Nutrient Synergy: The Power Couples Your Diet Is Missing

  • By Kinga Jasiak
  • 9 minute read
Nutrient Synergy: The Power Couples Your Diet Is Missing
  • image of Salma Dawood, BSc Human Nutrition
  • Expert reviewed by Salma Dawood, BSc Human Nutrition

Key Takeaways

  • Nutrient synergy refers to the collaboration of various nutrients within the body, where some work optimally when consumed together, rather than in isolation.
  • Combining vitamin C-rich foods with iron-rich options in your meals can significantly increase the absorption of non-heme iron.
  • Vitamin C enhances the antioxidant capacity of vitamin E, providing increased protection against oxidative stress.
  • The combination of Magnesium with vitamin B6 may support a healthy nervous system.
  • The pairing of vitamins D3 and K2 creates an ultimate synergy, optimizing calcium metabolism for the maintenance of both bone and cardiovascular health.
  • For individuals who may face challenges in obtaining adequate levels of vitamin D naturally, reliable vitamin D3 supplements provide a convenient solution to meet their needs.

Chemical reactions are everywhere in our daily lives. From the brewing of your morning coffee to the process of photosynthesis that keeps our planet green. Similarly, this chemical dance is happening within your own body.

Consider, for instance, the interplay among the nutrients you consume, whether from your diet or supplements. These nutrients interact in a complex network, influencing each other's absorption, utilization, and consequently, the impact on your health.

These interactions can be either positive, enhancing mutual activity; neutral; or negative, where the elements act in opposition.

Now, let's focus on the positive side - the 'good' kind of relationships.

Pills in a wooden spoon

Nutrient synergy explained

Nutrient synergy refers to the collaboration of various nutrients within the body. In essence, some nutrients perform optimally when consumed together, rather than in isolation. (1)

Nutrients are likely to be considered synergistic when any of the following holds true:

  • They facilitate each other's absorption or bioavailability.
  • They provide complementary physiological functions in the body.
  • They participate in the same cellular pathways or processes.

Nutrient synergy is observed among various types of nutrients, including macronutrients like fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, as well as micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, and even phytochemicals. (2)

Recognizing these interactions can be key to effective food and/or supplement pairing.

Let's take a closer look at the nutrients that work hand-in-hand:

Iron & Vitamin C

Function and Types of Iron

Function and Types of Iron

Have you ever struggled to climb stairs without feeling out of breath, or stay laser-focused on a critical work project? It may boil down to iron, a humble mineral essential for ensuring oxygen flows smoothly through your body and brain.

However, not all iron is built the same. Heme iron, mainly from animal products, is known for its relatively high absorption. On the other hand, non-heme iron, the type found in plant-based sources and supplements, can be trickier for your body to absorb. (3)

But fear not, there's a simple trick to ensure you get the most out of this essential nutrient.

Optimizing Non-heme Iron Absorption with Vitamin C

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a powerful antioxidant with plenty of health benefits. One of its lesser-known roles is its ability to enhance the absorption of non-heme iron - the type of iron found in plant-based foods and supplements.

Teaming up vitamin C with non-heme iron supercharges its absorption in the body. Some studies have revealed an astounding increase - up to a 400% surge - in the body's capacity to absorb iron when vitamin C is in the mix. (4)

Including an Iron-Vitamin C Duo in Your Diet

For synergistic benefits, combine foods rich in vitamin C (like citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, and broccoli) with iron-packed options such as legumes, grains, or leafy greens. For instance, whipping up a broccoli and quinoa salad or preparing a lentil stew with bell peppers can serve as excellent meal choices for enhancing iron absorption.

Vitamin E & Vitamin C

Enhancing Cellular Health with Antioxidants: Vitamin E

Vitamin E & Vitamin C

Antioxidants are natural compounds that shield our cells from harm caused by free radicals. Free radicals are compounds that can accelerate aging and contribute to chronic health problems. (5)

Now, where do these pesky free radicals come from? They're highly reactive molecules produced naturally during processes like metabolism. But, they can also sneak in from external sources such as pollution, smoking, and even too much sun exposure. (6)

So, having antioxidants in your corner is a must for health.

