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In the world of diet and nutrition you can discover information parroted about that will fit any direction you personally want to go. For example, if you grew up in a meat-eating family, you might enjoy and subscribe to the "high protein - low carb" rhetoric. If you grew up as a vegetarian, you will have a great appreciation for the literature that supports greater intake of vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes. If you have experienced digestive upset and have subscribed to food-combining theories, you may have found digestive relief and it is possible that you believe firmly that this is the holy grail of nutrition. To the extent that it helps you, enjoy it, for it certainly won't hurt you.

However, I want to share some information to help each of us better understand digestion and to be able to thereby put food-combining rhetoric into a more factual and helpful context, which may be helpful to you as you make your own decisions. As I have reviewed seeming countless popular diets, including popular food combining rules and even the eating practices of the sincere carnivore, I have come to better understand why our metabolism often succeeds -- in spite of what we throw at our bodies. Our metabolism employes many backup systems that make various approaches to diet doable.

My personal recommendation to you, when it comes to nutrition and your metabolism, is the following: You will achieve maximum vitality and longevity as you achieve maximum nutritional input with the fewest calories possible, so long as you do this using whole foods as your dietary foundation. Such a practice imposes the least digestive burdens of any other approach to eating, and it is best adapted to the true physiological and metabolic needs of the body.

The claim that many people make about the need to eat fruit alone ignores and leads to gross misunderstandings regarding digestion. The claim that adding fruits to other food combinations causes all foods to ferment, ignores fundamental fermentation facts. It does not take into account how fermentation works or whether or not fermentation is good, bad, or indifferent.

We rely exclusively on fermentation to prepare the dough used to make naturally leavened bread. This is a good thing. Friendly bacteria used in this bread-making process help to neutralize many of the toxic effects of wheat by predigesting gluten, lignans, tanins, and by facilitating hydrolysis. Most people that are grain intolerant can enjoy naturally leavened bread because of the friendly bacteria that predigest otherwise harmful elements in the bread. In this case the fermentation is a really good thing.

These friendly bacteria have a life cycle of only 8 hours from first life to decomposition. Decomposed within the bread they are perfect nutrient uptake for humans. Decomposed in corn silage they are perfect nutrient uptake for cattle. Decomposed in the gut of all animals and people they are exceptional nutritional uptake. And decomposed in the soil they become ideal nutritional uptake for plants.

We find these precious bacteria in the soil, in the air, in the water, and in the digestive tracts of all animals and people. They are a critical part of our world and for people they tend to break down and predigest that which we cannot digest ourselves. When they feed, which is whenever food is present, we call that process fermentation. Naturally leavened bread, sauerkraut, and dozens of asian dishes each employ these friendly bacteria purposely to cause very desirable and healthful results with food. Miso and other asian pastes are created as various strains of friendly bacteria are introduced to beans. Over long periods of time, the beans are broken down and predigested by these bacteria. The decomposed bacteria, which is loaded with good nutrition, is a large part of the final makeup of the food.

Let's review one more example that will help shed even further light on the subject. Legumes cause many people to experience gas. This is because beans contain a sugar for which we have no reciprocal digestive enzyme. That sugar passes through the mouth, the stomach, and the small intestine without ever being acted upon by a digestive enzyme that can break it down so that it may absorb into the bloodstream.

What happens to these sugars? Well, they eventually pass into the large intestine. Within the large intestine, the friendly bacteria greedily feed upon all sugars, including these, which are not digested prior to entering into the large intestine. The gas experienced by many people when they eat beans is caused by the fermentation or digestion by bacteria of this particular sugar. Similar gas occurs whenever we overeat, allowing the friendly bacteria plenty of time to feed upon the foods within us. When we eat in any manner that leads to shorter digestive periods, far less fermentation occurs.

Back to fruit. Fruit is filled with sugar and friendly bacteria love sugar. Their populations swell and shrink based upon various sugars being present in your digestive tract, from simple sugars to complex carbohydrates. Fruit requires just two to three hours to fully enter into the bloodstream. Not much fermentation occurs when food digests this quickly; therefore, it is rare to experience fermentation gas (by-product of friendly bacteria) when eating fruit alone, although it will occur if you overeat fruit, which greatly lengthens fruits natural digestive rate.

Vegetables and grains require five to six hours to fully enter the bloodstream. If fruit is enjoyed with vegetables and grains, it still requires only five to six hours for all the food to fully enter into the bloodstream. You will not notice unusual gas (by-product of fermentation) when enjoying fruits, vegetables, and grains together, and even if you experience some gas, this is merely the action of friendly bacteria and is not an unhealthful thing. However, meat and other animal-based foods require eight to 12+ hours to fully enter into the bloodstream, unless used sparingly. Typical Thanksgiving meals often require 24 to 72 hours to fully enter into the bloodstream. Under such conditions food sits in a warm incubator (you) and these bacteria have hours and hours and hours to feed. Whenever digestion requires this much time, serous digestive upset is a natural byproduct.

