Why Food Combining Matters
Dr. Wayne Pickering is probably best known for promoting the importance of food combining. If the food you eat is not digesting properly, not only can painful gas, heart burn, acid reflux and other stomach problems arise, but your body will also be deprived of critical nutrients.
The short definition of digestion is: you put food or liquid into your mouth, swallow it, and then your body breaks these molecules down into a size it can absorb. What your body doesn’t use is excreted as waste. These are the four processes listed above—digestion, absorption, assimilation and elimination. But food is actually broken down in a number of different areas, including in your mouth, stomach, and the first and middle sections of your small intestine, called the duodenum and jejunum respectively. Furthermore, you have two kinds of digestion:
- Mechanical (chewing and churning) digestion
- Chemical digestion
Food combination takes into account the area and complexity of digestion of each food, to ensure it goes through your entire digestive system with ease. Dr. Pickering explains:
“There’s only one food that chemically breaks down in the stomach and that’s protein. Proteins require pepsin, a very highly acidic [enzyme] in conjunction with hydrochloric acid. But the hydrochloric acid doesn’t have the ability to break the food down. It just sets the medium for the concentration of the amount of pepsin that’s poured into the stomach to digest whatever food that’s in there. The intelligence of this human body is phenomenal.”
There are three primary categories of food: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Proteins, again, begin their digestion chemically in your stomach. Carbohydrates are divided into two categories: fruits and starches. While fruits pass through your digestive system with relative ease, starches require three levels of breakdown; the very first stage is in your mouth. That’s why it’s crucial to carefully chew starchy foods.
According to the rules of food combination, you do not want to mix proteins and starches in the same meal. This means, no bun with your hamburger, no meatballs if you have pasta, no potatoes with your meat… Why is that? Dr. Pickering explains:
“Starches require an alkaline digestive medium to digest. If you put your fist in your stomach while it’s digesting steaks and all that, chances are, you wouldn’t have a hand anymore. The acid is intense… When you mix them both together – an acid-type of food and an alkaline – basic chemistry shows that they don’t digest. They neutralize. Then what happens? If the food is not digesting… it’s going through your body [undigested], throwing it into all kinds of turmoil.”
The Three Commandments of Food Combination
Dr. Pickering lays out three basic commandments of eating that he recommends you not deviate from:
- No proteins and starches at the same meal, as they neutralize each other and prevent proper digestion of either food. To ensure proper digestion of each food, wait two hours after eating a starch before eating protein. And wait three hours after eating protein before eating a starch.
- No fruits and vegetables at the same meal. Fruits are either a single or double sugar, whereas the starches are a triple sugar. Fruits mechanically break down in your stomach, but chemically, they don’t break down until they reach the third and fourth stage of your digestive system, which are in your small intestine. Starches, again, are broken down in three different stages, starting in your mouth.
According to Dr. Pickering, this is also why it’s crucial to not eat dessert after a meal. When you do, it gets trapped in your stomach with all that other food, where it starts to rot as it’s not being chemically digested there. Therefore, eat fruit 30-60 minutes before dinner. The same applies if you want to eat another piece of fruit. Acidic fruits, such as lemons for example, also do not combine well with starches. Lemon and banana is but one example of a combination that is sure to lead to gastrointestinal upset…
Many people consider tomatoes a fruit, yet it’s commonly added to salad. Dr. Pickering classifies tomatoes as a “fruit-vegetable,” because even though they don’t have the sugar like most fruits, they’re still an acidic fruit-vegetable. As such they’re okay to combine with other vegetables. He suggests the following recipe for an excellent salad:
“Any kind of vegetable that has seed in it; for example summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers, bell peppers, and okra—those are all fruit-vegetables. Your tomatoes go well with those. And since lettuce and celery have a neutral effect, as far as the breakdown of food, the celery and the lettuce combine very well with all of that. You can also add avocados.”
- “Eat melon alone, or leave it alone, or your stomach will moan.” In short, melons do not digest well with other foods and will frequently cause problems unless consumed by itself.
For more information about the digestive process and food combination, check out the following two web sites:
- CombineWhenYouDine.com has a 20″ x 24″ custom-laminated full-color guide for Healthy Eating that classifies fruits, vegetables and proteins to show the most compatible combinations for proper digestion.
- MangoManDiet.com offers a 27-day long course on food combining, as well as 400 recipes, nearly 140 articles, and several hours-worth of audio programs on nutrition.
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