Have you ever felt super bloated some days and perfectly light and fine the next? Certainly, overeating is a probable cause but in fact, many times it’s the foods that you combine that wreaks havoc on our digestive system.
As a general rule of thumb, our bodies can only digest one concentrated food at a time.
What’s a Concentrated Food?
A concentrated food is essentially starches (grains, rice, potatoes, etc.) and proteins and fats (meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and seeds), which makes non-concentrated foods, fruits and vegetables. The reason why you can only digest one concentrated food at a time is because of the type of environment your digestive tract needs to be to break down the food.
Starches require alkaline conditions (pH level > 7) whereas proteins need an acidic environment (pH levels < 7) in order to be digested properly. That means if we eat a starch and protein together, we are requiring our digestive system to be both alkaline and acidic (not possible!). However, in most diets and cultures, combining all types of food together is very normal regardless of how it makes us feel afterwards. So this would suggest that the optimal way of eating is to just pick simple meals where your digestive system doesn’t need to expend too much energy trying to digest.
So this is what a happy digesting meal would looks like!
Well first, you have your chicken as the protein and then you have healthy medley of non-starchy vegetables! Your stomach will thank you :)
Don't worry, if you are vegan, your protein of choice can be tofu, beans, tempeh, etc. and the sides will also have to be non-starchy veggies!
By choosing one concentrated food and filling the rest of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, you can avoid that unwanted bloated, sluggish feeling post meal.
But how about fruits?
Good question. Often times, in Asian restaurants especially, they serve fruits at the end as dessert. But actually, fruits, while it is non-starchy, also requires different digestive enzymes than proteins and carbs.
The theory is that fruits digest at a faster rate because it is considered more acidic in the spectrum of pH levels. Therefore, if fruits are eaten with foods that take longer to digest, then the breakdown of the fruit is delayed. When it’s delayed, they will ferment in your gut and cause digestive issues like tummy upset, indigestion, gas, and constipation.
Let’s go into more detail now about how we can combine foods for optimal digestion.
Here's another chart for reference by Detoxinista. You can see that foods are divided into four general categories: Fresh Fruit, Starches, Animal Protein, Nuts/Seeds/Dried Fruit. So as I mentioned earlier about the general rule of thumb, you should choose ONE of these categories and then fill the rest of your plate with the NEUTRAL foods (which you can see is essentially non-starchy, leafy veggies)
It is suggested that before you start your next meal with a different category/concentrated food, you should wait 3-4 hours.
Two Day Sample Meal Plans
Sample Meal Plan (Day 1)
- Egg, Mushroom, and Spinach Omelette
- On a bed of lightly steamed kale
Mid Morning Snack
- Apple and Baby Carrots with Almond Butter
- Whole Grain/Gluten Free Sandwich Bread with Avocado, Tomato, Cucumber, Lettuce, and Mustard
- Side Salad with whatever veggies you like!
- 4 oz Salmon with Steamed Mixed Vegetables (Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots, Cabbage, Brussel Sprouts, etc.)
- Yogurt with Protein Shake (Can do a vegan version if you like too!)
Sample Meal Plan (Day 2)
- Bowl of steel cut oatmeal topped with sweet potatoes and pumpkin
Mid Morning Snack
- 2 hard boiled eggs
- Grilled Chicken Salad with lettuce/leaves/arugula with balsamic or olive oil and vinegar dressing
- 4 oz sirloin steak with stir-fry vegetables of choice
- Vegan ice cream (flavour of choice hehe)
I just wanted to re-emphasize that all of this is just a “general rule of thumb”.
Hey life is short, and we shouldn’t be so restricted by food rules. It just makes eating so not enjoyable anymore when you have to think whether it’s good for your body or whether it will digest properly. Just like any other diet/lifestyle, it’s good to follow the 80/20 rule because we all need that 20% of naughtiness to stay sane and enjoy life to its fullest!
If you are having trouble thinking about what to eat, we’ve got a variety of foods from the different categories mentioned in the chart.
Here’s some ideas~!
- Macadamia Nuts
- Black Sesame Seeds
- White Sesame Seeds
- Organic Chia Seeds
- Nut Butter
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