I spoke of this issue with BYU's most celebrated all-time researcher. His name is Merrill Christensen and he works in the nutrition department. He is so well respected in nutritional research that the National Institute of Health (NIH) employs Merrill to review 1/4 of all grant applications for them each year. Merrill personally awards 1/4 of the grant monies given out annually by the NIH. I share this to give you appreciation for his thoughts regarding food combining. His thoughts should not be dismissed without due consideration.

Merrill said the biggest problem in digestion has absolutely nothing to do with the combination of whole foods that we eat. Moreover, as a researcher he has noted that not one piece of bonafide research to date supports these theories -- not even one. Rather, the number one problem in poor digestion is the overconsumption of food during any given meal, similar to the example of what often occurs during our Thanksgiving meals.

Merrill said that the more food we pack into our stomachs the more surface area must be covered with limited digestive enzymes that are secreted by the body into the mixture of foods that pass through us. Too much food leads to inadequate digestive enzyme coverage and consequently to "longer" digestive periods. Long digestive periods provide too much time for the friendly bacteria to enjoy feeding frenzies upon the food passing through us. And, if our digestive environment is a good host for unfriendly bacteria, we also experience negative influence from them as well.  As friendly or unfriendly feed and reproduce, gas is a by-product, which of course we recognize as digestive upset.

Merrill teaches that the research literature demonstrates that any combinations of fruits, vegetables, grains, and animal-based foods digest very well together, provided we eat judiciously and not stuff ourselves full. A three to eight hour digestive cycle is always acceptable and does not present undue burdens to the body.
To sum up this discussion, meals that fully enter the bloodstream in six to eight hours cause no undue digestive burdens to the body, regardless of the combination of whole foods eaten. Merrill also teaches that we produce separate and distinct digestive enzymes within us, which easily accommodate the digestion of sugars (carbohydrates), fats, and proteins simultaneously. The idea that we need to separate carbs from fats or fats from proteins is nonfactual and unhelpful and is certainly not based upon any peer-reviewed research. It is merely someone's unproven theory, and it causes unhelpful confusion.

When our meals center around vegetable intake, and when they are complemented appropriately by grains and animal-based foods, digestion rates are very timely. On the other hand, when we center meals around large quantities of animal-based foods that require greater digestion periods, and then compliment these foods with too much grain, fruit, and only a few vegetables, digestion rates lengthen considerably, leading to great digestive distress and burden.

Remember, that no matter how we might stuff ourselves too overflowing, such practices always lead to digestive burdens. I've tested this theory with vegetables alone and have created digestive distress by overfilling myself with vegetables. I've also noted that the popular "green smoothies," when over consumed, or when consumed far too quickly, also lead to dietary distress. There is no holy grail of food combinations that are safe if we are unwise as we belly-up to the feeding trough. This is why I ask that you think more deeply and not jump so quickly onto the many popular bandwagons that exist today. Learn wisdom and apply wisdom.

Our favorite family meal is a salad that covers our plate. To a bed of leafy greens we add other raw veggies; to these we add some brown rice and/or beans (legumes). We often like to top this with a little fruit that accents the entire meal well. When our meat-eating son-in-laws are present, or in the wintertime, we might even compliment the entire meal with some cheese of some sort, or some chicken, or some other animal-based food product. It requires very little animal-based additions to complement this meal and to add the texture and enjoyable flavors. Such meals never cause digestive upset. They are filling and provide maximum nutrition with few calories. Consider the pattern and adapt it creatively in other ways to enjoy similar digestive and nutritional results.

Conclusion

Therefore, if you use some fruit to help make a whole-food dressing, or if you do as the Europeans do and enjoy some fruit after a meal as the dessert, or if you eat the fruit with your meal, it is all good, provided you center your meal planning around vegetables and use all else to compliment the meal, and provided you do not overeat.

And of course if you enjoy implementing the popular food-combining rules, you can also use fruits as stand alone foods, as desired. This is wonderful! What is most amazing to me is that with all the food-combining rhetoric that exists today, still not one shred of peer-reviewed scientific evidence has ever been produced or submitted to support food-combining theories. Enjoy the theories to your advantage, but you don't have to live and die by them, nor do you need to overcomplicate a healthful and enjoyable diet.

