Proper food combination is essential to good digestion, therefore, improper food combining is one of the primary factors that cause gas, flatulence, heartburn, and upset stomach. What’s worse, the resulting poor digestion can also contribute to malnutrition, even if you think you’re eating a decent diet.
Food combination takes into account the area and complexity of digestion of each food, to ensure it goes through your entire digestive system with ease.
One of the most important factors when it comes to healthful eating is to make sure you’re eating foods, native to your local area, that are in season.
The two foremost rules of food combining are:
- No proteins and starches at the same meal, as they neutralize each other and prevent proper digestion of either food. To ensure proper digestion of each food, wait two hours after eating a starch before eating protein. And wait three hours after eating protein before eating a starch.
You see, some foods just DO NOT get along well with each other in your stomach, even if they look good together on the plate, like meat and potatoes.
Meat needs an acidic digestive environment while carbohydrates (potatoes) need an alkaline one. Carbohydrates digestion begins in your mouth while meat doesn’t start digesting until it hits your stomach.
Then there’s the matter of digestive times, since different foods takes different amounts of time to digest.
- No fruits and vegetables at the same meal. Fruits are either a single or double sugar, whereas the starches are a triple sugar. Fruits mechanically break down in your stomach, but chemically, they don’t break down until they reach the third and fourth stage of your digestive system, which are in your small intestine. Starches, again, are broken down in three different stages, starting in your mouth.
Fruits take very little time to digest (some – less than half hour) while meat can take anywhere from 4 to 6 hours to digest. Does it make sense to eat them together?
Eating fruit with your meat (or other heavy foods) means fruit will digest quickly, then ferment in your gut, and keep your meat from digesting properly.
You should never eat dessert including fruit after a meal. When you do, it gets trapped in your stomach with all that other food, where it starts to rot, as it’s not being chemically digested there. Therefore, eat fruit or light deserts 60 minutes before your meal.
The same applies if you want to eat acidic fruits, they do not combine well with starches or sweet fruit. One example would be using lemon and banana together or eating it too close together. This is a combination that is sure to lead to gastrointestinal upset.
Many people consider tomatoes a fruit, yet it’s commonly added to salad. Dr. Pickering classifies tomatoes as a “fruit-vegetable,” because even though they don’t have the sugar like most fruits, they’re still an acidic fruit-vegetable. As such they’re okay to combine with other vegetables. He suggests the following recipe for an excellent salad:
“Any kind of vegetable that has seed in it; for example summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers, bell peppers, and okra—those are all fruit-vegetables. Your tomatoes go well with those. And since lettuce and celery have a neutral effect, as far as the breakdown of food, the celery and the lettuce combine very well with all of that. You can also add avocados.” (Dr. Wayne Pickering)
Below is a list of how different foods digest differently and stay in the stomach for varying lengths of time.
- Water 0-10 min.
- Juice 15-20 min.
- Fruit 30-60 min.
- Melon 30-60 min.
- Sprouts 1 hour
- Wheatgrass Juice 60-90 min.
- Most Vegetables 1-2 hours
- Grains & Beans 2-3 hours
- Dense Vegetable Protein 2-3 hours
- Cooked Meat & Fish 4-6 hours
- Shellfish 4-8 hour
Because of the varying digestive environments required to break foods down, some foods, specifically dense, oily proteins, require an acidic digestive environment, whereas other foods, particularly starches and acid fruits, are more easily broken down in an alkaline digestive environment. Combining foods with incompatible digestive environments may contribute to indigestion and inefficient digestion.
The point being made is to get maximum energy from your foods and not take excess energy to digest them.
Drink liquids by themselves. The reason being is that if you drink with meals, the digestive juices are diluted causing inefficient breakdown of foods. You should drink at least 20 minutes before a main meal and 90 minutes or more after finishing your meal.
Eat fruits according to their groups – do not combine sweet fruits and acid fruits.
Do not combine Dense, Oily Proteins with dense starches or starchy vegetables. Combine Dense, Oily Proteins with fermented foods or combine them with low-starchy, green vegetables and sprouts.
Combine Starchy Vegetables & Dense Starches – with Low-Starch and Green Vegetables & Sprouts
Combine Acid Fruits with Sub-Acid Fruits
Combine Sub-Acid Fruits with Sweet Fruits – do not combine acid fruit with sweet fruit.
NOTE: Limit your intake of fruits if you have a medical challenge, since it is important to know that disease thrives on sugar.
Here is a list of the food categories listed above, so you can start learning how to make the best combination choices for optimal digestion.
Meat, Fish, Foul, Avocado, Beans, Eggs, Cheese, Nuts, Un-hulled Sesame Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Flax Seeds, Legumes.
- FERMENTED FOODS
Sauerkraut, any fermented Vegetables, fermented Soy – Tempeh, Kefir, etc.
- DENSE STARCHES & STARCHY VEGETABLES
Artichokes, Beets, Beans, Peas, Yams, Carrots, Corn, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Jicama, Sweet Potato, Hubbard Squash, Winter Squash, Banana Squash.
- LOW STARCH GREEN VEGETABLES & SPROUTS
Asparagus, Bell Pepper, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Celery, Chard, Chicory, Chives, Collards, Raw Corn, Cucumber, Endive, Escarole, Garlic, Green beans, Kale, Leek, Lettuce, Onions, Parsley, Radish, Rhubarb, Spinach, Summer Squash, Swiss Chard, Tomato, Tomatillos, Turnip, Turnip Greens, Watercress, Zucchini.
- ACID FRUITS
Grapefruit, Orange, Blueberries, Lemon, Lime, Pineapple, Pomegranate, Sour Grapes, Cranberries, Sour Peach and Plum, Sour Apple, Sour Cherries, Strawberries.
- SUB-ACID FRUITS
Sweet Cherries, Sweet Apple, Sweet Berries, Apricot, Papaya, Pear, Mango, Sweet Peach, Sweet Plum.
- SWEET FRUITS
Banana, Dates and Figs, Persimmon, Prunes, Sweet Grapes, All Dried Fruits.
Many food “experts” scoff at the idea of food-combining. They insist that it’s nothing but a bunch of nonsense. Is it? Why not find out for yourself?
Have your meat and potatoes together, like you’re used to. Then eat them separately. Watch how you feel; stick with one way or the other long enough to see the difference. A week should suffice.
The Principles of Food Combining by Dr. Wayne Pickering, Naturopathic Physician