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Copyright ©2002 Malcolm Smith
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Many people regard my diet as somewhat strange, but that is only true when viewed from a narrow Western perspective. Most of the planet eat a simple, wholesome diet of rice, vegetables and fruits, sometimes with fish or meat. I don't eat dead animals because it is no longer necessary for survival; we can feed ourselves in other ways.
I'm not interested in trying to stop people eating meat; it is a choice you must make of your own accord, if you think it's right for you. (These pages provide information useful to veg*ans and meat-eaters alike, so please don't be put off by my initially militant stance ;-)
There is evidence to suggest that cancer of the large bowel may be linked to diet. It is thought that a diet that is high in animal fat and protein, and low in fibre (fruit and vegetables), may increase the risk of developing cancer of the bowel.
"Men who eat red meat as a main dish five or more times a week have four times the risk of colon cancer of men who eat red meat less than once a month." Heavy-red-meat eaters were also twice as likely to get prostate cancer in his study of 50,000 male health professionals.
- Edward Giovannucci of Harvard Medical School
There are many other dangers from eating meat, such as Foot & Mouth, BSE, vCJD, E. coli and antibiotics in cattle (cloned or otherwise), not to mention the appalling hygiene and conditions that livestock are kept in nowadays which spread the human-threatening avian 'flu and SARS outbreaks. Also, poultry carry Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria, which can cause food-poisoning; one in twenty fresh chicken in supermarkets are infected with the vomit-inducing Salmonella bacteria. Marine toxins in fish and shellfish (which are not destroyed by cooking) can cause severe poisoning and even death, and consumption of raw shellfish has caused infection with Vibrio vulnificus. The PCBs found in farmed salmon are carcinogenic, and our overconsumption of cod has decimated the fish stocks, despite warnings.
In contrast to plant-based foods, meat and livestock production use more resources than the planet can sustain, and contributes to world hunger. Eating meat tends to make you more aggressive, competitive, argumentative; whereas plants will make you more passive, co-operative, negotiable. Watching cows being slaughtered is a terrifying, violent experience, completely the opposite from seeing crops being harvested.
There are many books written about diet; for a good one, try "Food Combining and Digestion" by Steve 'Sproutman' Meyerowitz. Here's some interesting thoughts from his often humorous interview with the questionably-named 'Swami Sproutananda' ;-)
We do not wish to kill any conscious beings. That is violence and violence makes the world a harsh place. Go to a zoo. Look at the animals. The carnivores are prowling and growling. They are restless and angry. Now look at the sheep, the cows, the horses and elephants. They sit in peace and eat from your hand.
As soon as you kill something it decays. Decaying matter creates poisons in your body. You have to work hard to counteract these poisons. Flesh also takes more time to digest. By the time you spend the energy to digest meat and counteract the poisons, you have spent more energy than you have gained from it. But a vegetable is easy to digest. When you eat vegetables and fruits, you are eating matter that is still alive. The cells contain live matter that you can transfer to your cells. Some people say "you're killing the vegetables." But it is not the same. The vegetable kingdom is here to serve us. When you pick a fruit, the tree remains unharmed and ready to give more. When you harvest beans, some seed falls back into the ground and within 90 days, you have more beans. You can eat half a potato, put the other half back in the ground and get more potatoes. Try that with an animal and tell me what you get.
Those who abstained from meat were originally called Pythagoreans until 1847 when the word vegetarian came into being. Some famous vegetarians include Pythagoras, Franz Kafka, Leo Tolstoy, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, St Francis of Assisi, Socrates, Plato, Plutarch, Kim Basinger, Yasmin Le Bon, Nastassja Kinski, Joanna Lumley, Doris Day, Richard Gere, Dustin Hoffman, Steve Martin, Steve Jobs, Ted Danson, Leonard Nimoy, Yehudi Menuhin, John & Yoko Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison (i.e., all of the Beatles), Gladys Knight, and Annie Lennox, and famous vegans include Chrissie Hynde, Prince, dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah, Lindsay Wagner (aka The Bionic Woman) and Martin Shaw (of The Professionals ;-). (So don't eat animals if you want to be a scientist, writer, singer or crime fighter :-)
I am not a
Vegan, as I wear leather
shoes and wool jumpers.
I am a Vulcan. I am living proof that "There are always other possibilities."
