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Home/Blog/10 Summer Food Pairings for Flavor and Nutrition

10 Summer Food Pairings for Flavor and Nutrition

By Jill Levy

July 1, 2023

Food pairing

Summer food pairings often reflect the season's lightness, freshness and abundance of seasonal produce — such as berries, greens, stone fruits and herbs. Another great thing about eating seasonally in the summer is that you’ll obtain plenty of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, especially when you combine certain foods to highlight their health benefits.

What food pairings go well together during the summer? As you’ll learn below, healthy summer food combinations can include watermelon with feta cheese, fish with citrus, and tomatoes with jalapeño, basil, garlic or onions. 

However, you should always consult your healthcare professional prior to beginning any new dietary or lifestyle regimen. 

What Is a Food Pairing?

Food pairing refers to the practice of combining different foods together in a way that enhances their nutritional benefits and also brings out the best flavors in each ingredient.

While chefs and food manufacturers are mostly interested in creating harmonious taste experiences when combining foods, health experts are more focused on how food pairings impact our ability to absorb nutrients. 

Eating certain foods together helps us to break down and absorb their vitamins and minerals more easily; for example, pairing foods that contain vitamin C with foods that contain iron allows us to absorb both of these essential nutrients more effectively. 

Food pairings can be based on several factors, such as taste and nutrition content, depending on the goal of the pairing. Here are some ways food pairings are determined:

1. Nutritional Analysis

As mentioned above, some nutrients work in a complementary fashion and should ideally be eaten together to support nutrient absorption. For example, it’s beneficial to eat plant proteins together (such as grains and legumes), or vitamin D in conjunction with calcium.

2. Taste and Flavor

From a culinary perspective, foods are paired together when they share components that enhance their tastes. For instance, tomatoes with basil is a common food combo because their flavors complement one another.

Pairings can also be based on complementary or contrasting flavors. For example, salty and sweet or sour and sweet pairings make meals taste delicious.

3. Cultural Tradition

Many classic food pairings come from longstanding cultural traditions, such as lemon with fish or beans and rice.

4. Texture

Contrasting textures can also enhance the eating experience, such as pairing something crunchy with something creamy.

Food Pairing  vs. Food Combining

Food combining mostly focuses on the nutritional aspects of eating ingredients together, such as “incomplete proteins” (like beans or rice) in order to make a “complete protein” (which provides all needed amino acids).

While food pairings take into account different foods’ nutrients, they also focus on flavor, too.

Food Pairing  vs. Flavor Pairing

Flavor pairings aim to make meals taste good, but are less concerned with their health benefits. This is usually the approach that chefs take, such as by combining meat with acid, salt and fat to improve its taste.

Best Summer Food Pairings

Summer is a great time for fresh produce, with a variety of fruits and vegetables in season. In a perfect world, food combinations would taste delicious and also support digestion and our overall health.

What are some iconic food duos to try during the summer that also provide us with plenty of nutrients? 

Here are some examples of healthy summer food combinations:

1. Tomatoes and Basil

This is a classic summer pairing, particularly in Italian cuisine. Both tomatoes and basil (and other herbs) are full of antioxidants as well as fiber.

Try this combo by making homemade tomato sauce, or caprese salad with ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella and a drizzle of olive oil.

2. Watermelon and Feta

The sweetness of watermelon contrasts wonderfully with the salty, tangy flavor of feta cheese. They can be served together in a salad, often with a bit of mint. This pairing is a good source of vitamin C and calcium.

3. Corn and Lime

Organic corn, either grilled or in a salad, pairs beautifully with the zesty tang of lime. This pairing is featured in Mexican street corn (Elote) and also makes a great addition to salads.

4. Grilled Fish and Citrus

Citrus fruits, like lemon and lime, complement the lightness of grilled fish by adding a refreshing tang. Try flounder or cod with lemon or mahi or tuna with a lime marinade. This combo is a great way to boost your intake of protein.

5. BBQ and Slaw

Smoky barbecue flavors pair perfectly with the crisp, tangy notes of a slaw, balancing out richness with a refreshing crunch. Try BBQ chicken made with a low-sugar marinade along with a fresh slaw made with veggies such as carrots, scallions and cabbage. 

6. Strawberries or Peaches and Gorgonzola

The sweet juiciness of ripe peaches and strawberries works wonderfully with the salty, savory flavor of cheese.

7. Cucumbers and Dill

This combination is often seen in pickling, salads or yogurt-based sauces. It's a refreshing pairing that’s perfect as a side dish on hot summer days.

8. Avocado and Eggs

This is a popular pairing in breakfasts, such as spread on whole grain toast with wilted spinach or greens. Together, they provide filling protein and healthy fats, as well as potassium and B vitamins.

9. Cherries and Almonds

These pair wonderfully in desserts, like cherry and almond tarts, for instance. The almonds contain healthy fats that help with the absorption of cherries’ vitamins and antioxidants.

10. Berries and Cream

This is a simple, classic pairing that makes an easy dessert. Fresh summer berries like strawberries, blueberries or raspberries are delightful with a dollop of fresh cream or whipped cream (try a dairy-free coconut-based version).

Additionally, the produce below is in-season during the summer and makes great additions to recipes like salads, sales, stir-fries, and homemade desserts:

  • Zucchini and other summer squash

  • Kale

  • Bell peppers

  • Eggplant

  • Mint

  • Honeydew and cantaloupe melon

  • All types of berries

  • Stone fruits (peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries and apricots)

  • Mangoes

  • Figs

  • Green beans

  • Okra

Other Combinations to Try

Aside from the summer pairings listed above, here are other beneficial pairings to include in your routine year-round:

1. Collagen Powder and Vitamin C-Rich Foods

Collagen, a structural protein that supports healthy skin, joints, muscles, and digestive health, can be found in supplements such as Multi Collagen Protein. Among the best nutrients to pair with collagen is vitamin C, which helps collagen to support healthy connective tissues. Try combining the two in a smoothie made with berries, almond milk, a handful of spinach and Multi Collagen Protein powder.

2. Legumes and Brown Rice

Eating 100 percent whole grains with legumes/beans helps to provide you with all the essential amino acids you need. Buckwheat, quinoa, oats, chickpeas and black beans are other good options.

3. Spinach Salad with Citrus Fruits

Spinach is high in non-heme iron, and citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits are packed with vitamin C. Tossing them together in a salad can be a great way to pair these nutrients.

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