By Shelby Stoner, MS, PHASE IV Exercise Physiologist
Food combining is the idea that certain foods pair well together, while others do not. At its core, the concept of food combining is based on the idea that fruits, protein, and starches digest at different times and require different digestive environments. When these food groups are combined incorrectly, it can cause GI distress including gas, indigestion, bloating, and weight gain. Some of the basic food combining principles are to avoid starches (oats, rice, pasta, bread, potato, etc.) and protein (meat, poultry, eggs, cheese, fish) in the same meal, and to always eat fruit before your meals, not after. The claim behind following this eating pattern is because proteins need an acidic environment to be broken down, whereas starches require a more alkaline environment. This is due the fact that there are different enzymes within the digestive tract that digest protein and carbohydrates (starches), so if you eat the two together, it may cause digestive problems. Other basic principles of food combining include not consuming fruits and vegetables at the same meal, and avoiding cold water during meals.
The proposed benefits of food combining include weight loss, improved digestion, increased energy, reduced acne, better absorption of nutrients, and improved detoxification. Keep in mind here, that detoxing is about what goes out, not what’s going in. A common misconception in today’s society is that juicing is inherently detoxifying, when in reality detoxifying requires the removal of toxins through bowel movements, sweating, and circulation. Food combining is thought to improve digestion by helping the digestive tract be more efficient, so it doesn’t have to work as hard to absorb the nutrients your body requires for energy (hello fats and carbs), as well as alleviating any symptoms associated with poor digestion including gas, bloating, constipation, reflux and fatigue.
Within the principles of food combining, your meals should be structured from light to heavy. This is because we digest light foods the fastest and heavier foods slowly. For example, you may have a salad before your main course, or fruit before a meal as it is considered a “light” food. However, there are neutral “freebies” that you can add to your meals to spice things up including but not limited to: course sea salt, cayenne pepper, apple cider vinegar, raw kimchi, capers, or Kalamata olives. These act as a great source to add flavor to a meal without lots of added fats or oils!
FOOD COMBINING “HOW TO”
Step 1: Pick one category at each meal
- E.g. Butternut squash, quinoa, sweet potato
- Fresh Fruit
- E.g. Apple, Banana, Pineapple
- Animal Protein
- E.g. Poultry, fish, eggs
- Nuts and Seeds
- E.g. Almonds, walnuts, cashews
Step 2: Fill the rest of your plate with cooked or raw non-starchy vegetables
- E.g. Leafy lettuce, kale, broccoli, spinach, zucchini, bok choy
Step 3: Wait 3-4 hours before switching categories
- If you become hungry between meals, snack on non-starchy vegetables as desired
Food combining can be a starting point for those who struggle with digestion, and if done in a non-restrictive, relaxing way, the diet can encourage individuals to practice mindful eating.
Take Away Message: General Principles of Food Combining
- Eat fruits on an empty stomach or before meals
- Don’t mix starches and proteins
- Don’t overdo oils or cooked fats
- Try to have a raw salad before meals
Remember, each individual’s dietary needs are unique to the individual. While changing the way you look at food sounds simple, many need more guidance and support. For more information on weight loss, improving metabolism, or anti-inflammatory diets, schedule your FREE Nutrition consultation today by calling (310) 582-8212 or email Shelby directly at email@example.com.