Deepak Chopra, in his classic book Perfect Heath, says that perfect health begins with perfect digestion. When I first read his book in 1995, this idea was transformational for me. Upon reflection however, I realized that I had experienced perfect digestion ten years earlier when I began properly combining my food after reading a popular diet book at the time called, Fit For Life. When I changed my diet and starting paying attention to proper food combining, eating only fruit until noon and not combining proteins and complex carbohydrates, I immediately lost weight and felt more energy. Although the concept of proper food combining was new to me, I learned that it has been around for a long time. In fact, Henry Ford followed the principles of food combining and the food served at his plant was all properly combined. Although my food choices have changed in many ways since the late 80s – I no longer eat any flesh foods and am primarily raw vegan – the impact of proper food combining was so significant for me, that I have continued to pay attention to the basic principles of food combining ever since.
The Theory Behind Food Combining
Perfect health begins with perfect digestion.
The theory behind proper food combining is the same as Deepak Chopra’s Perfect Health… a belief that perfect health begins with perfect digestion. The symptoms of indigestion, brought on by improper digestion, are so common in today’s society that over 2 billion dollars are spent each year on antacids. Rather than using drugs to suppress symptoms, food combining helps eliminate the cause of the problem by enabling us to properly digest our food and better utilize and assimilate its nutrients. The more efficiently and effectively we digest our food, assimilate the nutrients and eliminate the waste and toxins, the more energy we have, the healthier we become, and the better we feel.
It is easier to digest proteins and carbohydrates when they are eaten separately.
The enzymes and the time required to digest the food we eat, vary according to the type of food – complex carbohydrates require certain enzymes and take less time to digest. Proteins require different enzymes and take longer to digest. When we eat these foods together, the digestive enzymes, some acid, some alkaline, neutralize each other. This slows the digestive process, which in turn slows the absorption and elimination processes and which drains energy and prevents the effective removal of waste and toxins. A perfect example of the difficulty our body has digesting carbohydrates and protein together is legumes, which are a natural combination of starch and protein. Beans didn’t get their reputation from nowhere… “Beans, beans the noisy fruit…” Enough said, it is easier to digest proteins and carbohydrates when they are eaten separately.
Our body has a natural cycle of digestion, assimilation, and elimination.
When food is eaten in harmony with your body’s natural daily cycle of digestion assimilation, and elimination, the break down of the food, the utilization of the nutrients, and the removal of waste (read weight) and toxins are all maximized, which moves us toward optimal health and well-being.
The Specifics of Food Combining
Eat fruit alone
Fruit is best eaten alone and on an empty stomach. Fruit digests and moves out of our stomachs quickly (typically within 30 minutes). If fruit is eaten with or too close to other foods, it will sit in the stomach longer than it should and actually begin to ferment. This causes gas and indigestion. To insure that you are eating fruit on an empty stomach, eat it at least 30 min before another meal or wait at least 3 hours after a meal. This, in addition to the fact that fruit is high in water content, is why it is recommended that fruit be eaten primarily in the morning. So if you are used to cereal with milk and fruit in the morning, skip the cereal and milk and just have the fruit and you’ll feel better and have more energy. Avoid eating fruit as a dessert as it will sit on top of the food you just ate and begin to putrefy. The one acceptable food with which to combine fruit is leafy greens. A green smoothie of 60% fruit and 40% greens is perfectly acceptable. If you make a green or fruit smoothie in the morning however, do not use nut milk for a base and do not include any vegetables or vegetable juices (carrot, beet, etc) other than leafy greens.
Eat carbohydrates and protein separately
Eating protein and carbs together seems so ‘All American’ – eggs with hash browns and toast, steak and potatoes, a tuna sandwich, or salmon with wild rice, cereal and milk. But the truth is that, when we combine complex carbohydrates (potatoes, bread, rice, cereal) with protein (eggs, meat, ham, fish, milk) it slows digestion, which in turn slows assimilation of nutrients and the elimination of waste and toxins, all of which takes a hit on our energy levels.
Here is the simple guideline… eat protein with vegetables, or carbohydrates with vegetables, but do not eat protein and carbohydrates together. Instead of hash browns and toast, have sautéed spinach with your eggs. Try steak with grilled asparagus or a baked potato with steamed broccoli, but don’t have the steak and potato together. Try your tuna stuffed in a tomato instead of with bread. And have Salmon on a bed of salad greens, or rice with stir-fried veggies, but don’t have fish and rice together. Eat your granola for lunch or dinner and eat it plain or with rice milk. Properly combine your food and you will have more energy, feel better, eliminate more easily, lose weight and eliminate toxins.
Our body’s natural daily cycle
Our bodies have a natural daily cycle. When we eat in harmony with that cycle, together with proper food combining, our body moves toward perfect health.
Elimination – 4AM to noon. From 4AM to noon is the time when our body wants to eliminate. During this time, it is best to eat high water content foods – primarily fresh fruit, fresh fruit and/or green juices, or green smoothies with about 60% fruit and 40% greens. In this way, we work with our body’s natural cycle of elimination during the morning hours. Natalie Rose, author of The Raw Food Detox Diet, recommends that we drink Green Lemonade all morning long. This is a fresh juice made with 1 whole lemon, 1 head of romaine, 2-3 sprigs of kale, spinach or other dark leafy green, and 1 apple. If you have a juicer, give it a try. It’s super yummy. I’m also a green smoothie fan in the morning. My favorite is one grapefruit, one pear, one English cucumber (a fruit) and a hand full of spinach blended in the blender. This lasts me all morning.
Digestion – noon to 8PM. From noon to 8PM our body is poised and ready to work on digestion. This is the time to eat those non-fruit, properly combined veggie + protein or veggie + carb meals. A little Ayurvedic trick I learned is to sip plain hot water in-between meals to keep your digestive fire burning.
Absorption/Assimilation – 8PM to 4AM. At night, your body wants to go to work on metabolizing, absorbing and assimilating everything you ate during the day. If you eat after 8PM, your body has to take energy away from the job of assimilation to work on digestion. To support your body’s natural nightly inclination, avoid eating after 8PM.
Raw Food Combining Considerations
If you follow a primarily raw vegan diet as I do, it is just as important for to pay attention to the rules of food combining and daily cycles. Eat fruits and greens in the morning until noon, avoid mixing fresh fruit with nuts/seeds or starchy veggies in smoothies, salads, or desserts. Eat melon alone. Papaya can be eaten with all foods. Tomatoes combine well with low starch vegetables and either nuts or avocado. Nuts are properly combined with veggies and dried fruits, but not fresh fruits. Better to eat almonds in a salad or with raisins than almond butter with apples.
Avocado, a fruit and a raw food staple, is best by itself or in a salad. Avoid mixing it with nuts, dried fruits or sweet fruits. Some suggest however that avocado combines well with certain fruits such as papaya, mango, banana, and orange.
Reflections On Food Combining
Living with outrageous joy is the point of everything we do and nothing kills joy faster than guilt. So don’t get all ridged about this, but rather, favor those foods that are properly combined over those foods that are not. And as always, pay attention to the wisdom of your own body’s intelligence and listen to what it is saying brings you the greatest joy.