I Hope this discussion continues below in the spirit that it was presented and that it will help to open minds a little further concerning the reasons why certain food-combining theories produce sound results, and that it will also help you to relax when it comes to enjoying your fruit with other foods. Food combining theories will probably do no harm to anyone and can be an enjoyable and successful approach to diet. However, they are not the holy grail of sound nutrition as many would have us believe, not any more so than "high protein-low carb diet" is the holy grail of dietary solutions and sound nutrition.

Fruits and vegetables were ordained for our constitution. They provide the most nutrients per calorie consumed and require the least digestive time and energy. Meat and other animal-based foods ought to be used sparingly at most and it is best when their sparing use is limited to wintertimes or other times when it is cold and when we do not have adequate exposure to the sunshine. Properly prepared grains should be used to complement and add sufficient calories to healthful intake of fruits and vegetables. This is the most sensible approach to diet when the facts regarding human metabolism are fully considered and when personal bias and tradition are set aside. In fact, there are thousands upon thousands of studies which demonstrate the soundness of this wise approach to eating.

Best,
Jim  

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Oh YES ! This was very helpful Jim.... Thank you for your research and time. Truth is setting me FREE ! Free from all those needless rules I have tried to follow in my past. I have now lost 45lbs eating your "Best" level of highest nutrient foods.  I visited my 9 Grandchildren all last week and had so much energy and strength to play with them on the trampoline and in the swimming pool. I feel that my 50's are living younger than my 40's.  I just found out that my brother has diabetes like our Mom had, and I am so excited that I have made a lifestyle change that will prevent me from this disease.  Wishing you a Bright, Active, Happy Spring - Kathleen
Wow, thank you for sharing Kathleen, and may your Springtime be equally bright, active, and full of life!

Kathleen Braden said:
Oh YES ! This was very helpful Jim.... Thank you for your research and time. Truth is setting me FREE ! Free from all those needless rules I have tried to follow in my past. I have now lost 45lbs eating your "Best" level of highest nutrient foods.  I visited my 9 Grandchildren all last week and had so much energy and strength to play with them on the trampoline and in the swimming pool. I feel that my 50's are living younger than my 40's.  I just found out that my brother has diabetes like our Mom had, and I am so excited that I have made a lifestyle change that will prevent me from this disease.  Wishing you a Bright, Active, Happy Spring - Kathleen

Excellent article - thanks! I've been eating this way for 3 years and found your site through a post on Dr. Fuhrman's member site.  You're doing a great work, I'm very impressed!  Since you have access to experts at BYU, plus your church contacts, I have to ask - Why, oh why is this "food truth" not taught or acknowledged in the church and church institutions??  Nutritional science can now prove and expand on the Word of Wisdom yet we hear nothing about it.  We do hear, however, about the Relief Society cheesecake class, the Scout's tri tip fundraiser and the hotdog beach barbecue at the service project. I'm sure you get exasperated, too - what can be done?

 

Thanks so much for sharing this!  I love your book and website and appreciate you sharing the knowledge you have.

Thank you James for this post. As you well know there is so much information out there and one can get lost. I love how we can always go back to the Word of Wisdom to help us create a base foundation to build upon it. I have studied food combining before, in my holistic health repertoire, but as with many theories out there, it just did not make much sense as an absolute concept. Thank you for, once again, bringing wisdom and moderation to our attention. 

Be Well,

Stef

I worked as a consultant at church headquarters on many projects. One of those projects was the Provident Living website. The site was thoroughly tested and functional a full year before it became available to the public. I was told by one of the directors of welfare services that even the nutritional "experts" within the church are so varied in their opinions that the Brethren feel as if we are still "ever learning but never able to come to a knowledge of dietary truth." It was very difficult for the Presiding Bishopric to approve the dietary recommendations that are on providentliving.org and it was that particular material that prevented the site from going live much sooner. It was a real struggle for them. I love the Lord's patience with us.

I was called by a member of a committee regarding a new Word of Wisdom pamphlet a few years ago and a very similar challenge faced the committee responsible for that publication. It was enjoyable to learn of the honest struggles they faced in these matters. I've come to one conclusion that helps me most. God does not lie and has not lied about the Word of Wisdom. I continue to learn more and more about the wisdom that is contained within that simple document -- primarily because I never forget that He has spoken truthfully. Thus, I take all I learn and seek to reconcile it with the basics taught therein.

I spoke to a group of 18 physicians responsible for the physical welfare of our missionaries. Except for perhaps two physicians, I was covering new exciting ground for them, information they have never learned in their many years of training. Now here is a perspective to consider. It took the church over 100 years just to get the "don'ts" right. My neighbor said that in 1961 he and the other boys in his scout troop were given coffee on campouts to wake them up in the mornings. That wasn't very long ago. Ezra Taft Benson once said that as long as it has taken to both understand and to finally get the "don'ts" right, in may take us to both "understand" and finally get the "application" of the "Do's" right. Perhaps with the 100th monkey principle that will happen sooner than later. I will be publishing something soon that may be even more helpful.

