The Basics of Food Combining
The Basics of Food Combining Which You Can Implement Now for Better Health
In my last post on digestive health, 3 Healthy Digestion Habits you can start RIGHT NOW, I gave you an overview of a few easy and important habits which you can easily implement in your daily life to support your digestive health, and therefore overall health. Today, I want to focus in on one of the most important, yet lesser known concepts for optimal digestion and overall health, which I started to outline for you—Food Combining!
The concept of ‘Food Combining’ comes from an accumulated body of informed knowledge relating to food types, the natural structural and chemical/nutritional composition of our foods, and the effect that different food combinations have on our body’s ability to digest these foods - and also the food’s ability to either contribute to, or detract from our overall health and long-term wellness.
In order to effectively apply the principles of proper food combining in your day to day dietary habits, you must first understand a few basics about the different types of foods we eat, and then how to properly combine them (or not) to ensure your continued, and hopefully improved health – avoiding the health consequences of improper food combining which are all too common.
As you will recall from my last article, (link here if you didn’t read it?)
“Different foods take different digestive resources, and lengths of time for complete digestion – fat and protein requiring the longest time (several hours at least), and sugars requiring the least amount of time. (less than a half hour)”
What does this mean for you?
Fruit and starches, protein or fats: Food combining categorizes foods predominantly based on the time it takes each of them to digest. Since fruit is composed of a higher proportion of simple sugars, which are the fastest to digest, while starches, proteins and fats take much longer to digest (with time required increasing in that order), improper combinations will prevent complete digestion, undermining health and nutrient status over time.
Incomplete digestion of foods mean that we are unable to absorb or assimilate the wealth of nutrients our foods contain. Instead, not only does our nutrition become deficient over time, but undigested foods pass through the digestive system, lodging in the bowels where they begin to decompose and release toxins that cause gas and other discomforts.
Incompletely digested simple fruit sugars and starches which remain in the digestive tract ferment and quickly lead to gas, bloating and even chronic health conditions over time.
The slowed digestion of proteins on the other hand causes the proteins to putrefy in the digestive tract and creates a storm of toxins and digestive symptoms, requiring our ongoing energy to detoxify these waste products and creating a less than ideal internal environment for our continued health.
Small particles of undigested food from any category are one of the primary causes of food allergies and systemic inflammatory responses as they pass through the irritated bowel wall, polluting the bloodstream and trigger an immune response. This is not even close to what you intended for the nutritious, delicious foods you chose to eat, right?!
Food combining applies in many ways, not only to ensure optimal and complete digestion, but also to ensure you are combining your foods in such a way that you optimize the absorption of nutrients, and also to create a ‘complete protein’ – one that contains all of the essential amino acids through appropriate combination or on its own – this is particularly important for those who are vegetarian, vegan or may require more protein due to a unique health status – more on that another time!
Today’s article is a continued focus on your digestive health so I have outlined a few of the most important concepts from food combining which you can start right away to ensure optimal, complete digestion. What you will notice, and maybe be surprised by, is that some of the most critical combinations to avoid, are perhaps the most common food combinations we see in the typical Western diet!
Try incorporating these healthful changes into your food choices and see how you feel:
AVOID the combinations: fat + proteins, starches + proteins.
AVOID sugar + starch + protein in the same dish: e.g. fruits & rice with meat.
AVOID the same combinations across meal courses: e.g. meat and a starchy vegetable followed by a sweet dessert and fruit.
AVOID Coffee with, or after a meal – coffee impairs digestion in several ways and also blocks the absorption of many of the most-prized nutrients, further depleting our existing nutrient stores which are sacrificed to neutralize the acidic coffee, and metabolize its components such as caffeine.
DO eat fruits alone, preferably in the morning and always on an empty stomach 30 minutes prior to other food types - OR at least 2 or more hours after other food types (proteins, fats, starches) have been consumed.
DO eat proteins, juices of acidic fruits and green vegetables together.
DO eat healthy fats, starches and green vegetables together.
In addition to proper food combining it as always advisable to include a high quality, full-spectrum digestive enzyme. Try taking enzymes before each meal as well as well as in between meals, along with thoughtful food combining to ensure complete digestion!
Written by Andrew Gregg, BHSc., RHN
Andrew is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Director of Clinical Research at dicentra. Andrew’s practice as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist focuses on his special interests in health through optimal nutrition, traditional diets and food combining, digestive health & probiotics, mental wellness, disease prevention and management.
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