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How to Food Combine for Optimum Digestion

Updated: Mar 19, 2023

Briefly, optimum digestion occurs when our body is able to easily break down the food we eat, extract the nutrients we need to live with vitality and eliminate the wastes efficiently.

For optimum digestion there are 2 very important rules.

1.  Eat protein and starchy foods at separate meals.

  1. Each combines best with green and non-starchy vegetables.

  2. Best to eat only 1 protein or 1 starch per meal.

2.  Eat fruits alone.

  1. Fruits digest faster than other foods.  If fruit is eaten with other foods, the fruit is held up in the stomach and then bacterial digestion starts to happen.  Fermentation starts to happen and you will experience gas, bloating, indigestion, etc.

If you remember this and only this, you are going to experience good digestion.  Of course there are always exceptions to rules…

Exceptions for High-Fat Proteins

The protein foods that are high in fat are nuts, seeds and dairy (cheese, milk, yogurt, kefir)(if you are eating these).

  1. Combine best with green and non-starchy vegetables.

  2. BUT they also combine fairly well with acid (sour) fruits.  So strawberries and pecans; tahini and lemon; yogurt and pineapple; seed cheese and grapefruit; are all ok to eat together.

Acid slows the digestion of protein but so does the fat in a high-fat protein food.  Acids actually help in the digestion of fats and if you combine an acid with a high-fat protein before you eat it, it can help break down the protein chains. This could be achieved, for example, by making a paté with sunflower seeds and lemon juice or marinating beans or their sprouts in an apple cider vinaigrette.  But if you eat acids at the same time as  you eat protein, you will prevent the secretion of stomach acids, which of course are important for complete protein digestion.  This could happen if you drink orange juice while eating bacon and eggs.

Exceptions for Fats & Oils

Fats and oils are different from high-fat protein in that, comparatively, they contain very little protein.  They contain fatty acids.  Examples of fats and oils are olives, avocado, dairy fats (lard, butter, cream, sour cream), and  oils (flax, olive, coconut, sesame, etc).

  1. Combine well with starches and even better if green vegetables are eaten at the same time. Good combinations may be sweet potato with avocado and parsley, rice and olives with kale , flax oil with oatmeal and dulse flakes.

  2. Combine well with acid fruits.  Lemon and oil salad dressing is a good example.

Fruit Exceptions

  1. Melons are eaten alone or leave them alone.  Melons digest more quickly than other fruits.  If you eat melons with other fruits their digestion is slowed down.  Fermentation will happen and you will experience gas, bloating, belching, etc.

  2. Lemons, limes and tomatoes are acid fruits that go well with green and non-starchy vegetables.  So even though I said no fruits with other foods, it is safe to eat lemons, limes and tomatoes with some other foods such as lettuce, spinach, cucumber, zucchini, green beans, etc.  Acid fruits also combine well with fats and oils.

  3. Celery and lettuce can be eaten with fruit in general.  They help the digestion of fruit and simple sugars.  Celery and lettuce can actually dry damp conditions in the G.I. tract (such as candida).

  4. Avoid drinking fruit juice between meals.  It causes your digestive system to be upset.

  5. Best to eat a Fruit Meal at the beginning of the day and not have fruit again that day.

  6. Avoid eating sweet fruit with acid fruit.  For example strawberries and banana are not a good combination.  A better combination is cherry with banana or strawberries and mango.  Click the link for the chart below for a visual on the best fruits to eat together.

If you are using dairy, it is best to drink milk alone.  Milk that is mixed with other food tends to curdle around it, causing indigestion.  Exceptions are fermented milk products (yogurt, cheese) that combine well with green vegetables.

Here is a chart that I have slightly adapted from Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford.  I think it will give you a good visual on the foods that combine well together.  Consider printing it and putting it on your fridge for easy reference.

Remember that digestion begins in the mouth and so it is important to chew your food properly.  In a previous post, I suggested beginning with 20 chews and working your way up to 50 chews or more.  Years ago, my husband and I did an experiment with chewing our food 100 times each bite.  Suffice to say that we learned a lot about how much food we were eating and how much we actually needed!  I will tell you more about that in later post.

I hope that I have made Food Combining simple for you.  Really sticking to the rules of eating fruit alone and keeping starches and proteins separate is the best thing that you can do for your body.

Next time I will share information on how to improve your gut flora.  This will also improve your digestion and absorption.

Thanks for reading!

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