Digestion is the process of breaking down all the ingredients of food in the digestive tract. In order for our body to use the nutrients of some food, it is necessary for all the nutrients in that food to be broken down to the cellular level.
Incomplete digestion, ie indigestion of food occurs when the following foods are combined:
- foods that have different transit times through the digestive tract, so those with slower transit time retain those with faster transit times
- foods that require different digestive enzymes and different pH values of digestive juices
In case of incomplete digestion, not only the body cannot use the nutrients of the food, but, to make matters worse, under the influence of the temperature and humidity of the digestive tract, fermentation and putrefaction of the retained food occurs. Fermentation and putrefaction of food implies the creation of toxic ingredients such as alcohol, acetic acid, indoles, skatoles and others.
Symptoms of indigestion are: bloating, gas, bad breath, lack of energy, depression, etc.
As different foods have different transit times through the digestive tract and require specific digestive enzymes and pH values of digestive juices, it is important to combine only those foods that are compatible digestion-wise.
Macronutrients are sources of calories, there are three macronutrients: sugars, ie carbohydrates, proteins and fats, ie lipids. All natural foods have all three macronutrients in different amounts. Thus, we classify all foods into groups according to the dominant macronutrients.
Fruits are classified into the following groups:
- Sweet fruits: bananas, dates, persimmons…
- Sub-acid fruits: apples, pears, raspberries…
- Acid fruits: oranges, lemons, pineapples…
- Fatty fruits: avocado, coconut…
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Vegetables are classified into the following groups:
- Green leafy vegetables: lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard…
- Cellulose vegetables: kale, broccoli, cauliflower…
- Starchy vegetables: mildly starchy: zucchini, young carrots, fresh sweet corn…
starchy: old carrots, old corn, pumpkins…
And then there are also nuts and seeds that are concentrated sources of fat and protein.
Acceptable food combinations
Sweet fruit combines well with:
- sweet fruits, for example: bananas and dates
- sub-acid fruits, for example: bananas and raspberries
- greens, for example: dates wrapped in a leaf of lettuce
Sub-acid fruit combines well with:
- sub-acid fruits, for example: apple and pear
- sweet fruits, for example: bananas and raspberries
- acid fruits, for example: pear and tangerine
Sub-acid fruit combines well with:
- acid fruits, for example: tangerines and kiwis
- sub-acid fruits, for example: pears and tangerines
- greens, for example: tomato and lettuce
- fatty sources
Greens combine well with all foods, except melons, because due to their low caloric content and high water content, greens are neutral when it comes to digestion.
Cellulose and starchy vegetables combine well with greens.
Keep in mind that while mildly starchy vegetables are relatively well digested, starchy and cellulose vegetables are difficult to impossible to digest raw, so if used raw, it is best to use them either as a chopped addition to dishes or as juices.
Nuts and seeds combine well with:
- acid fruit
- Sweet fruits + acid fruits – for example, banana + orange, because acid delays the digestion of sugar, and thus its fermentation occurs.
- Sweet fruits + fats – for example, dates and nuts, because sugars pass quickly through the mouth, esophagus and stomach, without digestion and immediately go into the small intestine for absorption into the bloodstream, unlike sugar, fats are retained in the stomach for up to 12 hours, thus, fat retention can also retain sugars, and retained sugars can begin to ferment.
- Starch + sugars – for example, on a standard diet it would be bread and jam, and on raw pumpkin and dates – all those delicious raw pumpkin pies are delicious but not ideal combinations digestion-wise. Namely, when the brain detects starch in the mouth, it dictates the secretion of the enzyme ptyalin in saliva. Ptyalin is a salivary amylase, an enzyme that begins to break down starch by breaking it down into maltose. If this initial stage of starch digestion is skipped, the starch remains undigested. If the sugars cover the starch, the brain detects only sugars and no ptyalin is secreted, which causes the indigestion of starch.
- Starch + acid fruit – for example, on the standard diet it would be bread with tomato, and on the raw diet it would be carrot with tomato. Acid destroys the ptyalin, and again there is no initial phase of starch digestion. And if one phase of digestion is skipped, the next one cannot be done.
- Starch + fat – for example, on the standard diet it would be french fries, and pumpkin and avocado on the raw diet. After the starch – partially now already broken down into maltose – passes from the stomach into the duodenum, the upper part of the small intestine, the pancreas secretes amylase, to break down maltose into glucose for absorption into the bloodstream. However, if fats come with maltose, bile is released to break down fats into fatty acids. Fatty acids create an acidic environment that inhibits the secretion of pancreatic amylase. Thus, maltose fermentation occurs.
- Starch + proteins – the first association: beans – rich in starch and proteins, thus creating gases. Here’s an explanation why this happens: Pepsin, an enzyme for breaking down proteins, requires an acidic pH value of digestive juices, and starch requires a base. Processes that require opposite pH values of the environment cannot take place together at the same time, and poor digestion occurs.
- Fat + protein – on the standard diet it would be meat with oil, and on the raw diet it would be avocado with nuts. Fats inhibit the secretion of pepsin, enzymes for breaking down proteins, as well as hydrochloric acid which activates the pepsin.
It is best not to mix melons and watermelons with other foods, because they contain a higher water content than other foods and thus pass faster through the digestive tract, so mixing them with other foods would cause their retention in the digestive tract and fermentation.
From my experience, however, the combination of melons with raspberries and blueberries is fine. Also, lots of people easily add lemon juice or passion fruit to watermelons without digestive distress.
That would be all about the proper food combining, and now to answer in advance a common comment:
- But, in nature, all foods have all three macronutrients anyway, so the rules about combining food do not make sense.
I understand the logic behind this comment. However, after a while of a very simple and clean diet, try some of the unacceptable combinations and you will see the symptoms of indigestion. It is true that all natural foods have all three macronutrients and that our bodies can digest all three macronutrients from our biological foods, such as those found in the natural combination of some foods. However, it is not the same when we make combinations of different foods that have very different compositions and require different conditions for digestion.
I hope you found this blog post useful. And now, a question for you: What is your experience with food combining? Please leave your answers in the comments, along with your opinion on this blog post. Thank you!
- Digestion Perfection, Dr.T.C.Fry, Dr. Herbert M.Shelton, Dr.David Klein et al, 2014, Maui, Havai, Vibrant Health & Wealth Publications
- Food Combining Made Easy, Dr. Herbert M. Shelton, 1982, San Antonio, Texas, Shelton’s Health School Publications