Are you ready to have your whole reality turned on its head?
Are you ready to pull back the curtain on a set of misconceptions that have kept millions of people sick, overweight, and frustrated?
You’re not going to like what I have to say.
You might be offended.
But if you’re willing to hear me out, you may find yourself feeling better, having more energy, thinking more clearly, and controlling your moods more easily.
You may be doing everything you can to eat right and live healthily, but if you’re doing this one thing wrong, you could be sabotaging your own health – from the inside out.
On this week’s “Wellness Wednesday,” I want to share some secrets to proper food combining.
Some Food Mistakes Are Obvious…But Not All
What’s a better way to wake up in the morning than two fried eggs with sausage, bacon, and cinnamon raisin toast with a sweet apricot preserve and a bowl of mixed fruit? And there’s nothing more American than a cheeseburger on a bun with french fries and a soft drink for lunch. And who can say “no” to pizza for dinner?
Am I right?
I’m going to guess that you’re looking funny at me right now.
If you’ve been following this blog for very long, you can probably identify where I broke several of my own rules in that scenario. But you may have missed a couple of very important food combining rules that I broke, simply because we have been so conditioned to eat a certain way that we take these mistakes for granted.
So, let’s go back and correct my obvious mistakes so I can show you the hidden ones.
The Secret To The Hidden Food Mistakes
You probably picked up on the fried eggs and sausage being a bad choice right away, but the raisin toast with apricot preserve and a bowl of mixed fruit looked like it might pass. In all honesty, everything in that scenario is wrong. Here’s why: everything comes down to digestion.
To fully understand digestion, we must start at the top. The first step of digestion is not swallowing – it’s when your mouth begins to water. The second step is chewing. You have to chew your food thoroughly – and for much longer than you would normally think. Food has to be broken down into particles in the mouth or it won’t fit down your throat, and your stomach won’t be able to process it properly. As it goes down your throat to your stomach, there are several chemical processes that work on the food.
The chemicals that break down food for digestion are called enzymes. Some are acids (pepsin and hydrochloric acid) and others are alkaline (maltase and ptyalin). Each of them plays a role in digesting different types of food, and in different parts of the digestive system. Ptyalin, for example, starts in the mouth, while hydrochloric acid lives in the stomach.
- Fruit begins breaking down immediately in your mouth, slips right through your stomach and into your intestines, where the natural sugars found in fruit are absorbed into your blood stream. It doesn’t require much digestion work.
- Starches are more complex and take time to break down. They require ptyalin and maltase to work in unison to break them down into usable materials for the intestines to process.
- Meats and other proteins also take a long time to digest, but instead of requiring alkaline enzymes to dissolve them, meats require hydrochloric acid. If you’ve ever studied chemistry, you already see a conflict in the works. I’ll get to that later. It could mess up the way you eat forever.
How Not To Combine Foods
Let’s start with the first two: from their digestive descriptions, we see that if you mix fruits and starches together, your body can’t digest them properly. The exit from your stomach into the small intestine is called the duodenum, and it’s smaller than a dime. It can only let a little pass through at a time, and it doesn’t allow digestive acids through at all, so it has to be very selective.
If you’ll picture the duodenum as a one-lane exit ramp with police inspecting each vehicle as it passes, you can imagine fruit as motorcycles that pass through quickly, and grains as wide-load tractor trailers that have to have all their contents unloaded and carried across by hand. As you can imagine, the traffic that would occur in that scenario would cause serious problems for the motorcyclists. The same is true for your stomach. If you eat fruit and grains together, the grains will sit in your stomach for hours with the fruit mixed in. When you put sugar in a hot, soupy environment, it begins to ferment. The result is gas, bloating, and general discomfort, along with a type of glucose that is closer in formulation to alcohol. While strawberry jelly on toast sounds good, it creates digestive problems later. With that in mind…
Food Combining Rule #1 is: Do not mix fruits with starches.
Taking the same logic of digestive properties, we can also compare proteins and fruits. Proteins are another slow burn, requiring a couple of hours of soaking in digestive acid to break down for use. The same principle applies, where hanging up in fruit in the stomach with slow-burning protein can lead to fermentation in the stomach. Therefore…
Food Combining Rule #2 is: do not mix fruits with proteins.
A good rule of thumb is to eat fruit alone, and that brings me to my third and fourth rules.
A Fruit Is Not A Fruit Is Not A Fruit
Within the larger category of fruits there are four subtypes – sweet, acidic, sub-acidic, and melons:
- Sweet fruits include bananas, dates, figs, raisins, prunes, and dried fruits.
- Acidic fruits include all citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, cranberries, and pomegranates. You should keep these two groups because they digest differently.’
