I recently discovered that San Diego, California has the greatest number of small organic farmers in the country. They provide a bountiful harvest of fresh produce to our local farmers markets, natural food stores and many of our restaurants – more than I realized. Further, there is a growing trend to collect wild foraged flowers and herbs to add flavorful additions to the food we eat.
Whether plucking fresh vegetables and herbs from private gardens, or visiting family owned farms for fresh organic produce, I feel blessed to live here. With a climate you can grow just about anything in and an abundance of fresh fish, the farm-to-fork movement has taken off.
It warms my heart to witness the many families that shop and eat locally while supporting sustainable agriculture and insuring our precious, food source. San Diego is definitely Dr. Diet’s haven.
What I’m talking about here is fresh food, not packaged, processed or adulterated. The food that Paul Chek and I consume is vibrantly alive, vital and fresh! I prepare not only organic food; I incorporate into our 4-day rotation plenty of raw, fermented and cooked vegetables with our proteins, stimulating the fire of digestion and metabolism, while ensuring a great friendship with the Poopie Policeman (see How to Eat Move and Be Healthy!, pg. 216).
We often receive questions from students and clients about food combining and the use of raw and fermented foods with protein.
It is important for us to realize that there is no “perfect” one food when talking about individualized Primal Pattern® eating.
When it comes to a holistic perspective to eating whole foods – it’s the variety of foods consumed in a diversified diet that provides us with the right balance of nutrients and helps to reduce narrow dependencies on certain foods that set up the eater for a variety of health problems, intolerances, and malnutrition.
When in balance, Dr. Diet provides us the proper ratios of nutrients from both raw and cooked foods, based on what is available in the environment. These are enlivening to our energy, biochemistry, hydration and internal microorganisms.
Understanding how to enhance your nutritional foundation while honoring the source of your food is both an art and a science. It’s one of the secrets to enjoying a variety of taste and texture sensations and supporting a sustainable healthy vibrant body – a temple for your mind!
Food combining is one of my favorite tricks to support the digestive process. Though food-combining principles can get very complicated, depending on which expert you ask, I prefer to keep them simple. Simply pick just one nutrient-dense food at each meal, whatever you’re rotating that moment, and then fill the rest of your plate with mostly raw and some cooked vegetables. Easy!
By simplifying your meals, the digestive system doesn’t have to tackle too much in one sitting, helping you to avoid that bloated, sluggish feeling that seriously can ruin your day.
Through meal planning, we practice combining both cooked and raw vegetables. We see that cooking sometimes destroys antinutrients or toxins so that the food becomes edible and improves digestibility of potentially valuable foods. This is great when we eat these foods in smaller amounts such as flesh foods, grains, legumes and tubers, pumpkins and squashes. Likewise, many vegetables and meats can be easily over-cooked and will lose their vital nutrients in the process.
From the very moment you plan your meal, see your food, and raise your fork to your mouth, your brain is sending signals to your organs as to what kind of gastric/digestive juices and how much will be needed to break down that one bite. The enzymes in our raw organic foods along with our own “internally producing” enzymes are working to break down, assimilate nutrients, process wastes for elimination and keep the body in as much of a balanced state as it can.
Proper food combining is very important because each type of food digests at different rates and can stay in the stomach for some time. The term “transit time” refers to the time it takes to typically move through the stomach, small and large intestines and the colon. Generally, in order of speed of digestion, it’s sugars, starch, fats and then proteins.
If you put something in your stomach that takes a long time to digest, followed by something that would normally digest very quickly i.e. fruit salad on top of meat, well the latter is forced to sit on top and given the nature of the environment in the stomach, this leads to fermentation and bloating, and over time can lead to leaky gut syndrome. The byproduct of this gastric volcano is alcohol, indigestion and a whole lot of hot, smelly gas!
Always listen to your body’s response to the combinations you try. Here are some simple guidelines to consider:
- To prime your digestion, it’s a good idea to drink water at least 20 minutes before your meal to hydrate and prime your digestion. You may sip water during your meal, but never drink water on top of your meal as it will dilute your gastric juices and put out the fire of digestion.
- If you are going to eat fruit, it’s a good idea to eat them at least 30-60 minutes before a protein meal. Bananas (starch) and acid fruit don’t mix well; melons are always eaten alone in between meals as they are more than 90 percent liquid and leave the stomach quickly.
- Fat and sugar do not mix well. Fat, which takes several hours to digest, and sweet sugars, which digest and are assimilated very quickly, do not make great belly-mates. Unfortunately, when you look around at most raw food recipes, you’ll see there is a discouraging number that contain mixtures like dates with nuts, banana with avocado, or sweet fruits with coconut (not to be confused with coconut oil, which can be added). These recipes are an open invitation for digestive fermentation – never mind what they do for blood sugar issues!
- There are some exceptions to adding fruit to your meal, such as tomatoes, avocados, and blueberries in salad or fruit chutneys with flesh foods. They are best combined with the salad at a meal at which no starchy foods are served. The understanding is that these foods can actually help digest fats.
- Acidic fruits and fats are okay for some and some people have no problems combining acidic and even sub-acid fruits with fat.
- Avoid mixing too many different kinds of fats in the same meal like flesh foods, coconut, nuts, seeds, avocado, dairy, olives, etc. Too much fat puts a strain on the gall bladder to supply enough bile to break down the fat and hydrochloric acid from the stomach to break down the proteins.
- Eating a large salad of fresh raw vegetables (three or four varieties) daily is an excellent practice. Dark, leafy raw greens (kales, spinach, arugula, varieties of lettuces) go with EVERYTHING!
- Salads combine very well with proteins or starches and by adding salads as a base with flesh foods provides the body with necessary insoluble fiber to guarantee perfect bowel movements, prevent constipation and are protective against colon cancer.
- To your salads, include seasonal raw celery, radish, cucumber, spring onion, sprouts, carrot, sweet pepper, Chinese peas, and purple cabbage – think rainbow colors! Each color brings a whole new set of vitamins, minerals and flavors to your table.
We eat raw salads, fermented foods such as kimchee and sauerkraut as a compliment to our flesh foods breakfast, lunch and dinner.
So what about other cooked vegetables?
Green vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals and induce a low glycemic response. However, an all raw consumption is not necessarily better.
Including some cooked food increases bioavailability of some nutrients. Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, string beans, zucchini, and dark, leafy greens such as varieties of kale and chard enhance digestibility. They can be mixed with fats and starches without any problem.
I tend to limit slightly starchy vegetable with more starchy vegetables (e.g. carrots with potatoes), and especially with grains and legumes.
Garnishing cooked foods with fresh cilantro, parsley, spring onions or fermented foods adds enzymes beside
In summary, when foods are properly combined, raw and cooked vegetables help to keep our internal organs and glands functioning at their peak. When combined with nutrient dense protein they enhance digestion, support healthy peristalsis and elimination, and balance your metabolism and body-mind.
After all, you are what you eat – YUM YUM!
Shelton, H. M. (2013). Food Combining Made Easy. Martino Fine Books.
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