So you think you’re doing everything right. You cut out processed foods and factory-farmed meat and dairy. You’re buying the highest quality organic food you can find (and fit into your budget). You eat a ton of raw fruits and veggies, and you even make green juice regularly, but you’re still not losing weight, clearing up skin issues, or experiencing this abundant energy all the raw foodists are talking about. What gives?
I’m writing this series to help you figure it out. In my experience there are a few really key things missing from the diet protocols that most people are slinging around out there, and I want to share them with you. I’m sharing as a health coach and from my personal experience in hopes that maybe one (or all) of these things is the missing link in your diet.
I once heard food combining described as the “magic pill” everyone is looking for. While it’s not a pill, I quite agree with that. It can seem complicated at first, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature to prepare your meals in this way. There are many reasons why we food combine properly that are specific to detox, but most of them also apply to general health and wellness, and they all come down to efficiency of digestion. The aim of digestive efficiency is to spend as little energy as possible, while maximizing nutrient absorption. Not only do different types of foods take different lengths of time to digest, but they also require different digestive enzymes, in various amounts and combinations, to break them down. We want our food to be quickly broken down in the stomach and sent on its way through the intestines. If the food stays in the stomach too long, it will ferment or putrefy, rendering its nutrient content useless and toxic.
Generally speaking, food combining divides food into certain categories that should or should not be combined in the same meal. Four hours should pass after a properly combined meal before switching to a different category. Food combining can be as basic or advanced as you need it to be for your lifestyle. I’ve experimented a lot with my own digestion and really refined what works best. I encourage everyone to do this, but to get you started there are a few hard and fast rules that apply to everyone. First of all I’ll explain the categories.
Fresh Fruit… apples, bananas, berries, melons, peaches, pears, grapes, plums, nectarines… You get the idea.
Raw Vegetables… sprouts, beets, carrots, peppers, celery, cucumbers, leafy greens, sea veggies (nori, kelp, dulse, kombu)…
Cooked non-starchy Vegetables… Broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, beets, mushrooms, okra, green beans…
*Nuts, Seeds, and Dried fruit… almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, tahini, nut butters, raisins, dates…
*Starches… all flours and grains, legumes, potatoes, beans, bread, cooked corn, winter squashes (butternut, acorn, pumpkin)…
*Dairy… Milks, yogurts, cheeses, kefirs, ice cream, whey, eggs…
*Animal Flesh… Fish, game (deer, pheasant, grouse, rabbit, moose, elk), organ meats, chicken, turkey, duck, beef, pork…
*These foods are concentrated, meaning they have a low water content.
Here are the directions for properly combining these categories:
- Fresh Fruit: As Natalia Rose says “Eat it alone, or leave it alone.” Which means that fruit should only be eaten alone on an empty stomach. Fruit goes through digestive system way faster than any other food, at a rate of 20-45 minutes depending on the water content. Melons take about 20 minutes to exit the stomach, and bananas take about 45 minutes. This is why it is often suggested that fruit be eaten in “mono-meals,” meaning only one variety or type of fruit at a time. The only exception to this is when juicing or blending, in which fruits can be mixed with each other and even with leafy greens and sprouts. In this case the blender or juicer is sort of predigesting the food and either removing the fiber or significantly breaking it down.
- Concentrated foods should not be combined with foods from other concentrated food categories in the same meal. Wait at least four hours after a properly combined meal before switching to a different concentrated category.
- Raw veggies combine well with any category except fresh fruit. They should be eaten with any concentrated foods, preferably right before to pave the way. The water content, live enzymes, and fiber in raw veggies helps move concentrated foods through your digestive tract.
- You can combine different concentrated foods from the same category together in the same meal, with the exception of animal flesh, which is best kept separated by type animal for example, fish goes with fish but not with chicken.
- Avocados are wild cards. They are technically fruits and combine well with other fruits of similar density like bananas and coconuts, which all combine with dried fruits. Avocados also combine with starches, but they should not be combined with other concentrated foods.
Here are some examples of bad combinations. The list may seem a little depressing because it’s important for me to use common examples that are likely favorite meals. However, if you look at the bright side, you’ll realize that this lends an opportunity for creative cooking and eating. You can really showcase simple delicious ingredients in your meals.
Chicken and brown rice….. animal flesh ≠ starch
macaroni and cheese….. starch ≠ dairy
turkey sandwich….. animal flesh ≠ starch
nut butter sandwich….. nuts, seeds, & dried fruit ≠ starch
eggs and toast….. dairy ≠ starch
steak and potatoes….. animal flesh ≠ starch
grain and seed granola….. starch ≠ nuts, seeds, & dried fruit
fruit and yogurt….. fresh fruit ≠ dairy
oatmeal and raisins….. starch ≠ nuts, seeds, & dried fruit
cheese and fruit….. dairy ≠ fresh fruit
Now here are some Good Combos that are also some great meal ideas:
veggie omelet with goat cheese
avocado salad and baked sweet potatoes
leafy green salad with dried fruit and hemp seeds
cheesy steamed non-starchy vegetables
grainless granola and almond milk
I hope this information has been helpful, and I encourage you to explore just how great you feel as you start implementing food combining. Let me know how it’s going, and feel welcome to ask any questions you may have.
P.S. Stay tuned for my next post on zucchini noodles!