Food combining may seem like a new fad, but it is actually a century old idea that began with William Howard Hay’s rules for food combining. In the early 1900s, Hay was a physician based in New York who sought to eradicate his and his patients’ health problems through proper eating. According to his food combining principles, certain foods shouldn’t be combined because they do not digest well together. He believed that improper food combinations resulted in an inability to digest, absorb, assimilate, and eliminate food properly. His rules for food combining are quite controversial, with some holistic doctors prescribing his method and other doctors saying there is no scientific basis. Regardless, food combining does seem to help some people who have digestive problems and is at least worth being aware of.
1. No Carbohydrates with Acidic Fruits
If you are following the rules for food combining, carbohydrates and acidic foods should not be eaten together. This means all starches and starchy vegetables should not be eaten with vinegar, lemons, limes, pineapples, tomatoes, or any sour fruit. According to food combining, the enzyme ptyalin, which is found in saliva and digests carbohydrates, acts best in an alkaline environment. The acid in vinegar and acidic fruits inhibits the first stage of carbohydrate digestion, the stage that occurs while you are chewing.
2. No Proteins with Acidic Fruits
Acid fruits should also not be eaten with proteins, which are defined as any food that is at least 15 percent protein. Not only do acidic fruits inhibit ptyalin, they also stop the flow of gastric juices. Pepsin and hydrochloric acid are needed to break down proteins, but these digestive juices stop flowing when you eat an acidic fruit. As a result, any protein that you eat with acidic fruits will not be broken down properly, which could leave you with gastrointestinal problems and possibly protein malabsorption.
3. No Concentrated Proteins with Concentrated Carbohydrates
I have already mentioned that a protein is defined as anything that is at least 15 percent protein, but for this rule it is also important to know that Hay defined a carbohydrate as anything having 20 percent or more carbohydrates. If you follow food combining, this means a meat and potatoes meal is off limits. The theory behind this rule is that proteins and carbohydrates both require a different pH medium to digest, with proteins needing a slightly more acidic environment. Combining proteins and carbohydrates, therefore, stops the digestion of both because the pH in your stomach is no longer suited to either once they are combined. This could explain why beans are so difficult to digest. At 25 percent protein and 50 percent carbohydrate, beans are technically both a protein and a carbohydrate making them very difficult to digest.
4. Don’t Eat Two Concentrated Proteins in the Same Meal
Proteins are probably the most difficult macronutrient to digest. As a result, it is best to only eat one concentrated protein at a time. This means that a breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon is not a very good idea if you want to have optimal digestion. Also, while an indulgence, the surf and turf meals at restaurants are not great for proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
5. No Proteins with Fats
Just like acidic fruits, fat decreases the production of the gastric juices pepsin and hydrochloric acid needed to digest proteins. When you eat fats with proteins, the protein won’t be able to be fully digested. By now, it probably seems like proteins can’t be eaten with anything. However, any non-starchy vegetable can be eaten with protein. In fact, non-starchy vegetables can be eaten with any food group; green leafy vegetables combine especially well with all foods.
6. No Starch with Sugar
Simple sugars in the form of fruits, honey, syrup, molasses, sugar, and jellies do not combine well with starchy foods. This is an especially disappointing rule as it eliminates most baked goods. The reasoning behind this rule is that sugar prevents ptyalin from entering the saliva. If you remember from previously, ptyalin is needed to break down carbohydrates. Additionally, simple sugars digest very rapidly and are likely to ferment waiting for carbohydrates to be processed in the stomach. As a result, you can experience unpleasant gas.
7. Some Foods Are Best Eaten Alone
In case you hadn’t picked up on it, it is best to eat fruits alone. They digest very rapidly, and digestion is much better when these are eaten by themselves. You can combine them in a green smoothie, however, you will want to leave melons out, because melons are one fruit that really has to be eaten alone. Also, it is generally better to eat dairy products by themselves. This is because milk can inhibit the flow of gastric juices; perhaps this why it is soothing to a sour stomach.
Food combining is overwhelming. There are many rules to follow if you want to do it properly. I don’t think it is for everyone however, if you have trouble digesting your food it may be worth trying to see if it helps. Certainly, there are some people who attest to the benefits of proper food combining. Would you ever try implementing these food combining rules to help with digestion?