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Food Combining

The food combining or Hays Diet emphasises eating good nutritious food

Many people find that certain types or combination of foods do not suit them. Based on this observation, Dr Howard Hays in the 1930s devised a diet plan that became known as ‘food combining’. In this diet, Dr Hays recommended a healthy diet with an optimum nutrition approach. This consisted of rules about which foods could be eaten together, such as eating ‘alkaline-forming foods’ avoiding refined and processed foods, eating fruit on its own and not mixing protein-rich and carbohydrate-rich foods together. This is because protein and carbohydrates are digested differently. Carbohydrate digestion starts in the mouth when digestive enzymes start to break down food. Protein, on the other hand is not digested until it reaches the acid environment of the stomach. So, a fundamental rule of food combing is that carbohydrate and protein should be eaten separately.

Of course, most items of food do not consist exclusively of either protein or carbohydrate, so it means not combining concentrated protein foods with concentrated starch foods. Meat, fish and eggs are mostly protein and very little or no carbohydrate, potatoes are mostly carbohydrate with very little protein. In between are rice, pulses and quinoa.
We have to remember that human beings have eaten a predominantly vegetarian diet for millions of years with the occasional meat when it could be found and caught, so our digestive systems can only handle easily digestible foods. It is generally thought that this digestive system helped us improve our sensory and mental processing so that we knew when and where to find the food we needed and it gave us the nutrients to develop a more advanced brain and nervous system. There would be certain times of the year when early man would have access to fruit. It would be eaten on its own and used for instant energy, requiring very little digestion. Many fruits ferment rapidly once ripe, particularly if put in a warm acidic environment and so can take only around thirty minutes to pass through the stomach. A steak can take up to three hours. A good reason not to eat fruit as a dessert. Observations show that people who eat a lot of protein tend to have a more acidic blood and can be more likely to fall ill. Of course, many factors can effect the acid/alkaline balance, but eating foods rich in calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium such as vegetables, fruit and pulses, tend to be alkaline forming and improve our health. Research has shown that over-acidic people tend to be sensitive, tired, inclined to aches and pains with problems sleeping and acidic digestion.
The Hays diet emphasises eating good nutritious food, so refined foods are not recommended. Refined and high sugar foods are relatively new in terms of our digestion being able to cope with them. Our bodies have not adapted to deal with fast releasing sugars which cause our blood sugar levels to rocket, unbalance our hormones and feed potentially undesirable micro organisms in the gut.
It might be worth considering food combining if you suspect a digestive problem, particularly if you eat a lot of protein rich foods. Check with your doctor who will diagnose a digestive enzyme deficiency, a food intolerance or Candida and advise on a sensible eating plan. However, by following simple guidelines, a healthy food combing diet can be easily achieved:
  • Eat 80% alkaline forming foods and 20% acid forming foods. So your diet should consist of mostly fruit and vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains and less amounts of meat, fish, cheese and eggs;
  • Eat fast fermenting and acidic fruits on their own, perhaps as a snack. Most soft fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, peaches, plums, melons and mangoes ferment quickly. Some fruit are highly acidic (and alkaline forming) but may inhibit digestion in some people. These include oranges, lemons and grapefruit. These should all be eaten when you need an energy boost in place of a more usual sugary snack;
  • Eat protein rich food with vegetables and do not combine with fast releasing or refined carbohydrates. Protein requires a lot of stomach acid to digest. Food should not ‘lay heavy’ in your stomach;
  • Avoid all refined, fast releasing carbohydrates. Instead eat fruits that do not ferment easily such as bananas, apples and coconut;
  • Importantly do not rush your digestion. Many people can’t eat breakfast. But your body isn’t ready to digest until an hour after waking. Never start the day with a stimulant such as coffee as this induces the digestion into a state of stress thereby inhibiting digestion. Instead start the day with a cereal, fruit or wholegrain toast.