And when it comes to these protective compounds, vitamin E stands out as an antioxidant that specializes in safeguarding cell membranes. (7) It plays a dual role: not only helping to maintain a more youthful appearance on the outside, but also promoting healthy cell function on the inside.

In addition, vitamin E steps in as a key player in protecting lipoproteins, such as LDL cholesterol, from oxidative damage. (8) In simpler terms, this could mean fewer troublesome plaques and an overall healthier heart.

Now, even though vitamin E is already a powerhouse, it gets an extra boost with the help of other antioxidants. That's where vitamin C comes into play.

Benefits of Vitamin E and C Synergy

Vitamin C recharges vitamin E when it's been used to neutralize free radicals. (9) Additionally, vitamin C's antioxidative properties further fortify your body's ability to combat oxidative stress. This unified effort creates a stronger defense against cellular damage than what either of the vitamins could achieve on their own.

Notably, a study using a combination of 400mg of vitamin E and 1000mg of vitamin C per day for 15 days showed a whopping decrease in LDL cholesterol's susceptibility to oxidation: by 41.3% in smokers and 54.4% in non-smokers. (10)

Everyday Foods Rich in Antioxidant Vitamins

Everyday Foods Rich in Antioxidant Vitamins

You can find vitamin E in foods like nuts (such as almonds and hazelnuts), seeds (like sunflower seeds), spinach, and broccoli. Vitamin C is abundant in citrus fruits (such as oranges and strawberries), bell peppers, kiwi, and tomatoes. Including a variety of these foods in your daily diet ensures a well-rounded intake of both vitamins E and C, providing essential antioxidant protection for your cells.

Magnesium & Vitamin B6

Magnesium & Vitamin B6

Magnesium for Nerve Function and Muscle Health

Magnesium participates in over 300 essential enzymatic reactions in your body. (11)

It's super important for keeping healthy nerve function and muscle performance. It helps regulate muscle contractions, which makes it essential for sports and daily activities. Without sufficient magnesium, muscles may become prone to cramping and spasms. (12)

Additionally, magnesium assists in modulating the body's stress response. (13) When magnesium levels are adequate, you're better equipped to manage and respond to stress in a balanced way.

By aiding in the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, magnesium becomes the ultimate mineral for fostering a balanced mood and restful sleep. (14)

B6 and Magnesium Synergy

Why pair magnesium with B6? First, vitamin B6 is thought to actively assist the cells in absorbing magnesium. Resulting in limited excretion and higher effectiveness. (15)

Second, much like magnesium, B6 helps synthesize serotonin and dopamine. (16) Combining these two nutrients can lead to more effective neurotransmitter production, providing amplified support for the nervous system.

Some studies, particularly in subjects with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), have shown that the combination of Magnesium and B6 is more effective at relieving anxiety and depressive symptoms compared to a placebo or magnesium alone. (17)

Foods High in Magnesium and Vitamin B6

Foods High in Magnesium and Vitamin B6

Leafy greens like spinach, nuts, seeds, and fish are all excellent sources of magnesium. Meanwhile, foods like poultry, bananas, and chickpeas provide ample vitamin B6. By incorporating a variety of these foods into your diet, you ensure you're covering all of your nutrient bases.

Vitamin D3 & K2

Importance of Vitamins D and K

Importance of Vitamins D and K

Vitamin D is a crucial fat-soluble vitamin. It's primarily known for its role in regulating calcium absorption, which is essential for maintaining strong bones and healthy teeth. Beyond this, it also supports the immune system, promotes muscle health, and aids in cognitive function. (18)

On the other hand, vitamin K, which comes in K1 and K2 forms, plays a pivotal role in blood clotting. (19) It activates proteins that control bleeding, earning it the nickname of 'the clotting vitamin.' Additionally, in its K2 form, it's crucial for proper bone mineralization. (20)

Ultimate Pairing for Bone and Cardiovascular Health

Vitamins D and K form an ultimate synergy for both bone and cardiovascular health thanks to their complementary roles in calcium metabolism.

