From a soul satisfying peanut butter and jelly sandwich to a traditional meat and potatoes dinner, food combining is present at every meal.
Did you know that the way we combine foods may actually have a positive influence on our digestion?
Although its validity has been debated, some people find that food combining offers major relief from a myriad of digestive imbalances.
The basic idea behind food combining is that in order to effectively break down and absorb the food we are eating we must have adequate digestive enzymes available for each food group. Therefore when we eat a plate of food with many different ingredients our body may not effectively produce all of the necessary enzymes needed to adequately assimilate and digest our meal.
As a consequence the rest of the digestive process is left up to our intestinal bacteria which can cause further fermentation of food and lack of absorption.
Some common consequences of poor food combining can include this intestinal fermentation and poor nutrient assimilation, gas, bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain and even foggy mind.
Here are the 3 basic guidelines to follow when food combining.
1. Eat Fruit Alone
Fruit digests very rapidly in the body so if combined with grains the fruit may begin to ferment in the intestines as the body attempts to digest the grains, causing gas and bloating. It is advisable to eat fruit at least 20 minutes away from a meal, but fruits can usually be combined with other fruits without a problem. *It is always best to eat melons on their own, as they move through the digestive tract the fastest.
2. Proteins and Starches
Proteins and starches should not be eaten together as they are digested in two very different environments. Proteins require a very acidic atmosphere in the stomach where there is an abundance of HCL (hydrochloric acid) and the enzyme pepsin to begin to break down complex proteins. This digestive bath can actually take from 3 – 5 hours in the stomach!
Starches such as potatoes, rice, breads or pasta begin their chemical digestion in the mouth with the enzyme ptyalin (amylase) in our saliva, but it is only when starches leave the stomach that they begin any further chemical breakdown.
Therefore when these two food groups are eaten together, digestion happens at a much slower rate and can leave one feeling heavy and bloated. This sensation can be similar to the feeling after a Thanksgiving meal!
*Soaking starches such as rice or oats will make them easier to digest when combined with proteins.
*It is advisable to eat only one protein at each meal to ensure optimal digestion.
3. Combining Veggies
Due to transit time in the stomach, mixing proteins and vegetables OR starches and vegetables can be much easier on your body. For example, try having a burger without without the bun and top it with salad greens or avocado instead. Mixing quinoa with sauteed greens or tempeh with steamed broccoli are great options.
More Tips to Improve Digestion
*Give your body time to rest and digest after eating in a calm and peaceful environment
*Avoid drinking liquids during meals as this can dilute digestive juices. If you must drink, take small sips of room temperature water or tea
*Focus on chewing your food thoroughly to take strain off your digestive tract
Remember, some people tolerate food combinations differently than others. The rules of food combining should not be followed if you are hypoglycemic or if you have blood sugar imbalances. Use these tips as another tool in your tool belt for better digestion. Play around with these guidelines to see if combining foods may be just what your digestive system has been waiting for!
A great place to start is to try this fantastically combined Roasted Cauliflower and Chickpea Recipe.
Corie Kielbiski, RHN, RYT
Yoga, Nutrition and Meditation continue to reveal many benefits in my life including a deeper love and respect for all beings, including myself. I believe there is no “one size fits all” to health, and that with small but meaningful changes we can all begin to heal and live a healthful life.