Admit it, most of us eat fast, a little too fast. In the minutes it takes us to politely devour the food presented to us, do we really take the time to enjoy the hours of preparation and multitude of people behind its process from farm to table? And in those few minutes, how much of what we eat do we really taste? Over the last few years, I’ve had to teach myself to chew once again. I had realized that my multitasking persona was cramming ‘eating’ into the ‘to do’ list. As Simone Samuels gives us tips to improve digestion, food combining takes it one step further.
As the holidays have past once again, the focus on food and family blends back into our day to day. Surely some of us are still feeling the effects of the holiday feast. But, the holidays are not the only time we overindulge. Many of us from time to time, whether at a staff function or a best friend’s birthday party, tend to eat a little too much. The quick fix; undo the top button on our pants and park ourselves on the couch, undoubtedly with a big smile and a mild case of indigestion. How do our bodies so magically take the muddle in our tummies and turn it into fuel that nourishes us? In the case of the special occasion smorg, not so well. With a little foresight, we can evade the yawning and bloated belly every time we eat.
The concept of food combining has intrigued me for some time. In our stomach, sits the gurgling hydrochloric acid chalk full of digestive enzymes ready to destroy the next morsel that falls in. But this powerful brew can only handle so much at a time. When we reach for the potatoes and miso gravy, our tummy will be ready. When we start adding everything but the kitchen sink on top, it becomes a little confused. Starches and proteins take different concentrations of hydrochloric acid, different unique enzymes and also different amounts of time to break down into the simple sugars that fuel our bodies and minds. If the starches get broken down first, the proteins pass through the stomach improperly digested and thus a slew of digestive issues may occur from contaminated blood to decreased nutrient assimilation. And while proteins convert into amino acids during digestion, the starches will have already started to ferment and you may feel nauseous and bloated. Improper food combining over a long period of time may even cause degenerative conditions.
For people with health challenges and digestive issues, eating as simply as possible will allow for better nutrient absorption and more energy to spend elsewhere. The good news is that basic food combining for better digestion is easy to implement into your day to day routine. You’ll still have to be mindful of that home cooked buffet at grandma’s house but if you follow these few tips, your tummy will thank you.
My 6 Food Combining Tips
1. Eat simple meals. Foods eaten alone or with one or two other food will be the easiest to digest. No confusion there.
2. Eat the highest proteins first. Since proteins need the most hydrochloric acid than most other foods, best give them a head start. If eaten last, there may be no acid or enzymes left to break the protein down.
3. Don’t combine starches and proteins – these require different strengths of acidity in your stomachs and when battling each other, none really gets properly digested. If you just can’t give up beans and rice, certain spices such as ginger can help digest this lot together.
4. Greens such as kale, spinach and arugula as well as non-starchy vegetables such as carrots, broccoli and cabbage combine well with everything except dessert – which should be eaten alone.
5. Don’t drink water with meals since it can dilute the digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid, interfering with the natural digestive process. Drink water at least 15 mins before a meal and 1 hour after.
6. Eat fruits alone, especially watermelon. Fruits and other desserts with high sugar content break down quickly. Let them do their thing before adding anything else. Otherwise risk fermentation in the gut that can cause toxic by-products such as lactic acid and even carbon dioxide. This is indigestion at its meanest. Who wouldn’t like to eat dessert first?
Anytime I sit down to eat with friends and family, I remember to be thankful. How fortunate am I to be able to choose to eat whenever I feel hungry. I will remind myself to honor the connection of the food at my table and its complex processes that ripple through my body upon that first bite and beyond. A few moments of silence and a nod if you will. And remember to chew.