As a kid, I thought it would be a great idea to eat dessert first. But Mom was certainly correct to argue that it would spoil my dinner. However, you may be surprised to find out that dessert first is actually not such a bad idea after all. That is, if you would prefer to avoid post-meal intestinal discomfort.
For optimal digestion and assimilation of nutrients, certain types of foods should not be combined with others. Follow these rules when preparing meals in order to achieve comfortable and optimal digestion:
- Fruit First: Fruit should only be eaten on an empty stomach and never after consumption of starches or proteins. A piece of fresh fruit contains all the elements it needs to digest itself; it needs almost no help from the body. Fruit passes through the digestive system in under an hour and will rot or ferment if the passage of the fruit is hindered by starch or protein. Often, desserts are made of fruit. That is why I say dessert first may not be such a bad idea. When you slam fruit on top of a tofu burger, the fruit will begin to rot since it takes the digestive system 3-4 hours to digest that protein. When you slam fruit on top of mashed potatoes, the fruit will ferment. In each case, the result is gas, bloating, indigestion, or heartburn. No fun for you, your neighbors, or your digestive system.
My strategy is always to eat fruit first thing in the morning. I know my stomach is completely empty and no problems will result. Additionally, fruit for breakfast is a great idea because it is cleansing and the perfect way to stimulate bowel elimination.
- Separate Starch From Protein: Starches and proteins require different digestive environments. The protein requires an acid environment while the starch needs a more alkaline one. If the two are combined, no ideal environment is achieved which results in undigested starches and proteins moving through the digestive system. This means you are not only suffering the discomfort but you are also not absorbing the nutrients from your food. Some foods, such as a garbanzo bean, are naturally composed of some combination of protein and starch. In this case, it is okay to eat the food because it is naturally composed. The body can coordinate digestion. Don't make it difficult on your body by combining all kinds of proteins and starches yourself.
- High Water Content Vegetables & Natural Fats Are Neutral: Vegetables and natural fats such as avocados and olive oil are neutral and may be combined with either starch or protein. It is a great idea to eat a big, green salad with any meal. Fats and oils can really add flavor and substance.
A sample day's worth of meals might look like this:
Fruit or Green Smoothie
Green Salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Now that you know the basic rules to proper food combining, apply them and become aware of how your current habits can be altered for improved digestion.
Smile, 'cause dessert is being served first from now on!