Food combining can improve your digestive health
By Claudia Jones
You may remember hearing about food combining in the 1980’s when it came to the fore as a new type of weight loss diet. I remember my Mother following this kind of diet program when I was growing up, she would always eat differently to the rest of the family and I just assumed this was another weight loss fad. In recent years it caught my attention again so I decided to look into it further. My research found that there are many benefits to be gained from following a proper food combining diet such as; a reduction in gas and abdominal bloating after eating, improved digestion, faster elimination and even healthy, balanced weight loss. Having practiced food combining myself for over a year now and recommended this way of eating to many others, I can openly say that the effects are wholly positive.
What is food combining?
The principles of food combining are to eat foods only in certain combinations:
- Fruit should always be eaten on its own and always 20-30 minutes before other foods. Never eat fruit after a meal.
- Sugary foods should also be eaten alone, before other foods and never after a meal.
- Protein and starch should not be mixed together in the same meal
- Protein should only be eaten with non-starchy vegetables
- Starch should only be eaten with non-starchy vegetables
Why follow these principles?
The theory of food combining is essentially this, proteins require hydrochloric acid and the enzyme pepsin to break them down in the stomach whereas starches do not start to metabolize until they reach the small intestine where they require different enzymes than protein for digestion. The environment that starchy foods require is an alkaline one compared to a more acidic one required for protein digestion. The argument goes that digestion will be a much simpler process if foods that require different enzymes are eaten at different meals.
When conflicting foods are eaten in combination, the result can be slowed digestion which leads to fermentation of foods in the gut and even putrefaction. This in turn feeds the harmful bacteria in the intestines; the bacteria produce an acidic environment in which they thrive and this supports the growth of more harmful bacteria, hence a vicious cycle has begun. The healthy microflora are compromised and thus our immunity to disease is lowered.
Tiredness after eating may also be attributable to poor food combining as the body pools its energy resources to the stomach to digest combinations of many different foods at once. Overeating may also produce the same result.
The yogic approach to food is similar in principle; by keeping the diet simple and light and where possible eating only one type of food at a time, digestion is eased and vital energy conserved. Eating in this way can afford us increased digestive health and overall vitality.
By eating foods in the combinations outlined above and taking proteins separately from starches, we may inadvertently eat a healthier diet. By eating protein, for example, an egg, with non-starchy vegetables instead of with starchy foods such as bread, rice or potatoes we are more likely to increase the amount of vegetables we eat with the meal. This may also result in healthy, balanced weight loss where needed.
Taking food combining to another level
I personally like to add to the food combining principles by ensuring that every meal has a good balance of acid and alkaline foods. As a general rule, to bring the body into its optimum pH range, which is slightly alkaline, a balance of 60-80% alkaline forming foods and 20-40% acid forming food (depending on your needs and body type) should be eaten daily.
Working on the premise that most fruits and vegetables are alkaline forming and most proteins and starches are acid forming, to make an acid-alkaline balanced, food combined meal, you need to make sure that the protein or starch on your plate makes up no more than 20-40% of the meal, leaving the rest to be alkalizing vegetables.
meat, fish, egg, soy 20-40%
non-starchy vegetables 60-80%
rice, bread or pasta 20-40%
non-starchy vegetables 60-80%
What about fats?
Fats combine with all types of foods, just ensure that you do not eat too much fat with a protein meal as it slows digestion. Also, ensure that you are eating organic, unrefined cold-pressed oils such as olive, coconut or flax seed.
Protein fats – such as dairy, nuts, seeds, avocadoes and olives are a mixture of fats and proteins and combine well with non-starchy vegetables and sour fruits.
Dried beans or legumes present a problem for some people to digest and one of the reasons is that they are made up of mostly starch with some protein resulting in gas and bloating in the digestive process. If you have no trouble digesting them, then they should be combined with non-starchy vegetables.
If following the food combining rules does not ease simple digestive problems such as gas and bloating, it may be an indication that you are lacking in the enzymes needed to digest certain foods. By observing which foods cause you digestive problems you can seek out an appropriate digestive enzyme supplement.
Avoid drinking water (or other drinks) with your meal. This dilutes the digestive juices and fills the stomach, slowing digestion. Drink at least 15 minutes before or 1 hour after a meal. Sipping a warm drink, such as a herbal tea during a meal can be helpful to digestion.
Food and eating should never become a source of anxiety. Try following the food combining rules 80% of the time and allow 20% for indulgences. Your food should be tasty and mealtimes enjoyable!