Jim



Michelle Rowe said:

Excellent article - thanks! I've been eating this way for 3 years and found your site through a post on Dr. Fuhrman's member site.  You're doing a great work, I'm very impressed!  Since you have access to experts at BYU, plus your church contacts, I have to ask - Why, oh why is this "food truth" not taught or acknowledged in the church and church institutions??  Nutritional science can now prove and expand on the Word of Wisdom yet we hear nothing about it.  We do hear, however, about the Relief Society cheesecake class, the Scout's tri tip fundraiser and the hotdog beach barbecue at the service project. I'm sure you get exasperated, too - what can be done?

 

Thanks so much for your reply!  I was not aware of the info on the Provident Living website.  It's sad that the church is relying on government sources and outdated info for dietary policy instead of faithfully testing and researching the abundant evidence of it's own cannonized scripture.  That's all I can say nicely right now.

There was a call a few years ago for the Church to produce it's own musical, literary, and artistic masters.  Well, I'm calling and praying for some Mormon  Drs. Fuhrmans, Esselstyns, Campbells and McDougalls.  Can you imagine a program like the Adventists CHIPS program run by the Mormons?  Now that would be a - revelation.

I'm looking forward to your promised publication. 

There is a lot of confusion. Sometimes in the same week I've been asked to present at church headquarters or have presented at one Stake and have been told that it is the best education on the Word of Wisdom ever. Then, in the same week I might be told by a Relief Society President who scheduled me to teach that their local priesthood leaders forbid it. I've also had Bishops and Stake Presidents declare that what I teach is against church policy, yet later have invited me to come and speak and apologize to me. I try not to ever take it personally and know that there is simply a whole lot of tradition that blinds us to some extent to many truths that the Lord is willing to teach us, just as fast as we are willing to receive them. I love the process of learning knew things and don't often get bothered when others disagree or question my beliefs -- although sometimes it is challenging.

Michelle Rowe said:

Thanks so much for your reply!  I was not aware of the info on the Provident Living website.  It's sad that the church is relying on government sources and outdated info for dietary policy instead of faithfully testing and researching the abundant evidence of it's own cannonized scripture.  That's all I can say nicely right now.

There was a call a few years ago for the Church to produce it's own musical, literary, and artistic masters.  Well, I'm calling and praying for some Mormon  Drs. Fuhrmans, Esselstyns, Campbells and McDougalls.  Can you imagine a program like the Adventists CHIPS program run by the Mormons?  Now that would be a - revelation.

I'm looking forward to your promised publication. 

Thank you for this information.  Getting good nutrition is hard enough without all the RULES!  As for the church giving guidance - isn't it great we still have Agency.  There is a scripture something about . . ." he who is commanded in all things . . . . I appreciate you postings.
Thanks Joan!

Joan Sheets said:
Thank you for this information.  Getting good nutrition is hard enough without all the RULES!  As for the church giving guidance - isn't it great we still have Agency.  There is a scripture something about . . ." he who is commanded in all things . . . . I appreciate you postings.
Thanks for letting me vent.  I've spent the last three years studying the relationship of diet to health and have been amazed at what I have learned.  It's been a temporal revelation to me and I wish more people knew how much control they have over their own health and the life and death of the family they care for.  The work you are doing, James, is truly a saving mission - thanks so much!
Michelle, frustrations often precede increases in charity that best enables our abilities to make the right difference. I imagine Nephi was quite frustrated when after Sam believed him and he then shared his revelations with Laman and Lemuel only to be told what a fool he was. Opposition, while frustrating, serves to lead us to ponder more deeply concerning the truths we have received, and it serves to deepen our understanding. Then, as we offer intercessory pray for the welfare of others, as Nephi did in behalf of Laman and Lemuel, we too are blessed, as was Nephi (saw an angel after his intercessory prayer) with even greater light and knowledge. It's all good!  

With the time you've come to better understand this important link to our health I cannot help but believe that you will help to make a significant difference in countless lives and not just in matters of health, but in enabling others more fully in Christ -- who alone teaches us more perfectly in all things.  Jim

Michelle Rowe said:
Thanks for letting me vent.  I've spent the last three years studying the relationship of diet to health and have been amazed at what I have learned.  It's been a temporal revelation to me and I wish more people knew how much control they have over their own health and the life and death of the family they care for.  The work you are doing, James, is truly a saving mission - thanks so much!

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