Health problems ranging from full-body illness to simple discomfort related to the foods we consume are on the rise. Part of the difficulty may originate from eating foods together that shouldn’t be eaten at the same meal. Do you combine the wrong foods?
There is much debate as to the cause of the U.S. epidemic of food sensitivities, and numerous specialized diets and major lifestyle changes have developed around what we should or shouldn’t eat.
But an ancient concept about how to eat may hold the answer. If you’ve given up gluten, tried paleo or gone raw or even vegan in attempts to improve your health or soothe your digestive ills to no avail, you should give the practice of Ayurveda some consideration.
Ayurveda is an ancient Indian mind-body-spirit well-being practice based on balancing the three doshas: vata, pitta and kapha. The doshas are energies believed to govern all physical and mental processes, and according to Ayurvedic practitioners, strongly affect an individual’s blueprint for health and fulfillment. It may sound mystical; but surprisingly, especially when it comes to eating, Ayurveda makes much common sense — and is practiced by millions around the globe today.
The energy of each dosha changes in direct response to our actions. And one of the quickest ways to unbalance this energy, and become unwell, is to eat foods in the wrong combination. Doing so can result in the production of toxins that produce stomach pain, indigestion, bloating, heartburn, fatigue and constipation and possibly lead to chronic illness.
For instance, fruit contains simple sugars that require little digestion. For that reason Ayurveda advises that fruit shouldn’t be eaten with foods rich in fat, protein or starch that take a longer time to digest. If you eat a piece of melon wrapped in prosciutto, the meat requires digestive enzymes that keep it in your stomach longer. The fermentation of the fruit can cause stomach upset.
Here are some specific food combinations, typical of the American diet, which you may want to avoid. See if you can remedy your digestive ills by following these Ayurvedic recommendations:
Avoid cereal with milk and a glass of orange juice: Ayurveda warns against combining grains and fruit. The acids in your OJ destroy the enzyme responsible for digesting the starches present in cereal or oatmeal. Also, acidic fruits or juices can curdle milk and stimulate mucous formation. It’s best to consume your OJ or fruit at least 30 minutes before cereal.
Don’t eat bananas with milk: This combination is popular in many smoothies, but is actually one of the heaviest and most toxic-forming. Adding cardamom and nutmeg can help stimulate digestion if you can’t give up this combination.
In general, milk and eggs should not be consumed with sour fruits, bread containing yeast, fish, meat or curd and should not be consumed together.
Avoid yogurt and fruit: Who doesn’t love a parfait? Unfortunately, mixing sour fruits with dairy — even cheese — can change the intestinal flora, produce toxins and cause sinus congestion, cold, cough and allergies. If you must eat yogurt, try it at room temperature with honey or raisins instead. According to Ayurveda, never heat honey. Heating it makes it toxic to your body.
Don’t put tomato sauce or cheese on your pasta: Acids (tomato sauce) and starches (pasta) don’t bode well for a positive outcome. Adding cheese increases the likelihood of digestive problems and after-meal fatigue because of the energy required to digest this meal. In general, avoid cheese and tomatoes if you experience weak digestion.
Do not combine beans and cheese: A typical meal at an American Mexican restaurant often includes these two culprits and often results in gas and bloating. In addition to cheese, steer clear of the following when eating beans: fruits, eggs, fish, milk and meat.
No beverages while you eat: Ayurveda recommends drinking 30 minutes before or after your meal, instead of during, because fluids can disrupt the digestion of food. Warm water or beverages at room temperature are easiest on the stomach. Ice-cold beverages — and cold food for that matter — are not recommended. Coffee is considered toxic and should be avoided.
Ayurveda also recommends getting your gastric juices flowing before you begin your meal. To do that, take a 1-inch piece of fresh ginger and sprinkle with a few drops of lemon juice and a couple of pinches of salt. This activates the salivary glands, producing the necessary enzymes to break down food for easier digestion and better absorption of nutrients.
Your state of mind when you eat is just as important as what you eat. If you are anxious, that knot in your stomach won’t welcome the food you send its way. Make your meals calm and enjoyable, and hopefully, your after-meal experience will be as well.