As cliché as it may sound, this saying is so true. By making healthier food choices and changing the way you eat, you can take control of your health! An effective trick to improve your digestion is through food combining. By pairing the right foods, you can boost your energy and feel refreshed.
Food combining is popular for its role in promoting gut health. But do you know it can actually help menopausal women in a big way too?
Digestive symptoms and weight gain are common in menopause, and food combining can prevent them from occurring. Aside from this, it can also help balance our hormones and relieve other menopause symptoms.
So, are you ready to eat right and take on the world? Let’s find out the general health benefits of food combining and how it can ease our menopause journey!
Amazing Benefits of Food Combining to Menopausal Women
Although food combining is not an eating practice specific for menopausal women, it can actually give us many health benefits.
Food combining can help balance our hormones during menopause. We know that estrogen and progesterone become unpredictable at this stage, affecting other hormones, such as insulin, thyroid hormones and cortisol. When these other hormones are offset, a string of reaction happens in your body, which may aggravate your menopause symptoms.
Healthy eating is essential to balance your hormones and relieve menopause symptoms. Eat more leafy greens like kale, baby spinach, arugula and romaine. You can also add in some phytoestrogenic and adaptogenic herbs. Phytoestrogenic herbs contain plant-based estrogens, which are great for supporting your estrogen levels during menopause. Adaptogenic herbs, on the other hand, balances and calms your mind and body. Adaptogens also help you cope with stress better!
Consume more superfoods such as berries, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp and ginger into your diet. You can also pair your veggies with oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and tuna. These types of fish are rich in omega-3, which helps reduce hot flashes and night sweats. Omega-3 also keeps your heart healthy!
Food combining with fish protein and leafy greens can prevent menopausal weight gain. This food combination can detoxify, boost metabolism, improve digestion and stimulate estrogenic activity in your adrenal glands and fats.
Here’s a great video by Rebekah Borucki as she explains how to get a flat tummy in 5 days using food combining techniques [8:29]!
What’s Food Combining All About?
Some doctors and fitness experts dub food combining as the “secret to healthy eating.” The idea behind this eating approach is that specific foods pair well together, while others do not. Eating foods that complement each other makes digestion easier and nutrient absorption better.
Avoid eating fast and slow-digesting foods together because it can cause a traffic jam in your digestive system. The reason for this is because different foods go through different digestion and at varying speeds.
Eating beef and bread at the same time is an example. Just imagine eating a burger. The beef patty is a protein, which is a slow-digesting food. The bun, on the other hand, is a carbohydrate, an example of fast-digesting food. These two are incompatible together.
Beef and bread also require different digestive environments and enzymes. Protein requires an acidic environment, and the enzyme pepsin breaks them down. Carbohydrates or starches are the complete opposite; digestion happens in an alkaline environment, done by ptyalin.
When your acidic and alkaline enzymes neutralize the digestive environment, it slows down digestion and may cause distress. Some of them include bloating, indigestion, stomach cramps, flatulence and a lot of other symptoms. It can also promote the release of toxins in the bloodstream and the growth of bad bacteria in your digestive tract, which can cause infections.
To better understand this, you can read our article on alkalinity and acidity!
Food Combining Basics
To combine food, we need to understand food classifications first and how they are digested. Check out some foods that belong to each category!
- the hardest food group to digest.
- the longest to be digested at 3 hours or more.
- aside from meat-based protein, there are also plant-based sources of proteins. Examples are grains, beans, nuts, dairy and eggs.
- requires an acidic environment to be digested
- only proteins from grains and beans are a good combination
- protein is essential for energy and muscle development; however, eating too much in one meal may deplete our digestive juices from trying to digest all the proteins. Eat protein in moderation to avoid digestive symptoms.
- moderately hard to digest
- needs a maximum of 2 hours to be digested
- requires an alkaline environment to be digested
- a well-balanced meal composed of the right kinds of oil and fats is good for the health
- healthy fat sources include nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and coconuts
- consume vegetable oils, meat fats and organic butter in moderation
- the easiest to digest among all food groups, aside from liquids. The reason for this is because fruits are made up of 90% water
- can be digested as fast as 30 minutes
- some fruits which are good to eat include citrus, pears, peaches, cherries, apples, berries, plums and melons.
- although most fruits are easy to digest, bananas and dried fruits are exceptions. These fruits are rich in carbohydrates, proteins and fats – which all take longer to digest.
- fruits can be tricky to combine with other food and the environment that they are digested is different. This is why you need to eat them alone.
Fresh and organic vegetables are just as easy to digest as fruits because they have many water content. But when the percentage of water drops, starch and fiber rise and vegetables become difficult to digest. Under the vegetable food category, there are three types that you should know about.
- difficult to digest and have higher calories- starchy vegetables can stay in the stomach for an hour or more
- requires a more alkaline environment to be digested
- examples include corn, parsnips, sweet potatoes, squash and zucchini
- easier to digest because they contain less starch
- they have their own enzymes, which means that your tummy doesn’t have to use its own to digest them!
