When it comes to holistic nutrition and digestion, one principle you may keep hearing about is “proper food combining” – but is it a realistic dietary choice?
The principles of food combining stem from the fact that our bodies digest different foods at different speeds and therefore improperly combining certain foods can lead to disrupted digestion. Foods that are digested quickly have their transit time extended by the foods that are digested more slowly, or vice versa, and this can lead to gas, bloating, indigestion and all around discomfort. To give you a bigger picture, consider this: it only takes many fruits 20-30 minutes to be digested whereas some meat can takes up to 4 hours. Eating foods together that pair well help ease digestion, increase nutrient absorption and decrease the discomfort you may feel after meals.
- Eat fruits alone and on an empty stomach
Since fruits have such a quick transit time, it is best to eat them away from other meals. A good general rule is 30 minutes before other food, or 2 hours after. A popular solution is to simply have your fruit first thing in the morning for breakfast.
- Do not combine proteins and starches
It is believed that when animal proteins and starchy foods are combined, the protein can’t be absorbed adequately and the starches are not broken down properly. Try breaking up two of your meals (e.g. lunch and dinner) into one being protein based and the other starch based. Allow around 4 hours between these meals to ensure optimal digestion.
- Do not combine proteins
Two wrongs don’t make a right and neither do two proteins, so it may be time to say goodbye to surf n’ turf.
- Green leafy vegetables play well with everyone
Refer back to rule # 2 when you may have been imagining eating just a starch or just a protein as your whole meal – that’s not the case with vegetables! Pair your favourite green leafy vegetables with your protein meal and your starch-based meal. And as always, vegetables make a great snack in between all of your meals.
Who should consider food combination?
Ultimately, the purpose of food combining is to ease your digestive burden. If you experience discomfort after eating, it could be an indication that your body is struggling with digestion and this is one way to potentially provide support. It may seem daunting at first to follow such a strict set of rules, since so much of what you may have previously considered a “normal” meal will change. As with any change to your diet, start where you feel comfortable and ease into it. A great first step is to choose one of the rules to start with – try eating fruit alone first thing in the morning for breakfast or having a salad with starches for lunch but making sure to exclude animal protein.