Making Sense of a Complicated Theory
Lately, I have been noticing that not everything that I eat makes me feel equally well. The more I pay attention to my stomach before and after food, the more feedback my body provides. While I am still learning to decipher my body’s messages, one finding keeps emerging more often than others: THE SIMPLER THE DISH, THE LESS ENERGY IT REQUIRES TO DIGEST. Which means, I have more energy left to do other things like write, think, teach, do yoga, and just enjoy my life.
Simplicity is a key in many effective concepts. Digestion is not different.
You may eat a vegan diet and still get gas, or feel bloated after a raw dessert tasting. Food allergies aside, improper food combining can be one of the major reasons behind belly troubles. Those who voluntarily eliminated certain food groups from their diet, for example, no dairy, no gluten, no flesh, no eggs, are less likely to confuse their digestion with improper food combinations. Those courageous strong-willed people have fewer food groups to combine in their meal. They have less choice. It makes their diet more simple and therefore more digestion-friendly.
However, you don’t have to eliminate entire food groups to keep your belly happy. Also going gluten free or vegan doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have to look into food combining, especially if you want to increase your energy levels.
Lessons From The Past
If you think about it, our ancestors were not very likely to combine multiple food groups in one meal. If they found berries, they ate berries, if they were lucky to hunt something down, they had a feast of meat. But I can’t imagine ancient people cooking side dishes, dressings, and desserts in a cave kitchen. Our many times over grand-fathers and grand-mothers probably ate mostly simple mono meals consisting out of 2-4 ingredients at a time.
Why Food Combining Is Worth a Try
Food combining can be applied to any diet to reduce postmeal digestive un-ease, improve elimination, resolve skin issues, and to increase energy levels. Before we dive into some of the main food combining rules, let me explain the energy and food connection.
Caffeine aside, we have a finite amount of energy for any given day. There are several major things that go into energy equation: sleep, emotions, movement, mental activity, and of course food.
- Sleep gives us energy.
- Movement can be energizing due to increase in blood circulation and oxygen but in the end it requires energy. Different types of exercise can also be broken down into depleting and nourishing but more on it later.
- Emotions have a very strong connection to energy levels. Positive emotions like joy are energizing while negative emotions can deplete energy reserves.
- Mental activity requires quite a bit of energy. Clarity and creativity are not very common mental states in exhausted people.
- Food is a double-edge stick. Easy-to-digest food will provide energy, hard to digest or nutrient poor food will require more energy to break down. Some food combinations will even have a negative net gain of energy. Eg: white bagel with cream cheese requires a lot of energy to digest, probably way more than it will provide to the body. Berries on the other hand is a certain quick energy gain.
One of the ways to make sure that you get a positive net gain of energy from food is to eat nutrient-dense foods. Another way is to make sure that those nutrients can be easily absorbed into your body by keeping food combinations simple.
Food combination theories can be quite complicated to understand, and almost impossible to remember right away. However, there is one key rule that will save you a lot of memorizing: SIMPLICITY. The fewer ingredients the less different enzymes you need to digest food and the less likely the food will get stuck in our body fermenting. Simple meals are easier because they require less resources to break down and turn them into nutrients.
Another rule is to keep portions manageable. If you know that you will be eating a complicated meal consisting of hard-to-digest products, keep the amount small (Yes, I am talking about Thanksgiving). It is easier to deal with a small problem rather than a large one.
Here are top 10 rules of food combining that I use and that you might find interesting to experiment with:
- The simpler, the better
- Drink a little bit of hot water or herbal tea before a meal, a little bit during, and nothing after for at least 30 min. It prevents gastric juices from diluting and allows for better digestion.
- No fruits after a meal for 2-3 hours. Fruits require a lot less time to digest but if there is something in your stomach, they will sit there and ferment. It will give you an uncomfortable bloated feeling.
- Soak nuts overnight. It makes them less dry and easier to break down. They become a lot less heavy by nature. Ayurveda highly recommends soaking all nuts.
- Do not combine different types of protein in one meal. No fish and chicken, no nuts and dairy, or beans and meat. A meal of combined proteins will take 10-12 hours to digest if you have a strong digestion. Why would you want to voluntarily sign up for 12 hours of non-stop work?
- Always add greens when having fats with proteins or starches. When fats are eaten with green vegetables the inhibiting effect of fats on gastric secretion is counteracted and digestion proceeds quite normally. Greens combine well with pretty much everything. Can’t go wrong with them! Leafy greens are your best friends.
- Let you body rest a few times a week by eating monomeals. My favorite monomeals in the fall were roasted pumpkins and stewed apples.
- Experiment mindfully! When in doubt about a certain food combination, try and pay attention to your body’s feedback. Your body knows better than any nutritionist or hygienist.
- If having dairy milk, do not combine it with anything. Definitely no fruity milk shakes unless you are craving mucousy cuddled milk in your stomach.
- Keep it light, warm, and simple if tired or stressed. Healing and restoring requires energy, so does digestion. Be smart about how you use your energy resources.
Have you tried following food combining rules? What did you think?
Are there any food combinations that your stomach dislikes? Please share!
Happy Belly – Happy You!