When I was 15, my skin began to break out, and a well-meaning but misguided dermatologist prescribed antibiotics. Fifteen years later, frequent use of antibiotics had weakened my body to the point where I had almost no functional immune system—and my stomach burned whenever I ate anything. By the time I was 30, I could tolerate only five foods.
For the next decade, I explored every kind of diet available, as well as many other natural-healing methods. Then I discovered that I had the systemic infection candidiasis, which had compromised my digestive, immune and endocrine systems. One tool I used to heal myself was food combining, a revolutionary approach to eating that I learned about in my research. I then worked with Leonard Smith, MD, medical adviser for the University of Miami’s department of integrative medicine, to understand the science behind it.
Food combining focuses on the way you combine foods at each meal—the animal and vegetable proteins…the fats and oils…the starches…and the fruits and vegetables.
Some food combinations are easy to digest. They are quickly broken down, and the nutrients are thoroughly assimilated. Other combinations can be a digestive disaster, producing gas, bloating and other gastrointestinal (GI) discomforts.
Proper food combining may mean that you no longer need to take medications for digestive problems. Food combining also has benefits for your overall health. Here are the benefits you can expect…
Less bloating, stomach pain and gas, because well-digested foods don’t ferment in the intestines, producing those symptoms.
Less heartburn, because digestion is more efficient.
Better absorption of nutrients and, therefore, a better-nourished body and more effective immune system.
Younger looks, because poorly digested foods generate toxins that contribute to a dull complexion and a bloated body.
Weight control, because properly combined foods are assimilated and metabolized better, reducing the likelihood that they will be stored as fat.
SIX SIMPLE RULES
The simple rules for food combining might not seem so simple at first. Don’t expect to master them in a day.
My suggestion: Place the food-combining chart below on your refrigerator door. Or you can print out a copy at FoodCombiningChart. Then try food combining for a little while—even just three or four days. If you have digestive ills, you likely will find the benefits are immediate—gas, bloating and stomachaches will vanish.
Rule #1: Eat animal protein with nonstarchy vegetables. When you eat animal-protein foods (eggs, fish, poultry, red meat) with a starchy vegetable or grain (examples include artichokes, carrots, corn, oats, peas, potatoes, rice, wheat, winter squash and yams), your salivary glands secrete ptyalin and amylase that break down the grains and starchy vegetables into simple sugars. Coating your protein foods with sugars creates compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs are linked to inflammation and immune reactions that can lead to diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. When eaten together, animal-protein and starchy foods also are much more difficult to digest.
Instead, eat animal protein with nonstarchy vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, garlic, green beans, leafy greens (such as kale and collards), onions, sea vegetables (such as wakame and dulse) and zucchini.
Good combination: Fish with stir-fried nonstarchy vegetables.
Combinations to avoid: Chicken and rice. Pasta with meat sauce.
Rule #2: Eat grains and grainlike seeds(amaranth, buckwheat, millet and quinoa) with starchy and/or nonstarchy vegetables. This combination is the easiest of all meals to digest. I prefer grainlike seeds over grains because they are gluten-free and higher in protein.
Good combinations: Brown rice stir-fried with onions, garlic, broccoli, yellow squash and red pepper. A potato, onion and quinoa sauté, with a leafy green salad.
Combinations to avoid: Beef hamburger on a wheat bun. Pizza with pepperoni.
Rule #3: Consume fruit and fruit juices alone and at least 30 minutes before any meal…or combined with a protein-fat (avocados, dairy products, nuts and seeds). Or eat acidic fruit combined with leafy green salads. Fruit and fruit juices pass through the digestive tract very quickly. When they are consumed with slower-digesting animal-protein foods, starchy vegetables or grains, they become trapped in the digestive tract with those foods and cause fermentation. You quickly experience bloating and gas.
Protein-fats combine well with acidic fruits. In food combining, acidic fruits include citrus fruits and juice, berries, cherries and pineapples.
Good combinations: Blueberries in yogurt with walnuts. Grapefruit with avocado on lettuce. Tomato in a leafy green salad.
Combinations to avoid: Traditional breakfast of eggs, orange juice and toast. Strawberries on top of cereal.
Rule #4: Combine fats and oils with any food. Nature created fats in such a way that they go with just about everything we eat.
Good combinations: Salmon in a leafy green salad with an extra-virgin olive oil dressing. Baked potato or acorn squash with butter. Quinoa tabouli salad with an extra-virgin olive oil dressing.
Rule #5: Combine protein-fats with protein-fats. Protein-fats are easily digested when eaten together.
Good combinations: Leafy greens with grated cheese, chopped walnuts and a dressing made with yogurt. A smoothie made in a blender with cucumber, celery, zucchini, yogurt, almonds and avocado.
Combinations to avoid: Grilled cheese sandwich. Yogurt with cereal.
Rule #6: Combine beans with nonstarchy vegetables. Beans are a protein-starch (a food that is predominantly starchy but also has naturally occurring protein), and because protein and starches don’t combine well together, beans are difficult to digest, producing a lot of gas. Combining them with easily digested foods such as nonstarchy vegetables works best.
Good combinations: Black beans with onions, garlic, celery and kale. Garbanzo beans in a leafy green salad.
Combination to avoid: Beans and rice.