Food Combining…It’s a Thing, My Friends

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Welcome, health fans! Let’s continue to delve into healthy eating habits. Before we discuss the topic of food combining, let’s review the first 4 layers of the onion that we peeled back in previous posts because they lay the foundation for healthy eating:

First Layer:  Protect your gut health, digestion and immunity

–          Eliminate antibiotic and hormone-containing foods such as conventional meats and dairy; choose meats and dairy that are free of these nasties or go fully organic

–          Eliminate GMO’s primarily from processed foods containing conventional corn, high fructose corn syrup (AKA corn sugar) and soy

–          See 10/28/13 Blog Post (How to Keep Calm and Eat Healthier) for details

Second Layer:  Protect your pancreas’ ability to regulate blood sugar and prevent fatty liver disease

–          Eliminate artificial sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup (AKA corn sugar) and reduce the amount of refined sugar, especially from energy and soft drinks

–          See 10/31/13 Blog Post (Keeping in Calm and Healthy, Part Deux) for details

Third Layer:  Protect your and your children’s ability to think and concentrate

–          Eliminate artificial colors, flavors and additives especially from sodas, candies and processed foods

–          See 11/14/13 Blog Post (Why kids go berzerk after eating glowing orange mac ‘n cheese) for details

Fourth Layer: Protect your body against disease by maintaining a basic, or alkaline, blood pH

–          Mitigate foods which cause your body to be acidic and feast on ones which make it alkaline, such as ripe fruits and vegetables

–          See 11/21 Blog Post (It’s all very basic…as in pH > 7…get it?) for details

Fifth Layer: Combine foods for maximum assimilation because “you are what you digest” (not only what you eat)

–          Follow food combining rules in which certain combinations of foods are not consumed at the same time to enable rapid digestion and prevent rotting and purifying in the gut (which is as bad as it sounds!)

Now that you have eliminated many undesirable things from your diet, it is time to ensure that the whole, organic, non-GMO foods which are eaten are properly digested and assimilated. In order to properly discuss this topic, I am going to refer mainly to The Beauty Detox Solution, by Kimberly Snyder, C.N. Recall that I touched upon the topic of food combining when I reviewed Healing with Whole Foods  by Paul Pitchford as there is a discussion of this approach in Chapter 19 of that book as well. I found that the principles outlined in both books to be in agreement, though Paul’s treatment of the subject was more detailed and Kimberly’s a bit more accessible.

Kimberly refers to properly combining foods as Beauty Food Pairing because she argues that the minimum amount of energy should be used for digestion so that the maximum amount can be available for regenerative processes that enhance our health and beauty from the cellular level. She explains that Beauty Food Pairing is based on the science of how food digests optimally in the body. Different foods digest with different enzymes, and some call for more acidic or more alkaline environments. She references Dr. Herbert Shelton, the foremost expert on food combining, who spent years studying the way digestive enzymes work to help break down foods. As Dr. Shelton explains, “Every student of physiology is well aware that the digestive enzymes have certain well-defined limitations and that different digestive juices are secreted for use in digesting different kinds of food substances.” [1]

There are 7 main rules associated with Beauty Food Pairing:

Beauty Rule #1 – Our bodies can properly digest only one concentrated, non-water-containing food at a time. The stomach secretes different kinds of juices when we eat different kinds of foods. Non-concentrated foods are much simpler for the body to digest than concentrated foods. We can handle most concentrated foods pretty well, but we can eat only one type at a time in order to maximize digestion.

–          Concentrated foods are foods that do not contain any water, like proteins (fish and seafood, chicken, meat, seeds, nuts, dairy except for butter, protein powders, eggs ) and starches (grains, starchy vegetables like potatoes, breads, cereals, pasta, crackers )

–          Non-concentrated foods are ripe fruits and non-starch vegetables

Beauty Rule #2 – Per Rule #1, Proteins and Starches don’t mix. This one is a toughie for me because I love the taste of combinations like spaghetti and meatballs, eggs and toast, meat and potatoes. Kimberly notes that the reason for this is:

–          Concentrated protein requires and acidic environment to be broken down, an environment that includes hydrochloric acid and an enzyme called pepsin

–          Concentrated starch begins breaking down with an enzyme called ptyalin (salivary amylase) which can act only in an alkaline medium

She reminds us that acids and bases neutralize each other, so not much gets digested if the environment in the stomach is essentially neutral. This inefficient digestive process can go on for hours, consuming energy and leaving us tired. Ever feel the need for a nap after a big, complicated meal? Healthy food should leave us energized, not wiped out! Also, if food hangs around for too long in our 98.6 degree body, then the proteins will become putrefied and the carbs will become fermented, leading to gassiness, bloating and/or heartburn.  On the other hand, if food passes through our system quickly, it will provide maximum nutrition and energy without the bloating.

The goal of rapid digestion and assimilation is behind the other rules as well, which you can learn more about by delving into this fantastic book:

Beauty Rule #3 – Vegetables are neutral because they are alkaline, non-concentrated, and easy to digest. Eat many and often! Pairing vegetables with 1 concentrated food is a great idea.

Beauty Rule #4 – Mixing two starches is okay because they are easier to digest than proteins.

Beauty Rule #5 – Mixing two types of animal proteins is not okay because they are comprised of complex chains of amino acids and are therefore the hardest food group to break down.

Beauty Rule #6 – Fats should be eaten moderately with protein (animal and plant) but are okay to eat with carbohydrates.  Fat mixes well with starches but has somewhat of an inhibiting effect on the digestion of protein. Yay as one of my favorite snacks is avocado toast, which is toast + Vegenaise + avocado slices. Kimberly also sings the praises of avocados in the book, so I think this snack is a keeper.

Beauty Rule #7 – Fruit should be eaten only on an empty stomach because they digest so easily and should not hang around with other harder to digest foods.

Kimberly makes many good suggestions throughout the book, such as foods to avoid, how to cleanse and transition to a healthier diet, eating light to heavy throughout the day, incorporating digestive enzymes and probiotics, recipes for nutritious meals (including Glowing Green Juices and Smoothies), and so on. I am incorporating several of them and have to say, I am feeling lighter and more energetic. Of all the books I’ve recommended, I’d say this one is very well-written, easy to understand, and offers the most practical advice. I highly recommend this book! You can also learn about her approach on her website: http://www.kimberlysnyder.net/ .

That wraps up our nutrition post for today! Eat well and prosper, my friends!

[1] Herbert M. Shelton, Food Combining Made Easy (San Antonio, TX: Willow Publishing, 1982), 56.

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