Trophology: the science of food combining.
Basically, food combining is really quite logical. Each food substance needs a different set of stomach conditions and enzymes in which to be properly digested and assimilated in the body, and each food substance has a different time frame in which it is broken down in the stomach. Combining foods correctly will mean that proper and complete digestion can occur with less energy expenditure, resulting in ‘quicker exit time’ from the body and less digestive irritability in the form of bloating and gas.
There are many, many views on proper food combining, some stricter than others. However, the following overview comes from what I have read (mainly from texts by experts Natalia Rose, Arnold Ehret, Norman Walker and Daniel Reid, amongst many others) and also from what I have found works best for me.
Trophology: the basics…
There four main categories of food that ideally should never touch each other in the stomach:
3. Nuts, seeds (and dried fruits)
4. Fresh fruits
Within these groups, there are various sub-groups if you really want to get serious about food combining, but these are the basic four that I try to keep separate. If you want to simplify it even further, you could try just keeping starches and proteins separate, along with only eating fruit alone and on an empty stomach.
The first three groups combine with all raw (low-starch) vegetables, and the first two groups also combine with all cooked (low-starch) vegetables. Fresh fruits combine with leafy greens only.
Proteins (including all meats, poultry, fish, eggs, cheese):
In order to initiate efficient digestion of any concentrated animal protein, the stomach must secrete pepsin, which can only function in a highly acidic medium. The acidic environment of the stomach required to break down proteins must be maintained for several hours to complete digestion. (Note: natural carnivores naturally have highly acidic stomachs).
Starches (including all cooked starchy vegetables, grains and grain products):
On the other hand, the digestion of starches begins in the mouth, where ptyalin and other alkaline substances are immediately secreted into the food by saliva. The alkalinity provided by these substances is also required for proper digestion of starches in the stomach.
Basic chemistry tells us that when combined, acidic and alkaline materials neutralize each other. So what happens when you ingest protein and starch together is that the acid medium and the alkaline medium are both secreted and proceed to neutralize each other, creating an environment in the stomach that is not optimal for the digestion of either protein or starch. When held up in the stomach where proper digestion is not taking place, the starch proceeds to ferment, causing gas and bloating, and the protein begins to putrefy (keep in mind that the internal environment of our bodies is around 37 degrees celcius, and then think about what happens if you put meat in a hot, wet environment for too long). Furthermore, the toxic environment caused by improperly combined meals results in the colon secreting mucus in an attempt to protect the body from toxic particles. After days, weeks and years of miscombined meals, this sticky mucus layer builds up, hardens in the folds of the colon and contributes to the chronic constipation we all suffer from – ick!
Therefore a meal made up of both protein and starch is a giant ‘combo-abombo’ (combination abomination!) in terms of digestibility. (Oh and yes, this absolutely flies in the face of the mainstream idea of a ‘properly balanced meal’).
Fruits are such perfect foods for humans that they require hardly any digestion at all in the stomach. But this can only happen when the stomach is empty and fruits are eaten alone. When held up by other foods that require longer digestion times, the natural sugars in fruit begin to ferment and cause gas and bloating.
Note: melons are so high in water content that they require almost no digestion at all, and ferment very quickly in the stomach. They should be kept separate from all other fruits.
Avocados – Avocados combine as a starch (even though they are predominantly fat-based), therefore you could eat an avocado salad with cooked starchy vegetables or a high-quality grain. Purists would frown at this (fat-sugar combo), but I have no troubles combining avocados with low sugar fruits such as berries and green apples. Avocados also combine well with dried fruits as well as bananas, but they do not combine with nuts.
Bananas – Bananas require a little longer in the stomach than most fruits (about an hour as opposed to 30 mins), and their density means they combine well with dried fruits, nuts and also avocados. (This might sound bizarre, but one of my favourite salads is just greens, bananas and avocado!).
Non-sweet fruits (such as lemons, limes, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers) – These fruits are neutral in terms of food combining. Once again, purists might say that you can’t combine an acid with a starch (such as tomato and grain), but I find that this gives me no digestive trouble at all.
Coconut – Young coconut combines as a starch (the water itself is neutral) and mature coconut (eg dessicated coconut) combines in the nuts/dried fruit category).
Beans/pulses/legumes – even though beans and lentils are plant-based and natural, they are naturally high in both protein and starch, making them difficult to digest. Note that they are slightly higher in starch, so if eaten, combine them in the starch category.
Corn – Some people will say that corn should not be consumed raw, however I have noticed no difficulties digesting raw corn (and I love it!). Raw corn combines as a neutral vegetable, but cooked corn combines as a starch.
The good news… is that condiments such as olive oil, coconut oil and mustard, as well as treats such as raw honey, nut milk and dark chocolate (over 70% cocoa) are fairly neutral and can be enjoyed with any category!
It might seem tricky and confusing at first, but food combining can be fairly easy. Fruits make a great breakfast, as this is when the stomach is most like to be empty, plus they are easily digestible which is great for a light-to-heavy eating approach. From there, it’s just a matter of choosing a high quality starch or an organic, free-range protein to base your lunches and dinners around! Also, just because you have a starch-based lunch does not mean you can’t have a protein-based dinner. A properly combined starch meal will take around three hours to leave the stomach, while a properly combined protein meal will take around four hours (note that a poorly combined meal might take around 8-10 hours in the stomach). So, just wait 3-4 hours before switching categories.
On to the fun stuff… food!!
Tonight was a “protein-night”, which is highly unusual for me! Usually, my go-to meal consists of a huge avocado salad and a heaping pile of baked root veggies, usually pumpkin (my capacity to put away ridiculous amounts of vegetables shocks even me!). I’ve been almost entirely meat-free for a long time (save for the odd piece of wild fish once in a blue moon), but I’ve found that over the last few months I’ve been naturally gravitating towards a vegan diet without much conscious effort. (My reasons for following a vegetarian/mostly vegan diet are to do with both health and ethics by the way). However, today I found myself with an unusual hankering for eggs! Odd.
Things got weirder. I know that many people would turn up their noses at having a big leafy salad with dinner, but it’s a staple for me and something I usually look forward to. I almost always have a big salad with (or as) my main meals (the raw food aids in the digestion of cooked meal components, as well as helps up my raw intake for the day and also provides lots of essential vitamins, minerals and alkalinity), but tonight I just. wasn’t. feeling it.
So what’s a girl to do when she isn’t feeling like a salad but wants to get her raw greens in? Make a green smoothie of course! I can’t believe I haven’t thought of having a green smoothie pre-dinner before, such a good move :)
(Ugh, the only downside to this was that mid-smoothie-assemblage, I managed to drop and shatter my NuNaturals Vanilla Stevia. Worst still, I’ll have to order more from the States because you can’t get it here! Ah well.)
To satisfy my eggs craving, I later whipped up some zucchini ‘pasta’ and topped it off with two beautiful free-range organic eggs.
Mmmm… even if you’re not someone who gives a second thought to where most eggs come from, organic eggs from happy, free-range chooks just taste better than conventionally farmed eggs.
Look, my eggs are so fresh that they still have bits of chicken fluff on them!
Odd cravings sorted.
(Side note: as much as that dinner hit the spot, I’m now realising why I stick to starch meals…. I’m dying for some avocado pudding dessert!)