After reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I learned how much wisdom traditional cuisines embodied and that certain foods are eaten together not only because they taste good but because there are health benefits.
The Japanese eat raw fish, which can contain bacteria, with wasabi, a potent anti-microbial. Strong spices of cuisines originating from tropical areas have antibacterial properties because food is likely to spoil in hot temperatures. Asian cuisine often combines soy ingredients with rice because this makes these foods more nutritious than when eaten alone.
Many Meso-American dishes are prepared by cooking corn with lime and eating it with beans. Cooking corn with an alkali such as lime, allows its niacin, an essential human nutrient, to be absorbed by our bodies. If you didn’t eat niacin, your skin would peel off, you’d become paralyzed, and you’d slowly go crazy. It’s called pellagra. So corn and niacin are good stuff, but you’d still lack a complete set of essential amino acids. That’s where the beans come in. Corn and beans lack essential amino acids lysine and methionine, respectively, and by eating both you’re good to go.
So skip the Jenny Craig, South Beach, Atkins diet. Eat traditional cuisine. Would you rather trust millennia of passed down knowledge or Jenny Craig and some American cardiologists?