Combining your foods for optimal digestion has a long and controversial history. Many people, as well as, health practitioners, swear by how it aids in digestion, assists weight loss, clears up acid reflux and chronic digestive problems. As it is a simple and not too difficult method of organizing your meals into specific food groups you can easily experience it for yourself.
Basically, foods are separated into groups that require a particular enzyme for digestive purposes. These can be an acidic gastric juice or alkaline pancreatic enzymes. When more than one type of food is eaten together the necessary gastric juices and enzymes compete with one another, which compromises digestion in the stomach. For example:
- Protein foods depend on gastric acid, which consists of hydrochloric acid and an acidic enzyme called pepsin.
- Fats are emulsified by bile, and carbohydrates require pancreatic enzymes and are mostly broken down in the small intestine.
Since enzymes decline as we age, heartburn and indigestion become more prevalent. We can help to alleviate these symptoms by eating more raw foods high in natural enzymes, following food combining guidelines, and/or taking digestive enzyme supplements with meals. Fermented, cultured vegetables are loaded with enzymes and should be eaten with your meals to aid digestion.
Food-combining guidelines take some getting used to, but are easy to remember. Donít worry if you cannot always follow them exactly. If you manage the majority of the time you will notice a positive difference in your digestion and in your ability to lose unwanted weight:
- Fruits digest in 45 minutes, so eat them alone and on an empty stomach. If eaten with protein or grains they can ferment, slow down digestion, and cause intestinal gas.
- Animal protein digests in 6 to 8 hours. Combine with easily digested non-starchy vegetables and sea vegetables.
- Grains and starchy vegetables digest in 4 to 6 hours. These include all whole grains, dry cereals, and flour products plus winter squash, potatoes, peas, corn, lima beans, water chestnuts, artichokes, and Jerusalem artichokes. Eat them with non-starchy vegetables and sea vegetables.
- Large amounts of fat and fried foods delay the secretion of hydrochloric acid needed to digest protein. Avoid combining a large amount of fat with a protein food. Burping is your signal that oil and protein donít mix.
Here’s what it looks like, avoid eating protein (steak) and starch (potato) together or chicken and rice. Eat them separately and with lots of raw and cooked vegetables. Make 80 percent of the food on your plate cooked and raw vegetables. The remaining 20 percent can be protein or grains and starchy vegetables.