You may spend a lot of time, energy and money on buying only the healthiest, highest quality, fresh, local and organically grown foods, yet be missing out on the nutrition equation.
How much of the nutrients in the food you eat do you actually absorb into your cells? Digestion starts in your mouth where your food is mixed with the enzyme amylase to begin the digestive process. Most digested molecules of food, as well as water and minerals, are absorbed through the small intestines.
Turns out the research shows that one of the best ways to not only increase your absorption of nutrients, prolong your life and reduce the age related diseases is ‘eating less.’ In fact, since the 1930s studies have been conducted showing the effect that eating smaller meals has on health and life extension.
Food combining (FC) is a diet often raved about by those who follow its tenants for improving digestion and helping with weight loss. FC diets have specific recommendations for what type of foods to eat at the same time, and which foods to eat separately.
3 Basic Guidelines of Food Combining
- Do not combine proteins and starches at the same meal. According to FC enthusiasts different foods require different enzymes for digestion. Because of this improperly combined foods can neutralize each other's enzymes and prevent proper digestion of either food. According to the FC rules you should wait two hours after consuming a starch before eating protein. You must wait three hours after eating protein before eating a starch.
- No fruits and vegetables at the same meal. Because fruits and vegetable starches break down differently and in different stages its thought they may ferment and/or nutrients not be absorbed.
- Eat melons alone. Melons digest best when eaten alone and will cause problems if they are consumed with other foods.
Food Combining Evidence
There is evidence to show that some combinations of foods high in oxalates can bind with calcium and make them insoluble. For people prone to developing kidney stones this can be a good thing as consuming calcium, i.e. dairy products with oxalate-containing foods can actually decrease their risk of developing kidney stones
At the same time, combining oxalates and calcium decreases the absorption of calcium. If you don’t eat much calcium then eating a diet that’s high in oxalates may be a cause for concern. If this is a concern you may want to avoid combining oxalate and calcium rich foods. Foods high in oxalates include beets, spinach, chocolate, tea, berries and most nuts.
- Another study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the consumption of certain nutrients is better absorbed when combined with fats, “We showed that use of fat-free or reduced-fat salad dressings can limit the absorption of carotenoids, which are abundant in fresh vegetable salads.”
- Studies also show that consuming caffeinated tea or coffee with your meal can inhibit the absorption of iron. Black tea, herbal tea, cocoa, espresso and coffee are high in polyphenol content and inhibit iron absorption. This includes black tea, herbal tea, even cocoa, espresso and coffee. The study recommends consumption of tea between meals, instead of during meals. Non meat eaters, pregnant and menstruating women were cited as most at risk for developing an iron deficiency.
Science is always advancing and, who knows, more evidence for supporting FC may be found.
Some nutritional experts believe that the benefits of FC may simply be due to eating smaller meals due to the restrictive rules about what foods combine best for improved digestion. When you eat smaller meals your body is not overloaded and your digestive enzymes can work more efficiently. The research certainly supports eating smaller meals for improved health and longevity.
If you’re having an issue with digestion and assimilation of nutrients FC may be something you wish to experiment with and see for yourself.
Mono-meals are a fad that is being recommended to improve digestion although there is no research to support the efficacy for mono-meals on digestion. The mono-diet is nutritionally deficient and if followed long term, you would eventually develop vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
The standard recommendations by most nutritional experts that's supported by research is to consume a wide variety of foods to build a healthy gut microbiome and lower your odds for developing disease.
If you’re new to Intuitive Eating click here to read, Intuitive Eating - Essential Oils to Use.
I’ve been an intuitive eater for many years now. Switching my mindset from being thought based to being guided by my intuition was a natural shift for me. Over the years I’ve come to rely on my intuition to guide me in every area of life, most especially with my health, including diet, exercise and any supplements. I encourage you to give it a try, or at least tune-in for a second opinion. My tried and true is to investigate the research on what I'm getting intuitively and testing things out for a first hand experience of what works best for me. Your lifestyle choices are individual to you and are constantly shifting and changing, just like life.
Essential Oils for Digestion & Gut Health
Click on each oil for more info, to buy and any safety cautions.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) - When the gut microbiome gets really out of balance intestinal dysbiosis can result. A study was conducted using essential oils as antimicrobial agents to inhibit the growth of pathogenic microorganisms in the gut Lavender was shown as promising for treating this disorder.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) - A study was conducted on the physiologic effects and safety of Peppermint Oil and its efficacy in treating irritable bowel syndrome and other functional disorders. Use of peppermint oil showed affects throughout the gastrointestinal tract. It has been used successfully for treatment of several clinical disorders with a good safety profile.
18 Ways to Boost Your Absorption of Nutrients
Your digestive system is incredible in its ability to sort through, break down and assimilate nutrients from the foods you eat. Researchers estimate that your body has a wide absorption rate. Between 10-80% of what you eat gets assimilated as nutrients. Whatever is not absorbed is excreted.
There are many factors contributing to the assimilation of nutrients which constantly fluctuate. Dietary and nutritional experts agree on the primary factors to consider for increasing your nutrient absorption.
Here are just a few:
Click on a link for research and further discussion
- How well you chew your food. Chew each bite 30-90 times until its broken down into small food particles and thoroughly mixed with saliva which contains the enzyme amylase. Studies show that about 30% of starch digestion takes place in your mouth. Chewing was also shown in studies to relieve stress and increase your attention and cognitive function.
- Nutrient-density of your food.
- How food is prepared, i.e. raw or cooked
- Level of life force in the food, i.e. fresh, local, organic or processed and packaged. Why You Should Consider a High Prana Diet, U.S. News.
- Enzymes present.
- Your intestinal flora, healthy gut microbiome.
- Health of your organs.
- Emotional well-being.
- Stress level.
- Toxic load your body is carrying.
- Exercise and activity level.
- Quantity of food you eat.
- Your age.
- Time of day you eat.
- Your internal body temperature.
- Temperature of food you eat.
- Mindful eating.