnesium, calcium cannot be fully absorbed, and vice versa. Magnesium increases the element calcitonin, and transfers calcium into our system. Magnesium also monitors glucose levels, heart function and blood pressure, and prevents hypertension.

Sources of Calcium: milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu
Sources of Magnesium: unrefined grains, seeds, bananas, peanut butter

Match: yogurt with chopped bananas and peanut butter; unrefined grain cereal with milk

Avoid: oxalic acid; iron

Pair Nutrients to Maximize Their Benefits

Photo by Hannah Lin

Potassium and Magnesium

Magnesium aids in potassium absorption to regulate the kidneys and cardiovascular system, and provides physical stamina for daily activity. It’s especially important to have a snack that’s high in potassium before hitting the gym; try a banana covered in peanut butter. Potassium also helps lower high blood pressure.

Sources of Potassium: bananas, potatoes, dried fruit, avocado
Sources of Magnesium: unrefined grains, seeds, bananas, peanut butter

Match: avocado sprinkled with sunflower seeds; dried fruit covered in peanut butter; muesli with fresh fruit and peanut butter

Avoid: canned or frozen fruits and vegetables; caffeine

Pair Nutrients to Maximize Their Benefits

Photo by Christina Cala