The body is a finely tuned machine, which requires a careful balance of nutrients for optimum performance. All the various food elements are equally important and rely upon each other for vital functioning in union. Just as there are many layers to The Onion that is Life, so there are many different levels of food. Some foods will elevate you, some will purify you, some can poison or disturb, while others may bring you crashing down to earth. But most are necessary in some form or another, the important thing is balance. Just as one cannot live on bread alone, the opposite extreme of eating just lettuce will eventually backfire. Sometimes just a small amount can have large effects:
An excellent example of this matter, on the positive side, is the increased protein-calcium-phosphorus retention produced by the use of orange juice. The regular use of orange juice results in an increased retention of these elements out of all proportion to the amounts of these actually present in the juice itself. [...]
Drs. Miller and Newell, of Iowa State College, added an ounce and a half of orange juice daily for three months to the otherwise unchanged diet of fourteen underweight children and tabulated the results. The weight of these children increased 146 per cent of the expected gain, in contrast with only 46 per cent observed during the preceding three months.
Dr. Cheney, of California, fed a group of undernourished children an orange a day. To another group he gave no oranges. During two different periods of two months each, the children who received the oranges gained an average of 141 and 118 per cent above the expected increases. The other group, without oranges, gained only 28 and 18 per cent above the expected gain. During the non-orange juice periods, including the preliminary days, the children gained an average of 0.08 pounds a day; with the oranges they gained an average of 0.3 pounds a day -- approximately four times as much as without the fruit.
- Herbert M. Shelton in Chapter VI of Orthotrophy (1935)
From my own recipes, in decreasing order of 'level', I find that meals such as lentil soup and khitchari will provide good brain food for mental agility, whereas chick peas seem to inspire my best creativity. Mushrooms help me survive the cut and thrust of work, and rye toast & houmous provides a good start to the day. Fruits provide valuable nutrients not found elsewhere, and for physical agility and suppleness muesli is beneficial now and again. And for some weird reason, potatoes (or crisps) make good conversation better.
I try to eat just enough (a tricky amount to gauge), aiming low and then adding later if really necessary, as subtraction is not viable. The advantage with eating simple wholefoods is that the body will soon tire of something when it has had enough, unlike sweetened, flavoured foods that always leave you longing for more.
The habit of eating denatured foods is a chief cause of over eating. These foods do not completely nourish the body and, therefore, do not satisfy the demands of hunger, unless consumed in large quantities. Great variety at a meal also overstimulates the sense of taste and leads to over eating. Spices and condiments have the same effect. It is really difficult to overeat when one is eating unseasoned foods.
- Herbert M. Shelton in Chapter XXIV of Orthotrophy (1935)
Less is more. Time seems to go slower when you eat less. (Maybe because the body is less busy processing food, so the brain can take in more of other stimuli.) At work this may be a drag, but you will likely find you have less work to do. Traffic runs smoother. You will spend less money, and bargains will be forthcoming. Anyone else find this?
Of course, denying yourself sufficient food is just as dangerous as over-eating, so tread a safe middle path. There will eventually come a time when you need lots of sustenance. Learn by experience when is good to eat heartily, when to travel light. Don't assume that physical (or mental) exertion requires lots of eating beforehand, as the process of digestion takes up energy that could be otherwise utilised by muscles (or the brain).
Perhaps the most signal demonstration in modern times of the ability of the body to build and maintain Herculean strength and great endurance on little food, was given by Prof. Gilman Low when he established the phenomenal record of lifting one million-six-thousand (1,006,000) pounds in thirty five minutes and four seconds, after a period of training on one meal a day and less. This lift was accomplished by lifting 1000 pounds 1,006 times in the time specified. This feat was accomplished after two months of training on a diet on which the average stenographer would "starve to death." For the first five weeks he ate one meal a day, almost wholly of uncooked foods, having meat only twice during this period. His diet consisted of eggs, wholewheat bread, cereals, fruits, nuts, milk and distilled water. During the last three weeks of his training period he ate only four meals a week; the last meal was consumed eleven hours before the lift. In fifty-six days of training for this lifting Low ate forty-seven meals.
Mr. Low lost five and three-quarter pounds during the thirty-five minutes. Fifteen minutes later, he lifted one ton forty-four times in four minutes. It is particularly instructive that Mr. Low had previously attempted the big feat after training on two meals daily and had been compelled to quit, after reaching a little more than the half-million mark, due to sore distress and dizziness.
