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Foods that are high in protein are not digested well when combined with starchy foods, and starch isn't broken down properly when mixed with protein. This is because protein foods require an acidic stomach, and carbohydrates, or starches, need an alkaline environment. Combining starches and proteins can strain our digestive system and cause digestive discomfort, as well as fermentation, a build-up of gas and toxins.
The Digestive System
Digestion takes place in three main areas of the body: the mouth, the stomach and the small intestine.
The mouth juices are alkaline, so complex carbohydrates like bread, rice and pasta can broken down in the mouth by saliva. Our mouth and tongue are not designed to withstand strong acids; otherwise our teeth would crumble and fall out.
Stomach juices are usually acidic, ranging from neutral to strongly acid, depending on the food that is being eaten. The stomach lining is coated with a protective membrane so that acids attacking food can't digest the stomach itself.
Proteins are broken into smaller bits by the teeth, and moistened by saliva to make swallowing easier, but no protein digestion takes place in the mouth. Instead, when protein reaches the stomach, cells in the stomach wall produce gastric acids, signaling the start of protein breakdown. The stomach is now too acidic for any starch digestion to continue.
Vegetables and salads
All salads and vegetables, except for potatoes, are versatile and can be combined with either proteins or starches. This is because can be digested in either an acid or alkaline stomach. A healthy diet should consist of a range of vegetables, as they are also a good source of fiber, vitamin, minerals and phytochemicals.
Some common starch-rich foods include:
Black-eyed, butter, kidney and haricot beans, lentils, chickpeas, peas and most other pulses comprise of two-thirds starch and one-third protein. They can therefore be classed as starches. The only exception is soya beans and peanuts (these are a pulse and not a nut), which consist of more protein than starch.
To plan a good food-combined meal, aim to eat either:
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