(Health Secrets Newsletter) The number of people who suffer from digestive complaints such as indigestion, allergies, constipation, bloating and gas is incredible, and many people can’t understand why they continue to experience these symptoms even when they follow what they consider to be a healthy balanced diet.
It may be that the root of the problem is not actually what you eat but how you eat it, and what types of food you combine together in one meal. Often the combinations that society accepts as normal and healthy such as bread and cheese, fish and potatoes, meat and rice, can actually make us sick.
Food combining is not a new idea, in fact the foundation of modern food combining was laid down by two American doctors, Hay and Shelton, in the early twentieth century. Today people find that looking at the way they combine food, as well as addressing what they eat, can have a dramatic impact on health and weight loss, as well as digestive issues.
What Is Food Combining?
Food combining follows the principle of separating our foods naturally, as our Palaeolithic ancestors would have done. Can you imagine a caveman who had hunted and killed an animal for food preparing a portion of rice and beans to go on the side? Early man would have eaten simple foods on their own, individually. For better digestion we need to do the same.
The foods we eat can be broken down into four broad groups:
- Protein (meat, fish, cheese, nuts)
- Starchy carbohydrates (pasta, rice, bread, potatoes)
- Fats (butter, oil)
- Fruits and vegetables
When we consume these foods, the body releases digestive enzymes to break them down so their nutrients can be absorbed. Unfortunately the enzymes that are released are different for each group, and the body isn’t very good at producing more than one type of enzyme at a time. When it does, these enzymes often work against or neutralize each other.
One of the most important examples is protein and starchy carbohydrates, such as meat and pasta, which are a very poor combination. When protein is consumed, the enzymes pepsin and trypsin, along with hydrochloric acid are secreted, creating an acidic environment. When starchy carbohydrates are consumed the enzyme amylase is produced, and sucrose is secreted. These don’t work in an acidic environment.
The digestion of starchy carbohydrates is quick and easy when they are eaten on their own, but when combined with protein they sit around fermenting in our digestive systems, producing excess gas which makes us feel bloated and uncomfortable.
When it comes to good and bad combinations we can take our clues from nature. Protein and fat occur naturally together in the animals that we eat, so it’s hardly surprising that they are a good combination. Fat slows down the digestion of protein so that we can extract the maximum benefit from it. On the other hand fat and starchy carbohydrates are a very bad combination and are never found together naturally. Nature’s biggest source of carbohydrates is fruit, but this contains very little fat.
If you want to follow food combining principles very seriously there are many factors to consider, but the following basic principles can have a big impact on your digestion, health and energy levels:
- Keep protein and starchy carbohydrates separate. Try one carb based and one protein based meal a day.
- Avoid combinations of fat and starchy carbohydrates, for example in baked goods and desserts.
- Vegetables work well with protein or carbohydrate so include these with every meal.
- Eat fruit as a separate snack rather than combining it with other foods.