Unraveling the Food Matrix and How it May Impact Your Health

Today, we’re exploring a concept that might just change the way you think about your food: the food matrix.

Now, you might be wondering, what exactly is the food matrix? While food pairing and food synergy have been popular topics, the food matrix has received less attention in comparison, despite its significant impact on nutrition. Using dairy foods as examples, we’ll see how the food matrix affects flavor, satiety, and even digestion. Plus, we’ll discuss its link to heart and digestive benefits.

I’ve partnered with National Dairy Council to dive right into what we currently know to share it with you.

Understanding the Food Matrix

So, what exactly is the food matrix? The food matrix serves as a framework for understanding how nutrients interact within whole foods compared to just one single nutrient. So, it really comes down to eating foods as close to their original source as possible.

Think of it as a web of nutrients and other components within foods that work together. It’s like a complex puzzle where each piece interacts with others to unlock benefits to our health.

An Example of the Food Matrix at Work

Now let’s break it down even further. Imagine you’re making a smoothie. The fruit, milk, and yogurt all interact in a certain way within each individual food but also with each other and that affects how your body uses the nutrients.

When you blend them together, they create a synergistic mix that your body will likely use differently than if you were to eat each ingredient separately or take a supplement of one or two of the many nutrients that would be found in the smoothie.

The Influence of the Food Matrix

While we’re still learning a lot about the food matrix, it seems to influences not only the taste and texture of the food, but also how the body digests and absorbs its nutrients.

This can affect everything from satiety—the feeling of fullness after a meal—to how well our bodies handle diseases.

Recent Research

Recent research has shed light on the pivotal role of the food matrix in mitigating chronic diseases. For example, studies suggest that the combination of calcium and vitamin D in dairy foods have been linked to reduced risk of colorectal cancer.

Another example is that the calcium in dairy foods is more readily absorbed and can benefit bone health. This may be due to dairy’s unique food matrix and combination of protein, minerals and lactose.

3 Tips to Leverage the Power of the Food Matrix

So, why does this matter? Well, understanding the food matrix allows us to make informed choices about the types, combinations, and forms of foods we consume. By optimizing our food choices, we can better support our overall health and well-being.

Here are some actionable tips to kickstart your journey:

1. Choose Whole Foods

Opt for whole foods whenever possible. Fermented foods are also a great choice. Like yogurt, kefir and cheeses. These foods tend to have a more complex food matrix, and yogurt and kefir with enough live cultures can contain probiotics which contribute to a broader range of health benefits.

2. Experiment with Food Combinations

Get creative in the kitchen by experimenting with different whole food combinations. Mixing various food groups can create exciting flavor profiles while optimizing nutrient absorption through the food matrix. For example, combining cheese with fruit and nuts.

3. Diversify Your Plate

Aim for a colorful and diverse plate at each meal. Different colors in fruits and vegetables indicate varying phytonutrient profiles, enriching the complexity of the food matrix and maximizing nutritional benefits.

Conclusion: Embrace the Food Matrix

Remember, it’s not just about what you eat—it’s about how the nutrients within your food interact to support your health. By making simple yet intentional choices to eat whole foods, you can harness the power of the food matrix to nourish your body and enhance your well-being.

Together, let’s unlock the secrets of the food matrix and embark on a journey toward optimal health!

For further insights on the role of dairy in promoting health, visit US Dairy.


  1. Aguilera JM. The food matrix: implications in processing, nutrition and health. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2019;59(22):3612-3629. doi:10.1080/10408398.2018.1502743
  2. Weaver CM. Dairy matrix: is the whole greater than the sum of the parts?. Nutr Rev. 2021;79(Suppl 2):4-15. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuab081
  3. Ilesanmi-Oyelere BL, Kruger MC. The Role of Milk Components, Pro-, Pre-, and Synbiotic Foods in Calcium Absorption and Bone Health Maintenance. Front Nutr. 2020;7:578702. Published 2020 Sep 23. doi:10.3389/fnut.2020.578702

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