In particular, vitamin D amps up the absorption of calcium - a mineral vital for preserving bone strength and density. Without vitamin K2, this absorbed calcium may not be properly directed, potentially ending up where it doesn't belong.

Vitamin K2 activates proteins that guide calcium toward the bones and teeth while preventing its deposition in soft tissues and arteries. This dual action may reduce the risk of osteoporosis and arterial stiffness, benefiting both skeletal and cardio health. (21,22)

A recent meta-analysis, which pooled data from multiple studies, has confirmed a clear synergy between these nutrients. Their combined effect was shown to substantially enhance bone density, surpassing the effects of vitamin D alone. (23)

Why D3 and K2 Forms are Superior for Maximum Synergy

Vitamin K

Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is more bioactive compared to its D2 form (ergocalciferol), which is often found in supplements, fortified plant-based foods, or UV-exposed mushrooms. The body absorbs and utilizes D3 more readily, making it up to 87% more potent than vitamin D2. (24)

Likewise, the K2 form of vitamin K boasts superior bioavailability compared to K1. It lingers in the bloodstream for an extended period, facilitating more effective utilization in various tissues like bones and blood vessels. (25)

Sourcing tips: Sun Exposure, Diet, and Supplements

Sun Exposure

Sun exposure is a natural and primary source of vitamin D, as the skin produces it when exposed to sunlight. Aim for around 15-30 minutes of sun exposure on the face, arms, and legs a few times a week.

Dietary sources that provide limited amounts of Vitamin D3 include fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, egg yolks, and fortified dairy products. As for vitamin K2, fermented foods like natto, cheese, and fermented vegetables are excellent sources.

Securing adequate levels of Vitamin D3 solely through natural means, such as food and sun exposure, can be challenging. Especially for people with limited sunlight exposure or for those who consume few Vitamin D-rich products. An indoor lifestyle or dietary limitations, can mean relying solely on natural sources, won't always cut it. In fact, depending on the region, it's been estimated that up to 49% of the global population is at risk of low vitamin D levels. (26)

The good news is that supplementation can be a convenient way to get your D3 without the need for multiple tropical holidays, or chugging down gallons of milk every day.

Enter Performance Lab® D3 + K2 - the ultimate D3 formula for bone and cardiovascular support. Plus healthy immune function, strong muscles, and more.

Performance Lab® D3 + K2

Performance Lab® D3 + K2 not only offers vegan-friendly vitamin D3 but also delivers it in a cutting-edge liposomal form. This means the vitamin is packed inside tiny phospholipid spheres, making it even easier for your body to absorb. Studies have shown that this liposomal formulation leads to a faster elevation of Vitamin D levels compared to conventional oil-based alternatives. (27)

For optimal synergy, Performance Lab's liposomal D3 is paired with vitamin NutriGenesis® K2: cultured in a botanical medium to be nature-identical.

Final thoughts

Understanding the types of reactions that occur within the body allows you to make smarter choices.

By comprehending how nutrients interact, you can strategically pair them for enhanced benefits, ultimately maximizing their impact on your well-being.

From the fortification of bones with vitamins D3 and K2, to the bolstering of immunity with vitamin C and iron, these partnerships are testament to the power of nutrient synergy.

And for those who may not always have the opportunity to meticulously plan their diets or need more targeted support, there are convenient solutions available. Reliable supplements can step in to provide a helping hand. Products like our D3 + K2 or specialized Men's and Women's Multi offer accessible and comprehensive sources of essential nutrients in balanced, synergistic formulas.