Remember when you were taught, if you are old enough, that you should eat one serving from each of the four food groups, meat, dairy, vegetables, and grains, each meal and if you did, you would be healthy. Well a lot has changed over the years including the way we look at putting together a meal for good nutrition. There are many ideas, thoughts and theories about what constitutes eating properly. Food combining is just one of the ways you can improve your digestion by the way you eat.
What is food combining?
Food combining puts foods together in the same meal that are compatible for digestion.
- When you eat fruit, you should eat it only with other fruits, with the exception of melon, which should always be eaten alone.
- Vegetables are more versatile, you can eat them with either grains or proteins.
- When you eat grain you can eat vegetables with it, but not protein.
- When you eat protein, you should not eat grain with it, only vegetables.
To understand why food combining is a good way to put foods together, it is important to understand how foods are digested. If we combine our foods right, do not overeat and eat real food, our bodies can produce enzymes to digest the food. Enzymes are the catalysts which cause foods to break down. Each enzyme has its own action and it only acts on one specific food type. Enzymes that act on fats do not act on proteins, starches or sugars. For example, among sugars there are sucrose, maltose and lactose, etc. Each of these sugars has its own enzyme, and one enzyme cannot digest the other type of sugar. Therefore, it is important to avoid mixing foods together that require different enzymes to digest.
Enzymes must also work in order. They can only do their job if the preceding enzymes have properly done their jobs.
- Eat starchy foods as dry as possible because the digestion of starch begins in the mouth. The saliva secretes an enzyme called pryalin and this enzyme converts starch into the form of sugar called maltose.
- Starch digestion will continue in the stomach provided it has pryalin mixed with the food and will continue for 2-3 ½ hours.
- Pancreatic enzymes are mixed with the food when it reaches the duodenum (small intestine) after traveling through the common bile duct connected to the gallbladder.
- Enzymes called amylase are produced in the pancreas which continues the next phase of digestion. When the starch reaches the small intestine, an enzyme called maltase converts the starch into sugar (glucose). Glucose is the substance from which you get your energy. If the proper steps are not completed you will not produce sufficient glucose for your body’s needs.
When protein is digested it becomes known as amino acids.
- Protein is NOT digested in the mouth like starch. Protein digestion begins in the stomach
- A gastric juice is produced in the stomach and contains an enzyme called pepsin. Hydrochloric acid is released in the stomach, lowering the pH and activates the pepsin. The pepsin then converts protein into peptides.
- When the chime leaves the stomach and passes through the duodenum (small intestine) it receives another protein digesting enzyme called trypsin.
- In the small intestine, there is an enzyme called erepsin which finishes the conversion of peptides into amino acids.
- Proteins that leave the stomach undigested cannot be digested anywhere else in the digestive system. These undigested proteins turn into toxins and the end result is the development of food allergies.
- Liquids dilute the digestive enzymes. Drinking liquids with a meal is a major cause of poor digestion.
- Gastric juices in the stomach lining produce an enzyme called lipase which splits fat down into components.
- Hydrochloric acid contributes to the digestion of fat.
- Fat is converted into fatty acids, which are broken down into glucose or energy.
- Fat takes the longest time of any food to digest.
- Hydrogenating fats renders them indigestible. It takes a temperature of over 300 degrees F to break down hydrogenated fats.
- Starchy vegetables (grains) require a large amount of pryalin or an alkaline base, and are not compatible with protein which needs an acid base.
- Non-starchy vegetables (leafy greens) do not require as much pryalin. Starch, protein or fat from the vegetable kingdom are in smaller, more balanced amounts and therefore are more compatible with either starch (grains) or proteins.
- Fruit must pass through the mouth, stomach, and into the small intestine where it is converted to glucose for energy.
- Fruit is one of the foods especially designed for the human body. Some people think fruit is too high in sugar or causes them to be bloated or gaseous and eliminate it from their diet.
- When fruit enters the digestive tract with other foods, the fruits tend to ferment, causing gas and bloating.
- When whole fruits are eaten, there is a sufficient amount of fiber to carry the excess sugar from the body.
When combining foods properly, the body is able to optimally digest the food, breaking it down completely and extracting the nutrients. By combining your foods correctly, you will start down the road to health. If you are still having problems digesting foods, consider adding a digestive enzyme to your regimen or eating just raw food which contains it's own digestive enzymes. Choose your path to follow and start becoming healthier today.