Expert: Pairing some foods packs big benefits

Sass recommends eating whole grains with onions or garlic to fight inflammation.
CBS

Pairing up certain foods is natural, such as peanut butter and jelly. But, according to registered dietician Cynthia Sass, combining some foods can actually make them much more beneficial to your health than eating them separately.

Sass, author of "Cinch: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches" discussed some of those great food combos she says pack powerful benefits.

On "The Early Show," Sass shared the following pairings, their potential effects on your health and some easy dishes you can whip up at home to get the foods' benefits:

Salsa and guacamole: Salsa counts as a veggie and is rich in antioxidants and guacamole is a great source of vitamin E and heart healthy fat. When we combine salsa and guacamole, you get more nutrition bang per bite. Researchers at Ohio State looked at the absorption of several key antioxidants when men and women ate salads and salsa with and without fresh avocado. When salads were peppered with 2.5 tablespoons of avocado, the subjects absorbed over eight times more alpha-carotene and 13 times more beta-carotene, both of which help fight cancer and heart disease.

Dishes featuring salsa and guacamole:

1. Fish tacos: soft corn tortillas filled shrimp and salsa or pico de gallo dressed with guacamole

2. Homemade baked corn tortilla chips with both salsa and guacamole for dipping

Beans and red peppers: Beans are a terrific source of fiber and minerals including iron and red peppers are bursting with vitamin C - a half cup packs even more than a medium orange. When we combine beans and red peppers their power is even greater. One cup of cooked kidney beans contains about 25 percent of your daily iron needs. But just two percent to 20 percent of the iron in plant foods makes its way from your digestive tract into your blood, compared to 15 percent to 35 percent from animal-based iron foods. Fortunately, vitamin C gives plant-based iron a sizeable boost, upping the absorption by six times. If you're a vegetarian or avoid red meat make a habit of pairing these up.

Dishes featuring beans and red peppers:

1. Vegetarian chili loaded with veggies including red bell peppers with pinto beans

2. Red pepper and white bean dip (ground up with vegetables and baked corn chips)

Broccoli and tomatoes: Broccoli and tomatoes are both major cancer fighters. But when we combine broccoli and tomatoes it's like 2+2=5. Researchers at the University of Illinois, Urbana, found that prostate tumors grew much less in rats fed tomatoes and broccoli than in rats who ate broccoli only, tomatoes alone, or diets containing disease protective substances isolated from tomatoes or broccoli. If you don't have a prostate to protect, the cancer defense this duo offers may also extend to ovarian cancer, a disease that often becomes symptomatic only after it has spread to other organs.

Dishes featuring broccoli and tomatoes:

1. Italian broccoli with tomatoes

2. Kabobs with little broccoli florets skewered and grape or cherry tomatoes brushed with olive oil and roasted or grilled

Cranberries and apples: Cranberries and apples are known as "superfoods" for their antioxidant power. But when we combine cranberries and apples you get more than double the disease protection. Scientists at the American Institute for Cancer Research measured the antioxidant capacity of fruits and veggies alone and together, and found that when cranberries, the food with the highest antioxidant score, were combined with apples (next on the list), there was a synergistic effect. In other words, their combined score was greater than the sum of the parts.

Dishes featuring cranberries and apples:

1. Cranberry/apple smoothie that combines 100 percent cranberry juice with 100 percent apple juice, nonfat yogurt and some fresh grated ginger

2. Salad with fruit (dried cranberries and apples)

Green tea and black pepper: Green tea is the anti-aging, disease fighting beverage and black pepper offers antioxidants and improves digestion. But when we combine green tea and black pepper you get a significant boost in key nutrients. A recent animal study found that the combo boosts the absorption of EGCG, an antioxidant in tea tied to calorie burning, by a whopping, 130 percent.

Dishes featuring green tea and black pepper:

1. Chicken rubbed with tea leaves combined with pepper and other herbs like thyme

2. Salmon rubbed similarly

Whole grains with garlic or onions:

Whole grains fight obesity, heart disease and diabetes while garlic and onions fight inflammation. But when we combine whole grains with garlic or onions the effects are enhanced. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that combining garlic and/or onions with whole grains may help boost the absorption of iron and zinc, minerals that can be tough to absorb from plant-based sources. Iron helps transport oxygen to all of your cells and zinc boosts immunity. The sulfur compounds in onions and garlic, which give them their characteristic odor, may be the key.

Dishes featuring whole grains with garlic or onions:

1. Side dish made with whole wheat pasta tossed with red onions, garlic and fresh basil sauteed in extra virgin olive oil

2. Quinoa with vegetables