- Herbert M. Shelton in Chapter XXIV of Orthotrophy (1935)
Go easy during the festive season, as over-indulgence of food and drink causes colds and 'flu, by way of lowering the body's natural immune system and ability to fight off infections. Colds brought on in this way are contagious, spread not just by germs as such (which we normally carry and are mostly resistent to), but by eye-contact with an indulged person. Your sympathy with their sorry state will inevitably lead you to the same fate, so be warned and stay away from them until they have worked it out of their system.
If you are prepared to take control of your life, and not be a slave to your stomach as most people are, you will discover amazing things. I can't say what they are, since they have not happened yet and they will be unique to you, for they are your potential, what you can become if you strive. The road is not easy, but well worth travelling.
Change is hard. Just as energy is needed to alter the path of a moving object, so motivation (and knowledge) is required to break ingrained habits. Adopting a different diet is not an easy thing to do, because one must fly in the face of much accepted 'common knowledge', and find something better.
Apart from a childhood loathing of most vegetables (only recently grown out of), I used to eat anything and everything, with no regard whatsoever for my body having to deal with it. Food was just fuel, and the more of it, the better. During my teens I began to eat more and more junk food, eschewing the more traditional fare of my upbringing. At college I started smoking and drinking excessively as is the done thing. After a few years of this self-destructive excess I realised that I needed to change my habits or face health problems. Being rather an obsessive personality, I knew the only way to go (for me at least) was to completely cut out all unnecessary things; any half measures (barman!) would result in giving up giving up, as often happens.
First I gave up smoking, which was very difficult, especially because all of my friends still smoked and our socialising often revolved around it. One really has to want to never smoke again, and remain firm in the midst of great temptation to "just have one". Your body will give you hell while it adapts to the lack of nicotine. You will eat more and suffer moodswings and constipation without your lethal laxative crutch. This physical discomfort doesn't last too long though; after a while, the clouds will lift and your body will thank you with new-found senses of taste and smell (and appetite), as well as improved general fitness and increased income. You will soon see cigarettes and tobacco for what they are - ugly, filthy and expensive; it is much cooler to simply burn ten pound notes, without bothering to inhale. I still question the madness of people sucking in hot smoke from chemically processed leaves burning at hundreds of degrees just inches from their face.
Next I gave up drinking alcohol, after a particularly bad two-day red wine hangover. My tolerance had greatly decreased since my high-spirited teens, probably as a result of my college excesses, and I couldn't even drink a few pints any more. Lightweight.
For many reasons, of digestion, of perfume, and particularly of energy, I realised that my diet was not good. Following teachings of various mystics, I decided to opt for a simple diet: I gave up caffeine, and stopped eating meat, and later fish, yet still used wheat and oats, yeast and vinegar, honey and sugar, cheese and milk (from cows, that is; I gave up human milk many years ago ;-) . Only later did I give these up, gradually changing from a lacto-vegetarian to an essentially vegan diet after a few years of trying out various 'health foods', some of which agreed with me, some of which didn't. I tried fruit diets (eating just grapes for five days), and fasting with fruit juices and then just water, which are very enlightening experiences about the human condition. (One must have favourable conditions to fast though: solitude, a comfortable place to be, no work and no hardships. It is vitally important to read up on the subject before beginning a fast, as coming back to the world of the eating is the hardest part; it can be difficult to achieve a smooth landing.)
By far the hardest thing to give up was sucrose, which is without a doubt the most addictive stimulant I know of, and so deeply ingrained into modern culture as to be mandatory. Most people are so addicted that they know nothing else, and so will regard these ideas as crazy. But as Salvador Dali said: "The only difference between Dali and a crazy man is that Dali is not crazy!" It is only when one stops taking this stimulant that one sees the larger picture.
Mentally ill patients have been shown to experience more psychotic episodes on a diet containing sugary foods. Similarly, the behaviour of prison inmates improved dramatically when refined sugar-fortified carbohydrates were reduced in their diet. Similar effects have been noticed on rats and children.
