Eating everything without depriving yourself is possible, provided you combine food differently. With these new combinations, you will be able to make peace with your digestive system. Explanations with Dr. Kahina Oussedik-Ferhi, specialist in food biochemistry.
Combining certain foods with each other and avoiding combining others at the same meal is an old idea. Traditional Chinese and Indian medicine had already developed recommendations in this direction, taken up at the beginning of the twentieth century by the American naturopath Herbert Shelton. For Dr. Kahina Oussedik, a food biochemist, these recommendations are common sense and are even verified by science. According to his research, they would relieve many digestive problems and avoid storage leading to weight gain.
A beneficial effect on digestion
We have a very complex digestive system. It involves mechanical processes such as the grinding of food in the mouth during chewing, to which is added a chemical transformation (secretion of digestive juices). Very effective, it has however changed little since prehistoric times. At that time, the man was a hunter-gatherer and fed above all on meat, berries, vegetables, and wild fruits. When he’s lucky, his “feasts” certainly don’t have more than two different foods per meal. Today, a standard meal in mixture no less than 5 to 6. According to proponents of food combinations, our digestive system is simply not adapted to the variety of foods today. And it is unable to metabolize the products processed by the food industry, real digestive “aliens”.
Tips to simplify digestive work
The priority to better digest is therefore to ban these processed products from your plate and to hunt for hidden sugars. But even by eating a balanced diet and favoring the “homemade”, many of us suffer from bloating, acid reflux, transit disorders, flatulence, and weight gain. According to Dr. Oussedik, “these disorders tend to increase with age because the digestive system saturates with this diet too complicated for him. It needs to be simplified. For this, no natural food is to be banned, not even those containing gluten. On the other hand, we will associate them differently to avoid certain mixtures that do not pass.“
Rule n°1: do not mix slow sugars and acids
Slow sugars (or starches) are slowly processed by our digestive tract and then slowly absorbed by the blood in the intestine. Their digestion requires a lot of energy. It already begins in the mouth because chewing secretes ptyalin, a salivary enzyme that triggers digestive work.
In this family, we find:
- “complex starches” (floury): all cereals (wheat, oats, spelt, bulgur, semolina, buckwheat…), legumes (chickpeas, lentils, red or white beans, beans…), quinoa, corn, potatoes, rice, squash, flax or sunflower seeds…
- “Light starches” (or small floury): sweet potato, peas, carrot, parsnip, turnip, pumpkin, beetroot.
“Acids” behave like fast sugars. These are mainly raw and dried fruits, vinegar, lemon, mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, mayonnaise (all commercially sold condiments are acidified to be preserved), white and rosé wines, champagne and spirits, and all foods in jars or canned. These acids solicit the stomach very quickly to be digested very quickly. They then counteract the digestion of slow sugars (interruption of ptyalin secretion). The risks: flatulence, bloating, poor digestion, and weight gain.
To be preferred: all associations with so-called “neutral” foods: vegetables (including tomatoes and soybean shoots), dairy products (preferably sheep or goat), eggs, vegetable oils, oilseeds (nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pistachios …), cooked acids (cooked fruits, vinegar, soy sauce or lemon cooked in a hot sauce) and red wine.
- Vinegar salad with squash, chia or sunflower seeds
- Pasta, rice or potato dish with fruit for dessert
- Grated carrots with lemon juice drizzle
- Salad “sweet salty” with apples, orange or pineapple accompanied by bread
- Sushi or maki with soy sauce
The right choices:
- Vegetarian couscous
- Quinoa with vegetables
- Pasta with tomato sauce
- Pancakes with buckwheat leek/warm goat
- Vegetable pie
- Pizza with four cheeses (but without hot sauce)
- Gratin dauphinois, green salad (without vinegar)
- Avocado toast without lemon fillet
- Cooked fruit pies (apricots, pears, apples…)
Rule n°2: limit the combination of slow sugars and proteins of the first degree
First-degree protein means all meat, poultry, fish, seafood, and shellfish. Second-degree proteins come from animals: eggs, milk, and dairy products (butter, cheese, yogurt). These second-degree proteins are classified as neutral foods.
To facilitate digestion, we reduce the number of dishes combining 1st-degree proteins and complex starches, two categories of food that are long and difficult to digest. Protein (especially fish) can be associated with small mealy from time to time, a combination that remains relatively digestible.
Protein can be combined with all neutral foods (see the previous paragraph).
To be limited:
- Steak Fries
- Couscous merguez
- Salmon quiche and salad
- Hot dog
- Minced steak pasta
- Mashed steak potatoes
- Spaghetti Bolognese
- Hachis Parmentier
- Quiche Lorraine
- Chicken breast carrot puree
- Steamed fish and peas
- Goat cheese + wholemeal bread (or made from unprocessed cereals)
The right choices:
- Green bean steak
- Ratatouille salmon
- White fish with fresh tomato coulis and vegetable puree
- Trout with zucchini almonds
The extra tip: an alternative to salad dressing
The recipe: take half an organic cube broth crushed in hot water and add a tablespoon of cottage cheese and a teaspoon of olive oil, then fresh herbs of your choice (parsley, basil, coriander …).
Before, after the meal: when to consume the fruits?
When raw, it is best to consume them away from meals that include starchy foods. But they can be taken as a dessert when the meal combines protein and vegetables. You can enjoy them for breakfast in cottage cheese or yogurt, provided you do not add cereals, or take them as a snack around 5 pm, alone or with a handful of almonds for example. When cooked in the form of compotes, baked apples, poached pears, or pies, they can be taken for dessert immediately after any type of meal.
Vegetables: the best allies of our digestion
Vegetables contain stringy, indigestible fibers that cleanse the digestive tract by carrying away the toxins and pollutants we ingest every day. They improve our transit and avoid constipation. It is advisable to consume organic vegetables preferably. But if this is not possible, steaming them eliminates heavy metals and pesticides, provided you do not reuse the cooking water.
Combining food well also allows you to get the most nutrients out of it
Three questions to Kahina Oussedik-Farhi, Doctor in Food Biochemistry, author of The Magic of Digestion (ed. Dunod).
Digestion, health: what are the foods to favor?
For our good digestive and general health, we must focus on three main categories of foods: stringy vegetables (green beans, endives, fennel, leeks, asparagus), whose fiber cleanses the digestive tract; fermenting vegetables (mainly cabbages) that enrich our flora; proteins of animal and vegetable origin (in cereals and legumes). By combining them correctly, we avoid indigestion, deficiencies, and unnecessary storage.
What about fruits?
Once an adult, it is necessary to limit their consumption to two per day. Fruits are beneficial because they provide us with vitamins. But they are purveyors of sugar which, in excess or poorly combined, cause digestive disorders and weight gain.
And food supplements to fill our deficiencies?
The intensification of agriculture has led to a depletion of fruits and vegetables in vitamins and minerals, including organic. Doctors and dieticians often advise filling our deficiencies with food supplements. In practice, they are quite poorly assimilated by our digestive tract. I reserve them for patients who have undergone heavy treatments, chemotherapy for example. For everyone, I recommend better combining foods to get the most nutrients.
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