This month’s theme is all about synergy – the interaction or combination of two or more things to produce something greater than the sum of the separate parts. An example might be the synergy that is created between a yogi and their beloved guru, or between a singer and their band that provides the musical backdrop. And the same is true for nutrition, with many nutrients working synergistically within the body, often requiring certain nutrient partnerships, or even group combinations, to produce a required effect that you cannot get from the nutrients alone. Therefore, it is really important we make sure the body is getting the right balance of nutrients, which can be a very delicate balancing act, because in some situations certain nutrients can enhance the work of others, and in other situations, they may negatively affect the absorption, uptake, or metabolism of one another by acting as antagonists. We can even take it so far as to say that certain food combinations are actually more effective at promoting health than the foods by themselves, and this is often the case in traditional, non-Westernised diets.
An example of nutrients working together is in the case of some micronutrients and healthy fats. Vitamins A, E, K, and D, for example, are fat soluble vitamins, which means that to be effectively absorbed they need to be combined with some fat, and nature, being so wonderfully in tune with our bodies, often provides these vitamins already packaged with some fat, for example, vitamin D in fish, vitamin E in almonds, and vitamin A in beef liver. And for foods that don’t contain a lot of naturally occurring fat, fear not, just add some olive oil, nut oil, coconut oil, or avocado to your meals to help ramp up absorption of these super important vitamins.
For a more detailed list of some of the important synergistic nutrient interactions, check out my brief overview below..
- Vitamin A and E together lead to increased antioxidant power, and work synergistically to prevent inflammation, and support immunity and brain health.
- Vitamin A and vitamin C increase iron absorption, especially non-haem iron.
- Iron can interfere with the absorption of vitamin E – it is best to take supplements at separate times.
- Vitamin A can interfere with the absorption of vitamin K.
- Zinc with vitamin A helps maintain eye health.
- Zinc is needed for vitamin A transport.
- Vitamins C and E work synergistically for supercharged antioxidant defence. Vitamin C regenerates vitamin E.
- Vitamin D increases calcium absorption, and work synergistically for skeletomuscular health.
- Vitamin K works with calcium and vitamin D to support bone health.
- Magnesium is a cofactor for the activation of vitamin D.
- Potassium enhances calcium reabsorption, and excess sodium enhances calcium excretion.
- Zinc, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E together, keep antioxidant enzymes high and work to mitigate oxidative stress.
- A balance of the B vitamins supports brain health, mitochondrial function and energy production, and cardiovascular health.