Even foods that have benefits when consumed individually, can create havoc in your digestive system when not combined correctly: decreased nutrients assimilation, intestinal gas and bloating are among the most common complaints that can be easily addressed by making the right choices when planning your meals.

Avoid fruit right after a main meal

While fruit provides an astonishing array of vitamins, minerals and enzymes, you have to be careful with the timing: fruit has a very quick transit time in our digestive system – if you consume it after a meal, it will sit there on top of everything else, fermenting.

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Bloating and belching after eating? Try having your fruit either 15 minutes before or 2 hours after your meal (this also includes fruit juices). There is only an exception – see point n°2!

Combine meat, chicken, fish or eggs with jam, marmalade or acidic fruit

In Nordic countries meat is often consumed with berries, in Mediterranean countries fish is sprinkled with lemon juice – take a leaf from tradition, as these habits actually make your high protein meal easier to digest.

Do not consume protein and starches in the same meal

Here are a few examples to make this rule easier to remember: swap your spaghetti & meatballs with spaghetti & vegetables sauce; if you have a steak, have it with green leafy vegetables, not with potatoes!

Going for a pizza? For optimum digestion, leave the mozzarella cheese and the sausage out, stick to the veggie version. Give it a try, you will notice the difference immediately.

Avoid combining cereals and fruit in the morning

This is the kind of breakfast that is seemingly healthy but actually has a very high glycaemic index – when combining cereals and fruit, you send your system’s blood glucose control out of balance (fruit sugars + cereals’ starch), making it harder to be kept steady for the rest of the day.

Having your breakfast with milk will add another food group to the mix, making it even harder on your system. Choose wholegrain cereal, and combine them with nuts and seeds for a lower GI, diet-friendly breakfast.

Do not add sugar to your coffee

Coffee is a stimulant, and so is sugar: by combining the two you put extra strain on your adrenal glands, more of the stress hormones are produced and this leads in the long term to weight gain – slowly get used to limit your coffee intake and only enjoy it without sugar or artificial sweeteners.

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When having a high-sugar snack, always combine with proteins & fats

this will help you reduce blood glucose fluctuation. And remember: reducing the glycaemic index of a snack always equals with a step towards health and weight loss.

Here are a couple of examples to help you remember: if you’re having sugary fruit, combine with nuts or seeds as the good fats will slow down glucose release in your bloodstream. An amazing healthy snack is a teaspoon of coconut oil with a drop of maple syrup – great for your sweet tooth, and for your metabolism;

Do not drink wine or beer when having a meal high in starch

– meaning no alcohol with your pizza, pasta, rice or baked potatoes. While red wine in small quantities has several benefits, it turns your gut environment into an acidic one, while starch digestion needs an alkaline setting.

Consume seaweed with goitrogenic foods

Goitrogens are substances found in certain foods that can inhibit thyroid function. When your thyroid slows down, so does your metabolism and losing weight becomes harder: when you consume goitrogenic foods (such as soy, cruciferous vegetables and millet), make sure they are thoroughly cooked and combine them with seaweed, as they contain important minerals for thyroid function.

Do not have water with your meal

This is probably one of the most common mistakes: while water is hugely important to stay healthy, when it is consumed at meal times it can create problems. It does in fact dilute gastric juices resulting in impaired digestion.

All liquids should be avoided at meal times – for instance, coffee and black tea impair nutrients absorption and soft drinks provide empty calories without nutrition. Drink water up to 15 minutes prior to your meal or wait until an hour after – make sure you include high water-content foods in your meal so you don’t feel as thirsty.

Eating simply, not combining too many food groups in a single meal, is the easiest way to improve your digestion, enhancing nutrients absorption and keeping your metabolism in tune so it can burn energy more effectively.

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