Food combining is a way of eating that respect our physiological chemistry and in particular the chemistry of digestion: certain combination of food are digested with greater ease and efficiency than others.
The principle of Food Combining is essentially that the human body is not designed to digest more than one concentrated food in the stomach at the same time. Concentrated food is any food that is not a fruit and is not a vegetable.
Although, the human body is not designed to eat wrong combinations of food, it does not mean it cannot do it: as our best allay, our body, is able and will go through it anyway, but at the expense of a greater expenditure of energy and a greater amount of digestive by-products such as mycotoxins, and undigested residues.
As we age, bodily enzyme reserves may get depleted, and our body's resilience to an incorrect food combination is accentuated and we can start to feel lacking of energy after eating (afternoon slump), bloating, gassiness, malabsorption, diarrhoea, and digestive troubles in general.
On the physical level, all our life processes depend on the functioning of enzymes which are living proteins that regulate all basic biochemical and metabolic processes. It is estimated there are 75.000 to 100.000 different enzyme systems in the body, and there is strong evidence that enzyme preservation is linked with longevity and vitality.
- Enzyme regulate all body processes
- Enzymes are important for digestion and assimilation of nutrients
- Enzymes are essential for detoxification from internal pollution and external ecological pollution
- Enzymes help repair DNA and RNA, and maintain optimal immune function
- Enzymes transform and store energy in the body
- Enzymes make active hormones, and participate in they own productive cycle
- Enzymes dissolve fiber and prevent clotting
- Enzymes have anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, and they prevent edema
Regarding digestion, enzymes are needed for all digestive processes, and are either created in the body or supplied from dietary sources. Enzymes are secreted by the salivary glands, by the cells lining the stomach (gastric enzymes), by pancreatic exocrine cells, and in the small and large intestinal tract.
Each food group has it's own ideal digestive "cocktail"; some combination of digestive chemistry work out well and other don't.
This category in food combining refers to non-vegetables sources of protein, such as nuts and seeds, beans, dairy and animal products, such as meat, fish ,eggs, etc. The protein that this foods contain need to be broken down from their complex form, to simple amino acids, before absorption.
Protein require and acid medium to be broken down into their simplest amino acid form. Acid secretions for protein digestions are secreted in the stomach: the main ones are Hydrochloric Acid and the enzyme called Pepsinogen, which become Pepsin once activated by the stomach acid.
Another important secretion for protein digestion is Gastrin, an endocrine hormone secreted by the stomach after exposure to protein that enters the bloodstream and ultimately returns to the stomach and stimulate the production of more HCL and intrinsic factor (key component for B12 absorption).
Ideally, you should eat one protein at a time. Combining proteins make it harder on the digestive process, as your body is required to produce a complex array of enzymes. For example, dairy requires a different combination of enzymes to digest than beans do, and combining the two will slow down the digestive process, which can lead to fermentation of food, and will also make you feel tired after eating.
The digestion of starchy food begins with chewing well, as amylase, the enzyme responsible for digesting starch is produced bt the salivary glands. Amylase breaks down complex carbohydrates into smaller chains, or even simple sugars.
Amylase is an alkaline enzyme, and HCL and pepsinogen are acid. When you eat protein food with a starchy food, your body will first produce Amylase while chewing the food, and then when you swallow, the body will produce HCL and pepsinogen, that will then neutralise the Amylase (when an acid substance meet an alkaline substance, they neutralise each other). Now your stomach has a pool of chemical compounds that are not ideal for digesting either protein or carbohydrates.
... starts to make sense, isn't it?
Sugars are quickly absorbed into the blood stream, which is a good thing, because if they stay in the stomach they soon cause fermentation. Fruit is high in sugar and is in this category.
- When sugars are combined with carbohydrates, the sugar inhibit the production of Amylase, thus slowing down digestion of starches, and also has an inhibiting effect on the secretion of gastric enzymes. The sugar can't leave the stomach until the starchy food does, so it stays there, leading to fermentation, gassiness and excess acidity.
- When combined with protein, the length of time involved in digesting protein becomes a serious issue. Again, the sugars sit in the stomach with the digesting proteins, leading to fermentation, and as the sugar has an inhibiting effect on the secretion of gastric enzymes, the chemistry of digestion is not able to work fully on the proteins, causing the proteins to take even longer to digest.
Fats are slow to digest, requiring acids and a range of enzymes, and some chemistry that the fat itself provide, such as lecithin, a phospholipid. Phospholipids are in higher quantities in unsaturated fats, making these fats easier to digest than saturated fats. As fat are slow to digest, they slow the digestion of anything eaten with them. An exception is eating fats with chlorophyll-rich vegetables as these foods counteract the tendency of fats to slow digestion.
- High water content fruits and vegetables digest well even when you drink water during your meal.
- Many juices are improved when diluted with pure water.
- However, the digestion of proteins and carbohydrates (complex food), that requires significant amount of digestive juices and time to digest, is negatively impacted when digestive juices are diluted by liquids.
- Fruit juices should be drunk alone, not with meal; Vegetable juices should also not be drunk while eating, but can be drunk before the meal (20 minuets before. Green juices (without fruit) digest well if eaten with a raw salad.
The combination of food play a role to digestive health, function and efficiency.
There are many variations and school of though regarding correct food combining; some go very deep and in detail, but my advice is... to make It simple!.
Below I list basic guidelines that will assure you to eat according to Food Combining rules, without going to the details which can make it more difficult to follow through.
- Drink water before a meal, not with the meal
- Eat fruit on a empty stomach only, and just by itself
- Avoid mixing complex carbohydrates with complex proteins from animal sources at the same meal; for example avoid bread/pasta with meat, fish or dairy at the same meal
- Greens and vegetables are neutral; they mix well with either complex proteins, complex carbohydrates, nuts, seeds, and legumes
- Ideally, don't eat more than one complex protein at a time. Although, if you like you can eat two complex carbohydrate foods together
- Vegetarian protein food sources such as seeds, nuts, legumes, and beans should be eaten with salads and vegetables, but can also be mixed with complex carbohydrates, although bear in mind this is a heavy combination, which eguals more energy consuming
- Eat oils with anything you like: use them in moderation and do not cook with them
Start applying Food combining rules five days a week, or one meal a day and notice how you feel after; it isn't a restricted way of eating, rather is an intelligent way to keep your digestion healthy, your energy levels productive, and your body fit without dieting.
Bon appétit !