- adapts well with alkaline or acidic environments
- no neutralizing effect, meaning better digestion!- examples include lettuce, broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, cucumber, spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes
Green leafy vegetables
- the easiest vegetable type to be digested because of its high-water content
- can be digested in the stomach in as fast as 30 minutes
- can be digested in any digestive environment and has its own enzyme to be digested
- examples include kale, spinach, arugula, romaine, broccoli and turnips
Aside from these food groups, there are three food categories: acidic, alkaline and neutral.
Now that we understand the food groups better, we come to the most exciting part! Let’s see which foods we can combine, which we cannot and the foods we should eat alone!
What to Combine
- Protein + Non-starchy Vegetables
The next time you eat a burger or enjoy spaghetti with a huge meatball, think again – are they compatible? Nahh!
Replace your usual burger and spaghetti with a healthier and delicious alternative! Choose good protein sources like organic chicken and fish and substitute spaghetti with non-starchy foods.
Some examples of good protein and non-starchy combinations are salmon + broccoli + green beans, or you can also eat organic chicken + sautéed asparagus + cauliflower.
- Starchy foods + Starchy Vegetables + Healthy Fats
If you want to eat starchy foods like quinoa or brown rice, you can eat it with starchy veggies like your sweet potatoes and squash. Both require the same alkaline environment, so they go well together.
Healthy fats also go well with starchy foods and vegetables because they need an alkaline environment. An example for this set up would be quinoa + avocado + baked potato or yam fries + olive oil +parsley.
- Leafy Greens + Everything
A food group that pairs with everything, from proteins, fats to starchy and non-starchy vegetables are leafy greens. As previously discussed, this food group can be digested well in both alkaline and acidic environments and have their own digestive enzymes.
Aside from this, leafy greens pass through the stomach rapidly. Unless you pair them with oily dressings like mayonnaise, they are easy to digest.
Even if leafy greens are stuck in your stomach with other foods, it will not ferment. This means it’s safe because it does not promote bacterial growth in the gut. It’s a great daily practice to eat a large bowl of fresh and raw salad of leafy vegetables.
- Non-starchy Vegetables + Everything
Any non-starchy vegetable may be paired with other foods, except tomatoes. Non-starchy veggies need an alkaline environment to be digested. Tomatoes, on the other hand, are rich in acids that may neutralize gut pH.
Non-starchy vegetables digest regardless if it’s an acid or alkaline environment. Hence, they go with everything: proteins, healthy fats, whole grains, starchy vegetables and even citrus fruits like lemon and lime. They also go well with soaked seeds and nuts.Optimize digestion, absorb nutrients better, flush out toxins and feel good without effort by making food combining part of your life!Click To Tweet
What Not to Combine
- Protein + Starch
Protein and starches are both slow digesting foods. They also have different digestive environments; protein requires an acidic environment, while carbs need an alkaline environment. Eating them together will neutralize pH in the gut, slowing digestion.
- Fruits + Vegetables
Having fruits as dessert sounds exciting, but veggies (which we often have in our meals) and fruits are not compatible.
Fruits contain simple sugars, so they are easy to digest. On the other hand, vegetables are rich in complex fibers, so they take longer to digest. If you ate veggies beforehand and stuff fruits on top, it will create a traffic jam. As your fruits stay longer in your gut, fermentation occurs, and gut bacteria grows, further slowing your digestion.
But here’s good news, lettuce and celery are exceptions. They are good with any fruit because of their low fiber and high-water content, which doesn’t need much digestion (except melon, which is high in fiber).
- Processed Fats + Proteins
Processed fats and proteins have opposite digestive environments. If you eat these foods together, gut pH gets neutralized and digestion slows down. Fats also inhibit the production of gastric acids, which are necessary to break down proteins. Examples of unhealthy fats include cooking oil, butter and milk.
Healthy fats like organic and unprocessed oils from flaxseed, avocado, olive and coconut are exceptions to this rule. You can pair these oils with any protein.
- Food + Liquids
Avoid drinking fluids while eating. Water dilutes your stomach acids, which slow down digestion. If you want, you can drink small sips of room-temperature water after eating.
A good food combining practice is to drink lemon water 20 minutes before meals. Lemon is rich in ascorbic acid, which stimulates your gastric juices. Apple cider vinegar also has the same effect.
Food as Medicine TV shares that the seat of human health lies in the gut. Wrong food combinations can create many digestive problems. Here’s an awesome video where you’ll know more about the basics of food combining [4:34]:
The 80/20 Rule in Food Combining
Rule 1: Eat until 80% full, leave 20% for digestion
One of the best ways to help your gut digest food effectively is to eat until you’re 80% full. How you feel satisfied when you eat is subjective, so you need to listen to what your body is saying. If you overeat, your stomach gets crowded from all the food, leaving a small room for digestion. Also, your stomach can’t digest loads of food all in one go. Undigested food will stay longer in your gut, start fermenting and cause digestive issues.
Rule 2: Eat 80% Vegetables and 20% Other
You can still follow this rule while observing proper food combinations. Notice that we used the word “other” rather than specifying a certain food group. This is because some foods are not compatible with vegetables.
You can only substitute the other 20% with ONE food group that can complement vegetables, or you can just eat veggies all alone. You can pair vegetables with animal protein or some grains like millet, buckwheat and amaranth.
