It's not just what you eat but how and when you eat it) says Angela Stokes. By following some simple food-combining principles you can improve your digestion) increase your energy and shed excess weight more easily.
In nature, wild animals don't combine foods. You're unlikely to see a bear catch a fish, then pick berries to go with it. Animals generally eat one thing at a time - a 'mono-diet' - and there are substantial benefits to eating this way.
Different types of foods - proteins, starches and sugars, for example - all digest in different ways. So when we combine different foods together, it can be challenging for digestion. Unfortunately, most of us learnt to eat exactly this way - combining many different foods in one meal. It took time to learn to eat this way: people don't tend to feed babies complex concoctions, rather simple blended fruits or veggies. It also takes time to unlearn eating this way, but the benefits are worth it. All you need to know are a few simple food-combining rules and you can improve digestion immediately.
What we consume either digests easily or ferments, and food combinations strongly affect this outcome. This doesn't mean you have to follow a strict 'mono-diet' (though many raw fooders certainly do choose this path). It just means paying a bit more attention to what you mix together: the simpler you keep things, the easier it is to digest. One term coined by raw foodists is 'combo-abombos' - i.e. abominable combinations resulting from budding raw foodists throwing everything into the blender at once. The more you avoid such combo-abombos and aim towards keeping things simple, the better for your digestion.
Imagine the difference, for example, between digesting a mono-meal of five peaches or a slice of raw peach and blueberry pie with a base of three kinds of nuts and honey, plus chocolate sauce. Get the idea...?
The fruit mono-meal is easily recognised by the body and digested within about 30 minutes. The pie, on the other hand, is much more challenging for your stomach. The fruits and honey are simple sugars, which means they digest quickly. The heavy nuts are fat and protein-rich, so they require substantial time in the stomach's acidic environment to break down.
These two food groups thus start to 'compete' for digestion. This confusing set of messages challenges the stomach.
Sugars are our primary source of energy and therefore 'shout the loudest' to get priority for digestion. This means that the protein-rich nuts get hurried out of the stomach, along with those sugars, before they're really ready, leaving them to putrefy in the intestines. Hmmm, perhaps that pie doesn't sound so pleasant after all...
Let's not get too rigid here though. It doesn't need to be about perfectionism. For those starting out with raw foods especially, it can be much more a case of 'anything goes'. If you're coming from a background of processed junk foods, just the fact that you start eating mostly or all-raw means your digestion and health will improve. There is more margin for 'error' in the beginning. As time goes on, your cells get cleaner and tighter and your body lets you know it would prefer simpler combinations.
Then you can start refining things, as feels good to you. That's really what it comes down to - do you feel good after you eat a certain combination? Nobody knows your body better than you do and what feels just fine to you might feel like a horrible combination to someone else. We can certainly use books and ideologies for reference, to learn about general patterns people find useful, but the real key is listening to our own bodies.
The side effects
So, what happens when foods are not 'well-combined'? A very common side effect is feeling sluggish, tired and heavy. This is because complicated combinations require so much energy to digest that there is little energy left for anything else. We may also feel mental fogginess, especially if we've eaten a lot of fat. Digestive issues may include gas, bloating, constipation, fermentation and candida overgrowth. You may also experience rashes, mucus, spots, weight gain, difficulty losing weight or any number of other symptoms, as gas and waste back up in your over-worked system.
A less obvious side effect is that it's much easier to overeat foods you later realise don't agree with you, when eating 'combo-abombos'. Many people eat quickly and this, along with the longer time taken to decipher messages in muddled combos, means that by the time the stomach's worked out the puzzle, you've already finished a plate of something that doesn't serve your health.
One major benefit of good food combining is it helps conserve energy. Digestion of food takes a lot of energy. The simpler our combinations, the easier it is to assimilate and use this fuel efficiently. As a result you'll feel cleaner, lighter, more alert and more energetic.
Good food combining will also help you lose excess weight, especially if you avoid complicated meals late at night. Ideal combining also helps you maintain an ideal weight. Your digestion and elimination become smooth and regular and your skin clear and fresh.
Simplifying your food can have knock-on benefits in other areas too, like using less electricity, having less washing-up and shorter food-prep times. Mono-meals of fruit, for example, usually involve picking up fruit and eating it, with maybe a bowl, knife and chopping board at most to wash. Compare that to making a raw pie, or more complicated yet, a greasy cooked meal.
When you eat a mono-meal, the body can tell you precisely when it's time to stop, as the food will begin to taste different and even unpleasant. This is the body's way of letting you know it's had enough for now. This feedback is a real advantage, as you can get exactly what you need, without going to excess.
Overall, eating 'good' food combinations can thus bring more energy, time and vitality to enjoy the things you love.
No more pie?
Does all this mean you'll never eat raw cake again? Not necessarily - it's really up to you. How easy do you want to make things for your body; how much energy do you want going to digestion? The example with the peach pie above, for instance, illustrated the overall idea behind why someone might want to pay attention to food combining. You don't have to do anything, or be 'perfect': just do the best you can, while enjoying yourself. A less- than-optimal combination is unlikely to leave you in hospital - this isn't a critical matter - it's more about tweaks that can take your health to the next level. whether you're 40%, 80% or 100% raw.
The raw advantage
The good news for raw foodists is that food combining boundaries can be a little more flexible than for traditional cooked food eaters. This is useful if you do desire to eat raw gourmet foods. The high enzyme content of rawlliving foods helps digestion enormously, meaning you can afford to make more 'mistakes' (at least in the beginning).
This is an excerpt of an article that was published in the Autumn 2007 issue of Get Fresh! You can read the full article by Downloading your free copy here
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Raw food author and lifestyle consultant Angela Stokes lost an incredible 12 stone (160Ibs) with a raw lifestyle, reversing morbid obesity. 28-year-old Angela started eating raw in May 2002 and has spent the last five years exploring and promoting raw foods and natural healthcare for weight loss. Visit www.rawreform.com for more information. Angela offers e- books, retreats, consultations and lectures internationally on raw foods. She can be contacted at email@example.com.