Now that I am weaned off sucrose, I am sensitive to even the slightest amount, as if an allergic reaction, and suffer intense moodswings and physiological imbalance for days as a result of inadvertently consuming sugar hidden in other prepared foods. I also find that those unnecessary, hyperactivity-inducing additives (flavour enhancers, sweeteners, colours, etc.) that industrially-produced foods include make me feel as if I have been subtley poisoned. This is why I prepare and cook (almost) everything I eat, and have learned to trust no-one in the kitchen. (Well, maybe that'll change if people adopt my recipes :-)
Of course, one still gets cravings for things one used to love. Fish & chip shops can sometimes be hard to walk past, but I find that my own TC Stirfry with rice and potatoes is a (superior) substitute. Similarly, kidney beans stir-fried with onions and served with tamari bear an uncanny resemblance to cheese, and mushrooms are similar in taste and texture to meat. Once your palate has become more refined, dates will taste as good as chocolate; it is often a case of allowing more subtlety, instead of the brash tongue-assault that modern industrial foods employ.
One of the main reasons I adore brown basmati rice so much is because of its wonderful perfume, an aroma which is said to be good to encourage house-buyers if you have a pot of basmati rice cooking when they look round. Yet this is not just an external, cosmetic thing. The aroma of something you eat doesn't go away once in your stomach. Although you yourself don't notice because you are bathed in it, the aroma you exude remains perceptible to others (animals are especially aware of it). People may not be consciously aware that, "Oh, he's had oranges for breakfast", or "Her stomach is in disarray", but their instinctive 'animal' nature will react. I believe this is why some people tend to 'clash' sometimes - their inner souls are in conflict, while their conscious minds just feel uneasy in the other's presence. This also explains why sharing a meal with someone is a great way to win their trust/kinship.
Perfume is not something taken too seriously in our culture, except in the lucrative (fake) world of body sprays, eau de toilette, aftershave and deodorants. Where these products aim to cover up the smell of the body, I would prefer that the body smell better in the the first place. This is only possible when digestion is working well.
For this reason I cannot bear to eat oats, peanuts, cashews, eggs, milk or chocolate, solely because of their aroma. They may smell and taste great, but once eaten, soon become repulsive (I don't know how or why, this is just my experience). Being repulsed by something inside you is not pleasant, and leads to low self-esteem. Besides, one cannot achieve contact with one's higher spirit unless one's physical body can provide a pleasant dwelling place.
We need to be in contact with our bodies. It is very important to listen to your body, to feel what your stomach wishes to eat, and to connect with any food before you ingest it.
All dietetic needs of our body thus announce themselves in a versatile language of their own, and he who has learned to interpret that language, nor willfully disregards its just appeals, may avoid all digestive disorders--not by fasting if he is hungry, or forcing food upon his protesting stomach, not by convulsing his bowels with nauseous drugs, but by quietly following the guidance of his instincts.
- Felix L. Oswald
Indeed, if conditions are not conducive to a happy atmosphere, then digestion will be adversely affected. Any stress you're feeling has the potential to upset your stomach, so don't eat unless you are relaxed. And take your time; savour each bite. Sit down and make each meal special; digestion doesn't work standing up or lying down. Concentrate on what you are ingesting; don't talk, read the paper or watch TV.
Of course, all this talk of healthy eating is purely academic if one does not get enough exercise, and as a nation we don't. I find that running is too strenuous on the knees and respiratory system. Walking is great exercise for mind, body and soul, swimming too. I heard the end of a great little program on Radio 4 in May 2002 called "Three miles per hour", which was extolling the virtues of a good stroll amidst nature. They said that we spend too much of our lives moving about too fast, driving, flying, etc., and it is important to spend time existing on a human, animal level, unwinding in natural surroundings, at our own pace, not that of our machines. I enjoy exploring our wonderful countryside, roaming about with a camera, discovering new paths. And don't forget that sunshine is a vital source of Vitamin D, which is otherwise lacking in veg*an diets.
Cycling is also good, not just for your body, but for the environment; if possible, try cycling to work or to a friend's house once a week or so (save money too!). The National Cycle Network is growing steadily, linking many towns and cities with peaceful car-free routes along old railway lines and canal tow-paths. Swimming is another good activity which exercises the muscles other activities don't reach. Other aerobic exercises include dancing, trampolining, hopping, skipping and jumping; they all increase oxygen to the lungs, and thus the whole body benefits. Yoga is also very beneficial, and can be practised anywhere once one knows a few basic postures.
