Have you ever eaten a big, filling meal, loaded with energy, only to feel exhausted and drained afterwards? Isn't it strange that a five-course affair that ought to give you energy for hours will often make you want to crawl into bed?
Your body uses different amounts of different enzymes to digest various foods. Overloading it with too many types of food can make it more complicated and harder for your body to digest, prolonging digestion and sapping your energy. Most people eat 4 or 5 different foods at a meal. Think of a huge holiday meal, or a dinner out at a restaurant. Think of appetizers, salad, then the main meal of meat, potatoes, butter, bread, and then dessert, coffee and cake. Then think of how that low-energy feeling sets in.
Of course the occasional celebration is fine, but over eating and being overweight may actually be a major cause of aging1. The longer food stays in the body, the more toxins are created. Slower-digesting food-butter, oils-slows down faster-digesting food, such as fruit. This causes aches, gas, bloating, pains, gout, ulcers, arthritis, acid reflux, body odor, bad breath and constipation.
Improve Digestion Through Food Combining
It is common sense that the longer food is in our bodies, the more energy our bodies use to process and digest it. Food combining is the practice of eating more quicker-digesting foods in general, and carefully planning when we eat slower-digesting foods. Ideally, 80% of our diet should be fast-digesting foods that digest within 2 hours such as fruits and vegetables. Twenty percent of our diet can be heavier, slower-digesting foods such as proteins, fats and starches that take 3-4 hours.
Liquids are the fastest-digesting things you can put in your body. They are through the stomach in about 10 minutes and leave your body within hours. More than a few ounces of any liquid at a meal dilutes our powerful digestive enzymes and will slow down digestion. Therefore, it is best to wait an hour (or longer) after a meal to drink fluids. Solid foods take much longer to process, as fiber takes some time to be broken down.
Food combining categorizes foods according to their approximate digestion time:
- Raw Fresh Fruit: ~30 minutes to digest. There are 4 subcategories of fruits
- Melons – due to high water content, they digest within 20-30 minutes.
- Acid – digest in 30 minutes. Include citrus, pineapples, sour apples, sour plums, sour peaches, tangerines, and tomatoes.
- Sub Acid – digest in 30 minutes. Include apricots, blueberries, huckleberries, strawberries, nectarines, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, mangos, elderberries, olives, fresh figs, sweet apples, cherries, peaches, plums, persimmons, and grapes.
- Sweet – digest in 45 minutes. Include bananas, dates, sweet grapes, pears, prunes, raisins, and dried figs
- Raw Fresh Vegetables: 1 hour to digest. Include lettuces, greens, celery, cucumber, zucchini, onions, mushrooms, etc.
- Cooked Vegetables: 1-2 hours to digest.
- Cooked Starches: 2.5 – 3 hours to digest. Include all grains such as pasta and breads, and vegetable starches such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, squash, etc.
- Fats: 3 hours to digest. Include avocado, nuts, seeds, oils.
- Protein: 4 hours to digest. Include meat, fish, seafood, eggs, chicken, etc.
Here are some set meals, ranked for their ease of digestion on a scale from 1 (best) to 7 (worst):
- A Mono Meal – 1 type of fruit or 1 type of raw vegetable. I recommend no more than 2 pounds of food per meal. So, for example: 2 pounds of grapes or 2 pounds of greens would constitute a mono meal.
- Multiple Vegetables or Fruits (of the same category: melons, acid, sub-acid, sweet).
- Multiple Raw Vegetables (i.e. a salad)
- Raw Veggies + Healthy Raw Fats (avocado, or nuts, or seeds, or fresh pressed oils)
- Raw Veggies + Healthy Raw Fats + Cooked Starches (root veggies, or sweet potato, or squash, or yams).
- Veggies + Healthy Raw Fats + Protein (4-6 ounces)
- Veggies + Fats + Protein + Carbs + Dessert! Most people eat in this category. Very difficult on the body to digest and too many combinations!
Whatever level you are currently eating at, try to move one higher level up. For example, if you are regularly eating at level 7, try to eat more meals in level 6 or 5. Even removing one food that you regularly consume a lot of can enhance digestion. By eating three to four smaller meals a day, with fewer combinations and allowing 4 hours between meals, you can have better digestion and more energy! So keep it simple to live strong, long and stay healthy!