Debunking the Myth That Is Food Combining

food combining

Over the years, several diet fads have sprung up.  The various ‘rules’ and restrictions that are presented with some of these diet fads may seem preposterous for lack of a better word.  Among the rules include having a glass of apple cider vinegar early in the morning, eating fruits on an empty stomach, and eliminating starch from your diet.  As if that was not cumbersome, came the food combining fad.  Is there such a thing as different food groups combined interfering with our gut?

The food-combining principle has been there for ages and it first appeared in ayurvedic medicine as trophology.  This is an approach to eating that works on the basis that our bodies can only digest one concentrated food at a time. The operating principle is that several foods are digested at different speeds and various enzymes are required for the breakdown and the alluded benefits are better health outcomes and weight loss.

The human body is a beautiful wonderland with each system intricately in place.  The digestive system is efficient at obtaining nutrients from food to nourish the body. It is not as sensitive as is the claim by those promoting the agenda of food combination because enzymes that break down the macronutrients are always secreted when the food is present.  Further, no matter what is eaten, hydrochloric acid will create a very acidic environment and foods cannot significantly change the pH of your body due to homeostasis. Despite this, it is factual that there are foods that take quite some time to digest when compared to others.

Are there foods that when combined inhibit or improve the bioavailability of specific nutrients? Yes.

Food combinations that increase nutrient bioavailability

  1. Vitamin C rich foods and non-heme iron sources (plant-based iron).  This is because vitamin C breaks down the iron into a form the body can easily absorb
  2. Vegetables and oil.  Vegetables are rich a good source of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.  For these vitamins to be easily absorbed, there must be some fat present
  3. Turmeric and black pepper.  This spice combination ensures that turmeric which is a good source of the antioxidant curcumin is made available in the body
  4. Vitamin D and calcium.  Calcium requires vitamin D to be there to increase its bioavailability in the body
  5. Complimentary proteins.  Foods such as beans are not complete proteins as they lack one or more essential proteins.  These can be complimented by foods such as rice or maize
  6. Pair iron and zinc with sulfur. This is because sulfur increases the bioavaility of these nutrients

Certain food combinations and elements in food inhibit the bioavailability of specific nutrients.  These inhibitors operate by binding the nutrient into a farm that is unrecognizable by the uptake system rendering the nutrient insoluble hence unavailable for absorption or in competition with the uptake systems.  They include;

  1. Iron-rich foods with calcium and dairy products.  The bioavailability of iron is inhibited by dairy products.  Unlike other inhibitors, dairy affects both heme and non- heme iron
  2. Antinutrients such as phytates (in whole grains and seeds), tannins (in tea), oxalates (in green leafy vegetables), lectins (in legumes) may hinder the absorption of nutrients such as iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc.  Therefore, a cup of tea with an iron-rich meal should be avoided.  Tea can be taken 1-2 hours before or after a meal.  Sprouting, boiling, soaking, and fermentation can be done to minimize the effect.

The impact of these inhibitors may not be immediately noticed but over time the effect can be felt. Instead of greatly focusing on the food combination fad which is a conflicted topic, focus on foods that can hinder and improve your nutrient bioavailability and how to improve or minimize the effect more so when it comes to antinutrients.


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