Sugars can be divided into three groups:
Sucrose is found in table sugar, candy and most commercial foodstuffs (even things you'd not expect like baked beans and bread); see my earlier paper On Sugar. It inhibits gastric juices, which is why your mother always told you that "sweets will spoil your dinner". As well as slowing down digestion, sucrose even uses up B-vitamins. It also inhibits the secretion of ptyalin in saliva, so that starches are not pre-digested in the mouth, having to wait until they reach the small intestine hours later. Meanwhile the sugar ferments in the warm, moist environment of the stomach, producing alcohol (which uses up yet more B-vitamins) and carbon dioxide (which causes wind). Heartburn is a common complaint resulting from stomach acid driven up the esophagus by CO2 release.
On the other hand, fructose (the sugar found in fruits) is much simpler to convert into glucose (which the body can utilise directly). Lactose (the sugar found in milk) requires the enzyme lactase for digestion, which children have plenty of, but which is reduced as we get older, such that many adults have none; for them milk or cheese will cause problems. Maltose (the sugar found in malt and RiceDream) is possibly a better disaccharide than sucrose or lactose.
Sugar has the magical ability to mask our true physical state, and is a great way to stop us from feeling how we really are. Eating a cake will just switch off any emotions and destroy our ability to perceive finer energies. True, when you eat a cream cake, you get an immediate rush of pure energy, which makes you feel great initially, until you come down the other side into a Trough. The irresistible temptation is then to eat more to get another 'hit', thus aggravating the problem further. Though sweet in appearance, The Kandyman brings decay. Hence fruits are better than chocolate or cakes, as well as coming pre-wrapped in bio-degradable packaging (need I say more...?).
"Sugar contains no useful nutrients apart from energy and we can get all the energy we need from healthier sources."
Sugar is regarded as an energy food, but it is a remarkable fact that the heavy sugar-eater prefers to watch athletic games to taking part in them. We, of course, have reference to the heavy-eater of commercial sugars. They seem to stimulate and then depress the muscular powers. [...]
It has long been the Hygienic theory that the catarrhal diseases are based on carbohydrate excess--sugar excess, as all starches are converted into sugar in digestion. It is interesting to note, in this connection, that the British Medical Journal for June 1933 carried an article discussing "the relation of excessive carbohydrate ingestion to catarrh and other diseases," in which it was pointed out that during World War One, the incidence of catarrhal illnesses was reduced seemingly corresponding with the great reduction of sugar consumption. The writer of the article concludes that "restriction in the use of sugar would result in improvement in the national health as regards catarrhal illness, as well as in other directions."
- Herbert M. Shelton in Chapter II of Orthotrophy (1935)
Choosing slow-release carbohydrates over a quick-fix sugary snack will *always* help in the long run. The world needs level-headed solutions, not ill-judged kludges. Yet even here, our modern industrial food fails us: nutritious wholemeal flour is refined and the goodness taken out. Avoid white bread and white flour, and choose only brown rice and wholewheat pasta. Cellulose is an indigestible carbohydrate in vegetable fibres, fruit skin and seed hulls; while of no nutritional value, this fibre is very beneficial as it promotes peristalsis, the wave-like motion in the intestine.
Raw foods are crucial for the live enzymes they include. These are destroyed by the heat of cooking, and completely lacking in processed foodstuffs. Similarly, water-soluble vitamins such as C, B1, B2, B3, B6, pantothenic acid and folic acid, are sensitive to heat and often do not survive the cooking process, unlike the more resilient minerals which form the organic constituents of the bones, teeth, soft tissue, muscle, blood, and nerve cells. Stir-frying quickly over a high heat preserves more goodness than roasting, boiling or deep-frying. Steaming is better than boiing (especially for broccoli), as nothing is lost to the water. Overcooking and burning food can produce carcinogenic 'free radicals' which inhibit the action of antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E (which could be doing more productive things in the body if not having to fight off free radicals), so avoid re-using cooking oil and setting fire to the toast. A raw salad with each meal provides essential nutrients to aid digestion of the cooked foods. When preparing a meal, be sure to chop fresh fruits (and salads as well of course) last of all, to preserve the enzymes and vitamins which will quickly spoil. Live food advocates proclaim the goodness of raw foods for this reason that cooking kills much goodness.
Fresh pineapples (not tinned) contain the enzyme bromelain which is beneficial in processing undigested proteins. (During preparation, be sure to remove the eyes (the thorny protrusions within the puffy squares of the skin), as they can cause a very sore throat if swallowed.)
