Food combining is one of the most basic principles of a healthy diet, but is so rarely incorporated in most healthy diets. Anyone who has digestive upset, indigestion, and excess gas (especially from fruit or legumes) will most likely benefit from the proper combining of foods. It may even help aid in getting rid of excess fat that's stored around the stomach area.
The importance of food combining comes down to two main factors: enzymes and pH. Proteins, fats, and starches/carbohydrates are all broken down by specific enzymes and digestive juices. Each has their own specific digestive need. The golden rule with food combining is this: Do NOT mix starches with proteins, and eat fruits alone.
Why? Let us explore the differences between proteins and starches:
Dairy, Eggs, Fish, Fowl/Poultry, Beef, Pork, Nuts and Seeds*
- Digested in the stomach by hydrochloric acid and the enzyme pepsin.
- Require an acidic stomach environment for proper breakdown.
- Vegetables assist their digestion and offset their acidity.
*When we speak of proteins, we're mainly speaking of animal products. However, people with slow digestion can group nuts and seeds into the category, as these are very concentrated sources of protein that take extra work breaking down.
Whole Fruits, Whole Grains, Breads, Flour Products, Potatoes, Legumes and Beans*
- Activates the salivary enzymes, ptyalin and amylase, in the mouth where it begins to be digested.
- Require an alkaline stomach environment for proper breakdown.
- Digests rapidly with vegetables.
*Legumes and beans are high in protein, but are also very high in starches. This makes them the perfect protein source to be combined with other starches.
In short, when a protein is eaten with a starch (meat and potatoes, turkey sandwich, toast and eggs) the acidity needed for the protein and the alkalinity needed for the starch becomes neutral in the stomach, leaving the food to sit there and become rancid. If you're not familiar with what happens when foods sit around for too long, you can read my article about how overeating destroys our health.
It's also important to know that the presence of starches in the mouth creates the salivary enzymes for starch digestion. When we eat protein, those enzymes are made in smaller amounts or, even worse, not made at all. That starch then begins to ferment and causes serious gas, indigestion, bloating, and acid reflux which, after many years of this, can lead to very serious disease. If you want to dramatically change your health and, assimilation of your food, you should immediately stop eating proteins with starches.
What about plant proteins and starches? Good question. All plants have protein, even fruits. For the sake of this article, however, let's only refer to legumes, nuts, and seeds as plant proteins since they have a higher concentration than other plants. Nuts and seeds are high in fat and can slow down digestion. It is not highly recommended to include them with starches because of this, but they are far better of a choice than an animal protein because they have their own fiber and starches that still allow the proper assimilation of the other starches in the meal. If your digestion is very strong, you can probably tolerate a nut butter sandwich on Ezekiel bread. Still, for optimal digestion, I would count nuts and seeds as proteins to be separated from starches.
Legumes, however, are a fantastic protein to have with a starch because they are equipped with generous amounts of enzymes, antioxidants, fibers, starches, and are very low, or completely void of, fat. The starches present in legumes allow the saliva to create the proper enzymes needed to digest the other starches in the meal. It also creates a complete amino acid profile for optimal protein intake. Unlike meat and potatoes, rice and beans is neutralizing and, depending on the legume and grain, can even be alkalizing. Better yet, eating a grain and legume meal with vegetables will create alkalinity, allow minerals to be better absorbed, and allow digestion to be faster with the added enzymes and fiber from the vegetables. A grain, legume, and vegetable meal can be found in nearly every indigenous diet throughout history. Those same people had virtually no digestive upsets or diseases either.
So enough of proteins and starches. What about fruits? Fruit is the most easily digestible food on our planet. It is cleansing, delicious, loaded with enzymes, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibers. It takes twenty minutes to pass through the stomach into the small intestine, where it is quickly digested, leaving no burden on our digestive organs. It gives us instant energy and stores of glucose for later use. It is obvious how fruit is the perfect food. The only thing that ruins this perfect food is eating it with other foods. When fruit is eaten with other foods, especially proteins and fats, it remains in the stomach longer than it should be. Remember, it only needs to be in the stomach for twenty minutes before it passes into the small intestine. Fruit that is in the stomach for more than this period will begin fermenting. This causes serious bloating, gas, and blood toxicity issues. Once again, you can read all about that here.
So how do we implement all of these rules? It's quite easy. Eat your fruits alone. Eat them one hour before other foods, or two hours after other foods. Eat proteins with non-starchy vegetables (greens, cabbage, broccoli), and eat starches with beans and starchy (potatoes and carrots) and/or non-starchy vegetables. Fats are neutralizing, but they do take time to digest. Avocados with rice and beans is a good example of fats with a protein and a starch that shouldn't cause digestive upset. Avocado with chicken or nuts might be too heavy and cause exhaustion and digestive upset.
You'll be getting an added benefit by mixing vegetables with your proteins. Since animal protein has no fiber or antioxidants, the vegetables you eat with your protein will give you the fiber, antioxidants, and enzymes to help better digest the proteins and move them through your digestive tract before they begin to putrefy. The alkalizing chlorophyll in green vegetables will also offset the acidity produced by protein digestion as well as deodorize the system from the ammonia and gas produced by the proteins.
Lastly, drinking beverages during meals should never occur. Fluids dilute our stomach acids, which weakens our digestion. If your diet is rich in whole fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes you will be getting enough water from the foods themselves and from the water that the grains and legumes are cooked in. If you find yourself thirsty after a meal it's because it contained too much salt. Try using seaweed instead. A feeling of thirst can also be caused by a coated tongue, which is a symptom of candida overgrowth and should be dealt with by a proper dietary and supplemental protocol. The general rule for fluids is similar to fruit. Drink fluids thirty minutes before eating, or two hours after eating.
Even if your diet is poor, food combining will allow your body to properly breakdown the nutrients it is taking in. It will leave you more nourished, with more energy, and less digestive upset. It is especially helpful for anyone dealing with acid reflux and should be incorporated into everyone's diet. It is easy, free, and will help you make the most of your diet. Incorporating these principles into a diet rich in whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables will yield fantastic results to keep you feeling, and looking, young and healthy.