Food combining is an understanding of what foods combine to create better digestion and what foods combine and are indigestible. It is pretty simple to understand in the Western view of nutrition. Yet, for some reason, it has been skipped over in our education of health. There is more to it than what the Western view is but to learn the basics is a good starting point to getting a handle on healthy digestion.
Herbert Shelton wrote the first book on it back in 1951 called, Food Combining Made Easy and really not much has changed since then in the Western view of digestion. You can get a free downloadable verision here :
There are four basic laws to live by in this for a starting place
1. Eat fruit and melon alone. Fruit has the highest water content of any food and travels through the body quickly. It contains sugars that are ready for the body to utilize and provides its own enzymes. The body works hard to pass fruit out of the stomach as quickly as possible. This is why fruit should not be combined with other foods. If you have fruit during or following your meal, the sugar in the fruit will ferment in the stomach, causing bloating and gas. Many people think eating fruit for dessert is a healthy choice, but it actually gets held up in your stomach by other foods and causes fermentation. Allow at least 1-2 hours after eating fruit before eating any other kind of food.
2. Avoid combining starch and animal protein. Animal proteins and starchy foods require different digestive juices in order to be properly broken down and used by the body. The digestion of starches begins in the mouth with the enzyme ptyalin. Proteins are mainly broken down by hydrochloric acid in the stomach and the enzyme pepsin. When protein and starch are eaten together, ptyalin is not produced in the saliva, so the starch is not predigested in the mouth. Thus, it enters the stomach and begins to ferment. In addition, protein needs to be digested in an acidic environment and starch in an alkaline environment. So when proteins and starches are combined, the acid and alkaline juices neutralize each other. Thus, neither the proteins nor the starches are fully digested and the essential nutrients are not utilized by the body.
3. Eat starches alone or with vegetables. Vegetables are high in water content and easy to digest. They can be digested in either an acid or alkaline environment. Thus they can be combined with starches or with proteins.
4. Eat animal proteins alone or with vegetables. The fiber contained in vegetables helps to move the non-fiber protein foods rapidly through the intestines. Thus, if you eat a meal with animal protein, it’s a good idea to also have lightly steamed vegetables.
Here are a couple charts to make it all easier…..
Now this is not Ayurveda. Ayurveda takes all of this knowledge and kinda flips it on its head. While some of it still holds true, it is coming from a template that is kinda broken or better, the understanding is from a lens that is trying to see things on the small scale instead of the entire picture and in this it loses much of how things really work.
The intake of water with meals is forbidden in food combining as the thought is that it washes out the enzymes to digest. Ayurveda used the liquid in a meal to digest and assimilate the food as 1/3 food, 1/3 water, and 1/3 air is used to create proper digestion of a meal. Very easily we see the flaw in the western food combining’s thoughts on this by seeing that if there is not water in the food the food will not be able to have chemical breakdown. This doesn’t mean to flood your body with water during a meal though. Also Ayurveda uses liquid around a meal for treatment. Western doesn’t see any difference in each individual’s digestion therefore everyone should be doing the same. Drinking before a meal, slows the digestion incredibly. Drinking with a meal helps the proper assimilation and digestion, drinking after a meal is also used as a treatment for balancing one’s digestive imbalance. Each is individual to the person.
The western view lso has no way of seeing qualities and potencies of foods and what it does. Combining opposites in food like putting cardomon and ginger together in a chai is actually, believe it or not, combining opposites which is against the understanding of ayurvedic food combining. One has a hot potency and the other a cold potency. The create dysfunction in the digestion and the simpler you make the digestion process the better it works.
There is also the understanding of the digestive process with tastes in Ayurveda. You eat from heaviest to lightest and sweet to astringent. This follows the digestion thru the system in accordance to the organs and digestion and allows proper digestion to happen. That is very detailed and will be another post though. More needs to be understood before getting into that detail.