Herbs and spices such as caraway, cardamon, cayenne, celery, cinnamon, cloves, fennel and ginger all encourage digestion, as well as enhancing the taste of food. My favourite herbs are basil, chives and sorrel, which grow well in pots indoors or in the garden; the flowers have a particularly intense flavour! It is said that Pythagoras never ate a meal unless it contained ginger. Similarily garlic is very beneficial for health and digestion, traditionally having many uses which are lost to our 'modern' culture; for instance, it can even be used to make disinfectant for cleaning, and has amazing antiseptic properties which were utilised in dressing the wounds of soldiers in World War One.
Some people who try a vegetarian or vegan diet soon revert back to meat and dairy products, complaining that they didn't feel healthy. This is most likely because they were lacking in some essential nutrients because of an incomplete or erroneous understanding of human nutrition. When opting out of the standard Western diet, one must be careful to fully understand the alternatives.
The article Staying A Healthy Vegan and the Vegan Society's website provide good sound advice on how to avoid dietary deficiencies. For instance, there are no reliable, unfortified plant sources of vitamin B12; therefore fortified foods and/or supplements are necessary for the optimal health of vegans, to provide either 3 micrograms of B12 twice/thrice a day, or 10 mcg once a day, or a weekly supplement providing at least 2000 mcg. (Absorption is best for lower amounts more regularly.) Unlike most water-soluble vitamins, excess B12 is stored in the liver for future use, so people with large built-up stocks can survive for a few years with no new intake, only then to become seriously deficient. If not taking meat or dairy products, then fortified foods or supplements of B12 are essential.
The "new" vegetarian, who has recently given up some or all animal products, may go into negative mineral balance. If mineral absorption mechanisms need time to adjust to reduced intake of minerals (especially [the plant form of iron]), and increased [fiber] then a modest supplement might ease this transition. Iron, zinc and calcium would be affected. The vegetarian who progresses to veganism certainly requires additional vitamin B12, and iodine and riboflavin are to be recommended as well.
- Draper A, Lewis J, Malhotra N, Wheeler E - British Journal of Nutrition 1993 Jan;69(1):3-19
I have been taking Solgar Vegetarian Multiple vitamin supplements for some time now; they are not strictly vegan, as they include beta-carotene derived from wool, but then so does my sweater. Vegans should ensure that they take supplements of at least vitamins B12 and D, iodine, calcium, omega-3 fats and iron.
Many people needlessly worry that a Vegan diet cannot provide enough protein, without realising that proteins are found in most foods to some degree, and in plentiful amounts in nuts, seeds, lentils, beans and brown rice. The official daily recommendation for protein has gone down from the 150 grams recommended twenty years ago to only 45 grams today, mainly because reliable worldwide research has shown that we do not need so much. Many meat-eaters consume too much protein.
If you have to take antibiotics to kill some infection, they may invariably also kill off the friendly bacteria found in the healthy gut that aids digestion. It is a good idea when on such medication to take supplements of Lactobacillus acidophilus to replace the loss. Alternatively, for those who take dairy products, acidophilus is found in live yoghurt (check the label).
Trophology is the study of correct food-combining, that is, the art of knowing which foods go best with which others. Foods can be grouped according to their main constituents as follows:
The process of digestion has nine basic rules which describe combinations to avoid:
Proteins are digested by the enzyme pepsin in the stomach, which only works in the presence of hydrochloric acid (HCl). (Note this is different from the acid in acid fruits, which impede protein digestion.) Different concentrated proteins require secretions of very different digestive juices, so one should only eat one kind of protein (and likewise only one starch) at a time. However, since most foods contain small amounts of protein, we ignore it in combinations, the rules for combining foods applying only to the concentrated starches, sugars, fats and proteins.
Starches, on the other hand, require an alkali medium and the amylase in saliva which contains ptyalin, an enzyme which breaks down starch into maltose. The process continues in the small intestine, where more amylase further breaks down the maltose into simple glucose, fructose and galactose. These are absorbed into the bloodstream, and taken to the liver, which dispenses the energy to whatever cells in the body need it. If there is no immediate requirement, the glucose will be converted to glycogen and stored in the liver, or into fat to be stored in adipose tissue.
