10 Food Combinations to Improve Digestion
Megan Fahey, MS, RD, CDN is a Registered Dietitian, Functional Medicine Nutritionist and Registered Yoga Teacher. She holds her Masters of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from Bastyr University, where she was trained to artfully blend eastern and western healing modalities.
One of the fundamental aspects of a nourishing lifestyle is to maximize your body’s ability to digest and assimilate nutrients. Eating foods in combinations that promote optimal digestion empowers your body to use the nutrients to fuel biochemical reactions that promote health and wellness, rather than create inflammation, malabsorption, weakened intestinal wall, and an open door to infection and disease.
To put it simply, food combining is the concept that certain foods pair well together, while other foods do not. The main categories within the food combining sphere are carbs and starches, fruits, vegetables, proteins and fats. These are the standard rules of thumb for foods you shouldn’t combine:
- Starches and proteins.
- Starches with acidic foods.
- Different types of protein.
- Protein with fat.
- Fruits with vegetables.
You can improve the digestibility of your meal by making these food combinations:
- Protein and non-starchy vegetable
- Organic chicken and kale salad
- Wild-caught salmon with steamed peppers and onion
- Grains/starchy veggies and non-starchy veggies
- Brown rice with vegetable stir-fry
- Sweet potato and asparagus
- Oils and non-starchy veggies
- Avocado and salad
- Olive oil or coconut oil on steamed veggies
- Fruit by itself
For example, animal foods need an acid environment to fully digest, whereas carbohydrate-rich foods need an alkaline environment to digest. When these foods are eaten together, like a steak and potato kind of meal, the protein and carbohydrates will create a neutral environment where both the protein and carbohydrate will not digest fully or correctly. Improper digestion can lead to digestive distress, food allergies, autoimmune disease, inflammatory diseases, toxicity, and more.
Knowing that protein and grain/carbohydrate combinations lead to improper digestion, you can see how lentils and beans get a bad reputation for being hard to digest. This is in part because of some sugars in beans that cause gas. Also present are enzyme inhibitors that prevent the bean from growing into a plant.
Soaking beans, lentils, nuts, and grains overnight, or at least for a few hours, will break down some of the cellulose, deteriorate those gas-causing sugars, and inactivate the enzyme inhibitors, thus improving their digestibility. If you wanted to even further improve their digestibility, sprouting the seeds/grains/legumes for another day or two will initiate the plant’s growth, increasing enzymes and nutrient content.
Improving digestive health is key to any nourishing lifestyle. Look at it this way: 70% of your immune system in your gut and 95% of serotonin produced in your GI tract. The gastrointestinal system clearly plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of the body!
Food combining, digestive enzymes, healing the intestinal wall with supportive nutrients, avoiding depleting foods like alcohol and refined sugars, reducing toxin and food allergy exposure, and taking targeted digestive support supplements can transform your body and give you the health and wellness you’ve been looking for.
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