It doesn’t take much to know that most people don’t feel their best after eating at a buffet, picnic or party where there is a wide variety of foods.
While how much you eat at these occasions definitely plays a role, it isn’t the only reason many people end up feeling bloated, gassy and tired in these situations.
The basic principles of food combining are simple, logical and easy-to-follow once you become familiar with them; however very few people are aware that these principles even exist.
After learning about food combining a few years ago and experiencing the benefits firsthand, I now unconsciously incorporate many of the guidelines into my daily eating routines.
The basic premise of food combining is that different types of foods, such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats, are broken down and processed in different parts of the digestive tract. This means that the length of time it takes to process each type varies.
For example, carbohydrates begin digestion in the mouth with enzymes found in our saliva. Proteins, however, are not broken down in the mouth at all and only start to be processed in the stomach, with the help of stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes. Fats, on the other hand, need to be emulsified into smaller droplets to be absorbed. This happens with the help of bile salts and enzymes from the liver and gallbladder.
The process of digesting and absorbing proteins and fats takes much longer than carbohydrates. For this reason, it is recommended to always include a quality source of protein and healthy fat in your diet, in order to help keep you fuller for longer (among other health benefits).
What Does all This Mean for Food Combining?
When certain foods are consumed together, for example foods high in carbohydrates are eaten with heavy proteins, the carbohydrates spend longer than they need to in the stomach. This causes these foods to ferment, which leads to the build-up of gas and a bloated belly.
Depending on the severity of your bloating and discomfort, you may want to be very strict with these principles. Alternatively, you could be mindful of your diet and simply work to incorporate some of them into your daily routine.
I have noticed a big difference with myself and with clients when I recommend not eating fruit with any other foods. While the food combining chart states a fair combination between some fruits and proteins, I recommend eating fruit 15-30mins before a meal or two hours after a meal.
This is to help prevent the food from fermenting and causing gas and acid reflux as it waits for the other components of the meal to be properly digested.
Food Combining 101
The following basic principles are the foundation of food combining. If you do not follow any other rules, follow these to avoid digestive upset.
Eat Fruit Away From Other Foods
Fruits like blackberries, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, strawberries and raspberries should be eaten away from proteins and fats. This is because, as mentioned above, these foods ferment quickly if they stay in the digestive tract too long.
Fermentation causes a build-up of gas resulting in pressure, discomfort and bloating. Additionally, these fruits are also digested very quickly and make a perfect pre-meal snack. Enjoy 1/2-cup of berries 15-30mins before a meal to give your body a nutrient boost.
Avoid Eating Proteins and Carbohydrates in the Same Meal
When eaten together, these foods hinder each other’s digestion. This means that carbohydrates like potatoes, beans and legumes like lentils, mung beans and chickpeas and grains like rice, oats and quinoa, should be eaten away from proteins like nuts, seeds, dairy, eggs and fish, meat and poultry.
To ensure food is properly digested and to prevent the build-up of gas and bloating, eat carbohydrates three hours after eating protein, and eat protein two hours after eating carbohydrates.
Never Eat Dessert After a Meal
Now I’m not saying you should eat dessert before your meal, however eating dessert after a meal is a sure recipe for disaster. The sugars in dessert are broken down in the third and fourth stage of digestion which happens after the stomach. When you eat dessert after a meal, it gets trapped in your stomach with the rest of your meal where the sugars ferment and almost always cause gas and bloating.
If you want a little sweet treat, fruit is always a great option. Just remember to have it 15-30min before your meal.
What You Should Eat
In the morning, eat the simplest food in the largest quantity. Fruits like berries or apples are easily digested and full of fibre. They are an excellent way to start your day.
Approximately 30min after eating fruit, you should fuel your body with a healthy and filling food combination like a smoothie made with spinach, protein powder and healthy fat (avocado or seed oils). Throw in some cinnamon to balance your blood sugar and add flavour.
For lunch, try a more complex meal thats richer in carbohydrates for energy. For example, a mixed bean salad or baked sweet potato with a leafy green salad works well.
Your evening meal should consist of the most concentrated foods in the smallest amount. A perfect choice would be protein paired with vegetables like leafy greens, cucumber, peppers, beets or asparagus.
By following these basic principles, you will become more attuned to your body. And by becoming more aware and paying closer attention to food combination, you will learn what is right for your body. Each person is unique and different and certain food combinations may not cause issues while others will be the key to solving your gas and bloating distress.
Reference – Dr. Mercola: How to Combine Foods for Optimum Health