So consuming proteins and starches together will result in each being impeded by the other. Similarly, the eating of sugars and acid fruits impede the action of ptyalin and pepsin, reducing the secretion of saliva, and delaying digestion. If insufficient amylase is present in the mouth (due to insufficient chewing, or too much sugar), any starches will not be digested at all in the stomach, instead clogging up the works until amylase in the small intestine can get to work on it.
Fats impede the secretion of digestive juices, and reduce the amount of pepsin and hydrochloric acid, so they should be avoided or used sparingly with protein-rich foods.
Vegetables and salads combine well with all food types.
Acid fruits clash with most things, so are best eaten on their own; melons also, a special case, which should never be combined with other foods. Sub-acid fruits are easier to mix with other types in moderation, but all fruits are digested not in the stomach but the intestine, so will just slow things down (and ferment) until they get there. This is why a purely fruit diet is so beneficial to health (especially when one is ill), there being no starches or proteins to impede the fruits which pass quickly through the stomach to the intestine.
This may all sound contrary to our 'conventional' habits, until one realises that the sandwich and the hamburger are modern inventions. However, consider a sliced-lemon sandwich, or melon with millet, or pineapple with almonds, or pasta with potatoes and tortillas, and see how appetising they sound; instinctively upsetting no doubt, although we think nothing of pouring lemon juice on salad to accompany (destroy) our crusty baguette. Milk is best taken alone or left alone.
In the ancient Hebrew writing (Exodus) we read: "And Moses said... Jehovah shall give you in the evening, flesh to eat, and in the morning, bread to the full,... and Jehovah spake unto Moses saying... at evening ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread.' This statement from Exodus is one of the earliest records of the practice of eating proteins and carbohydrates at separate meals.
[...] there is evidence that it was also a practice among the Greeks. In an article in Your Physique, Sept. 1946, David P. Willoughby, a leading authority on physical education, tells us that "the regular diet of pugilists and wrestlers of antiquity 'consisted mainly of meat -- preferably beef, pork, or kid -- and bread. Meat and bread were not to be eaten at the same meal.'" Here is a practice of keeping proteins and carbohydrates apart in eating that has a sound physiological basis.
[...] Please note that carnivores in nature never mix carbohydrates with their meat.
- Herbert M. Shelton in Chapter XXVI of Orthotrophy (1935)
I tried eating separate meals of proteins and carbohydrates for a while, but found it quite hard to maintain a satisfying diet this way, probably due to years of ingrained eating habits. (Having written this article I shall certainly try some more experiments now I am a bit wiser.) Studies on young children, however, show that given the choice of a wide range of foods of all kinds, at first they try a bit of everything, to find what they like.
Children seldom consumed more than 2 or 3 of the 10-12 food items presented at each meal. They would often choose the same food for several meals (to the exclusion of other foods), then abandon that food for others.
- Davis, C.M. (1928) - American Journal of Diseases of Children, 36(4), 650-679
Eventually they settled into a pattern of eating only one or two foods at a time, say lots of beetroot, or lots of fish, and ignored sweets in favour of slow-release carbohydrates such as potatoes and rice. If one thinks about our prehistoric hunter-gatherer ancestors, they would probably eat whatever food they found, be it grains or fish or a handful of nuts or fruits.
I think it is important to not get too obsessed with finding the perfect diet straight away, because our needs change throughout our lives and depend on age, climate, exercise and other factors. It takes a lot of experiential study to find what suits you and what you enjoy. Bear these trophological issues in mind, but don't feel constrained by them. The most important thing is to eat a balanced diet which includes plenty of slow-release carbohydrates from whole-grains, protein from pulses and seeds, fibre from fresh fruit and veg, and little or no sugared or processed food. If you're wanting to lose weight, then the ideas presented here may be helpful, but really the best way to lose weight is to get plenty of exercise and eat a healthy, balanced diet, as:
Promoting weight loss through dietary restriction and behavior modification rarely succeeds, often results in weight cycling (repeated bouts of weight loss and regain) with the potential for serious physical and psychological health risks and contributes to a growing epidemic of dangerous eating disorders.
- Jonathan Isaac Robison, PhD MS, Alternative Health Practitioner, Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 1999
A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and plenty of fibre seems to help protect against bowel cancer and there is evidence that a diet containing much meat may increase the risk.
Good luck in your quest, and I hope this helps.
© copyright Malcolm Smith 2002-04-10 - last updated 2004-11-06 - links verified 2004-02-01