- The sub-acidic fruits include apples, apricots, cherries, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, pears, plums, and mangoes, among others. You can blend these fruits with either group (but not with both at the same time). Apples and raisins sounds like an OK combination, right? Even apples and bananas, but strawberries and bananas doesn’t work. I know that’s going to crush some people’s theology, but I’m just giving you the chemistry facts.
- Melons are food in their simplest form and digest in seconds. If they get held up in the stomach with meat, they will begin to rot. Have you ever left a watermelon out in the sun in South Florida? This is why some people feel sick after eating grilled hamburgers with melon for dessert. Or when you go to a breakfast buffet (hotels are notorious for this) and they offer eggs, meat, and a fruit tray that includes melon segments. Your best bet is to eat a large serving of melon for breakfast, and then eat meats at least an hour later (and preferably later in the day).
- If you eat mixed fruit for breakfast and then can’t figure out why you have indigestion or feel sluggish later in the morning, this could be the reason. Your mixed fruit cup might be improperly combining acid fruits, sweet fruits, and melons.
Food Combining Rule #3 is: do not combine sweet and acid fruits.
Food Combining Rule #4 is: do not eat melon with anything.
And now it’s time to take a hammer to some very sacred cows.
It’s What’s For Dinner
If you’ll remember back to high school chemistry class, you will recall that acids and alkaline are opposites, and like any other opposites, they cancel each other out. As we mentioned earlier in the article, meats and proteins require acidic enzymes to digest, while starches require alkaline enzymes to digest. This sets up a conflict that touches the entire food industry, as well as the pharmaceutical industry.
When you consider that your hamburger is a protein and your hamburger bun is a starch, you can see that you have a problem. As the grains and the meats wait for their turn to digest, they begin to rot. Rotting is not the same as digestion – in fact, rotting breaks down most of the nutritional benefits of the food before you receive them. It also gives off a pungent gas (imagine standing outside a restaurant dumpster on a hot day). This explains the bloating, the belching, and the bad breath. Even if you leave off the bun, your french fries are (theoretically) made of potatoes, and therefore a starch. But it doesn’t stop there. Consider these combinations:
- Steak and baked potato.
- Pasta with meat sauce.
- Meat-lovers pizza.
- Turkey and mashed potatoes (and corn and bread and yams and parsnips)
- Meat loaf and macaroni and cheese.
- Breaded fried chicken.
Now, I could get into the nuances of what makes a vegetable a starch (and what qualifies as a protein), but I think the bigger concern would be to start with the known starches – grains, breads, and pastas, and keep them away from meats. If you want to get technical about proteins, you could include dairy products as well. There is also the matter of seeds, beans, legumes, and nuts. It would be easy to go off in a ditch about this, but we don’t need to do that here.
So, Food Combining Rule #5 is: do not mix proteins with starches.
Feeling Better Fast Might Be As Simple As Properly Combining Foods
I know this is creating an existential crisis for some of my readers but stick with me on this. If you’re willing to consider these rules, I think you will find yourself feeling better, having more energy, less brain fog, better sleep, less indigestion and bloating, and better breath.
It is perfectly OK to combine meats and other proteins with asparagus, broccoli, carrots, onions, spinach, parsley, and a whole host of other vegetables, but not starches. It takes a little creativity in your meal planning (and especially when eating out), but it’s well worth it.
Oh yeah, that brings up one last thing about digestion: what happens when you pour water on a fire? It goes out, doesn’t it? If you pour water into an acidic solution, it dilutes the acid. If you have a drink with your dinner, it slows the digestion process by diluting the acids. This is not a super-big deal in my book, but some doctors and writers will encourage you to keep your beverages at least thirty minutes before or after a meal, so the liquid doesn’t interfere with digestion. Again, you have to know your own body on this one, but it might be the answer for someone who is having a hard time with heartburn after every meal. Food for thought.
When I think about these rules and I look at what most restaurants promote (protein and grains with a soft drink), it really makes me question whether or not they have my best interest at heart. Of course, you know how I really feel about that. Most of what today’s restaurants promote is a digestive nightmare, and we can’t figure out why we’re tired, lethargic, gassy, bloated, and breaking out all over.
I want you to be able to make better choices for yourself and live the healthy life you’ve always wanted to live.
That’s why I’m excited to announce that, after a long hiatus, we are restarting the Fundamental Foods Nights in September. There is only so much I can cover in a 1,500-word article. The Fundamental Foods Nights give me a chance to go deeper on specific topics and help you live life to the fullest with good health. I’ll have more to say about it in the coming weeks, but plan to keep Thursday, September 7th free from 6:15 p.m. to about 8:00 p.m. These nights are always a great time, with good food, good friendships, and good information. Join us at my office, behind the YMCA on Pine Ridge Road in Naples.
“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas