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Food Combining Explained

Posted Jul 28 2008 8:14pm

There has been a lot of research done on the significance of food combining when we eat. Many believe that our stomach is designed to only digest food correctly one food type at a time or eating foods together that are compatible with each other. This is because each food type requires a different enzyme to digest them. Eating the correct food combinations will help your body digest food optimally so that you are getting all the nutrients that are in the food.

What is it?

Food combining is eating foods together that require the same enzymes for digestion. From a scientific standpoint, we know that in order for meats to be broken down, an acidic environment in the stomach is needed. If you drink milk with your meal, which is alkaline, that neutralizes the stomach environment and can hinder proper digestion of the meat.

Think about all of the people that experience indigestion. It is now so common that it is seen as a normal fact of life. We spend in excess of 2 billion dollars a year on antacids (substances which counter stomach acidity). Wouldn’t it be better if instead of having to choke down an antacid all you needed to do was eat foods the right way? Eating the correct food combinations can help end indigestion and improve health and vitality because you will be getting the proper nutrients out of your food.

A Brief History of Food Combining

The idea of food combining for optimal nutrition was introduced in 1911 by William Howard Hay. Food combining was based on the current ideas of that time as far as the requirement of alkalinity to digest food the proper way in the stomach whilst taking into consideration the pH of the food you are eating.

This then lead to a need for a classification system of foods, and this was created by Herbert M Shelton. His classification system looked at food and grouped it together by the nutrients that each food produced. This broke foods up into three groups, those that are considered “neutral”, those that are carbohydrates and those that are proteins. Herbert M. Shelton went as far as to recommend that you eat proteins and carbohydrates at different meals.

How It Works

Each type of food is digested differently. They each require different enzymes and different environments to be digested properly. It is equally important that different foods digest at different rates. Combining food incorrectly can cancel out the specific needs of those foods for proper digestion.

For example, it has already been stated that meats/flesh foods or more appropriately proteins require an acidic environment. As stated enjoying a glass of milk with your steak dinner has just cancelled out the acidic environment due to the neutralizing effects of milk. The same goes for fruits as they produce an alkaline secretion when digested which will also neutralize the acidic environment needed for digestion of proteins.

Noting the rate of digestion of food is also important. Take the example of fruits, which digest quickly and combining them with foods that take longer to digest, such as the proteins can cause the fruits to ferment. So when you are eating fruits you will want to combine those with starches or carbohydrates, both of which digest quickly. Vegetables and fruits both require different enzymes for digestion and these enzymes also tend to cancel each other out.

Proper combination of like foods or compatible foods will aid in proper digestion and optimal health. Do not go over board though and focus on eating only one food or one type of food because that is just as bad for the digestive system. Variety and proper combination is key.

What Have Results Shown?

The results show that proper food combining does help decrease indigestion and improve overall health. Your body is getting the nutrients that it is meant to get from the food that you are consuming. You will notice that you feel “lighter” and have more energy. Food combining has also been shown to help those recovering from eating disorders. The proper combination of foods is easier on the stomach.

As with any theory, the food combination theory and practice has its share of critics. The complaints aren’t due to science, but due more to the fact that they consider food combining to be a boring way to eat after awhile.

How to Get Started with Food Combining

Pay attention to your food. Know what category each food that you eat falls into, protein, carbohydrate or neutral. Once you know what food falls in what category you can easily follow the following simple steps:

  • Make sure that you eat all kinds of citrus fruits, leafy veggies, eggs, fish and meats so that you can safely avoid any nutrient deficiencies. Notice there is no mention of carbohydrates, they are an “eat only if you have to” food.
  • You do not want to combine any pure fats with high starches in one meal. In other words, that baked potato with butter and sour cream is out the window.
  • Avoid combining acids such as citrus, vinegar and buttermilk with any high starch at one meal.
  • High starches should also not be combined with any high proteins.
  • Fats can be eaten with proteins and acids.
  • Foods such as meat, fish, fowl and eggs should be eaten one serving of each per day or two servings of one per day with a fat.
  • Eat buttermilk, cheese and other dairy: Having two glasses of organic milk or two and half ounces of cheese per day.
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