Rule 3: Eat 80% Alkaline and 20% Acidic
Vegetables are alkaline in nature, which means that 80% of your meals have to have vegetables. Water, tea, vegetable juices and smoothies neutralize the stomach environment, so you need to drink more of these liquids. For the remaining 20%, you can consume acidic liquids or foods such as coffee and meat proteins.
Rule 4: Eat 80% Raw and 20% Cooked
Raw eating is good for the body. However, you need to eat raw food slowly because it can result in stomach upsets. You also need to chew them thoroughly. If it’s still hard for you to eat a whole carrot or leafy green, you can steam them so it won’t be too hard to swallow or digest. Eating raw food is a long-term goal that will improve your overall health.
More Tips for Better Digestion!
Get rid of conventional breakfast
If you want to take extra care of your gut, you need to get rid of the bacon, sausage, milk and cereals in your fridge! They are all acidic and are not good for digestion! Instead, try storing some fresh, green vegetable juices or smoothing or use green powders with your water. You can also have some vegetable soup for breakfast.
You might wonder why nuts have a special place here – it’s because nuts are a unique type of food. Nuts contain substances that interfere with nutrient absorption. They are also difficult to digest. By soaking nuts, we will be able to get rid of their anti-nutrient content, plus digestion is easier for the stomach.
When soaking, you need two ingredients: warm water and salt. Depending on the type of nut, you can soak it for 7 to 24 hours. For instance, if you have 2 cups of nut, a ¾ cup of warm water and 1 tablespoon of salt will do the trick. Read this wonderful article about the importance of soaking nuts and seeds on Wellness Mama!
They say less is more – and that’s definitely right in food combining! Studies have shown that the less food eaten, lengthens the life span. You have to change the way you eat! Remember, quality always goes beyond quantity!
Support food combining with other healthy eating practices
It’s not enough to follow good eating practices and eat the right kinds of food; you need to reinforce this as much as you can! Strengthen digestion with herbs and spices like ginger, garlic, turmeric, cayenne, curry powder and horseradish.
You can also add ½ tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar or Aloe Vera juice in your water to assist indigestion. Drink this 10 minutes before meals. Along with lemon and lime, spices and herbs are neutral. They can fire up digestion even before you start eating.
Aside from jazzing up your favorite recipes, spices and herbs are compatible with any food group. If you have a weak digestive system, you need to consider using a digestive enzyme to help your stomach to digest food.
Eat on time
We all have this internal body time clock that sets our bodily functions, including digestion. To maintain and balance this rhythm, you need to create an eating schedule for your body to follow. When you do this, your stomach accustoms itself to this schedule and produces digestive enzymes to prepare for incoming food, making digestion easier.
Besides setting specific times for meals, it is also best to stick to the same group’s foods. However, this does not mean that you have to eat the same food every single day. You can experiment, but make sure to choose food items with the same group as much as you can.
To be more efficient, create a meal plan for the rest of the week. Or, you can also divide foods into primary, secondary and exotic. Primary foods are those that you have to eat every week. Secondary foods are condiments to primary foods, and exotic foods are like little treats that you only eat on rare occasions.
When you practice this tip, you will improve digestive health and feel more energized and vibrant!
Sequence your meals
Sequencing your meals isn’t similar to setting an eating schedule. When you sequence, consider the order of food groups that you eat. This is essential in food combining because you are helping your stomach handle digestion as smoothly as possible.
The rule is to start with food that is the quickest and easiest to digest. More complex foods should come in next. Following this practice, you will keep digestion flowing, preventing the food traffic jam in your gut.
Foods that are denser and have little liquid in them are more difficult to pass through the stomach, so you need to be careful when consuming them. Here’s a list of foods and their speed of digestion.
- Liquids: 20 to 30 minutes
- Soup, smoothies and fruits: 30 to 45 minutes
- Veggies: 30 to 45 minutes
- Carbohydrates and grains: 2 to 3 hours
- Protein: 3 or more hours.
Chew your food properly
Digestion starts with chewing. When you break down your food properly, you aid in better digestion. As you chew, your stomach prepares by secreting gastric acids. When the food finally reaches the gut, all it has to do is grind and pass the food into the intestines. This will also allow the intestines to absorb nutrients easier.
Is Food Combining Really Effective?
Food combining helps many people improve their digestion and overall health. However, there’s still little research conducted on this eating practice.
Critics say that the lack of evidence is proof that there is no truth in food combining. However, those who practice this eating method have proven its effectiveness time and again. To know if food combining is effective, you can try it yourself!
Although its principles are not proven by science, certain studies show evidence that some food combinations are compatible. Examples of these are citrus fruits and iron, carrots and fats and spinach and dairy products.
Nutritionists say that dismissing the idea of food combining disregards its history. Proper food combination is part of Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine for many, many years.
Check out this new book, “East by West”. It is a modern take on the Ayurvedic principles.
Whether you want to practice food combining or not, you need to think of your digestive system as a highway. If slower vehicles are in front, your highway will be a mess because it will cause traffic. However, if faster vehicles are in front, your highway will be able to run smoothly.
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