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Oct 26, 2012 by NATASHA LONGO
Learn How To Maximize Health and Absorption of Nutrients By Optimizing Food Pairings

Which pairing is more conducive towards optimal digestion - rice and fish or rice and salad? Knowing the answer and practicing acid-base relationships in your meals could make a big difference in digestion and assimilation of nutrients.

If you said rice and salad then you likely have some awareness of this concept. Foods can bring out the best in each other, nutritionally speaking.

You already know a lot about what foods are good for you. But there's more to healthy eating than just that. Sometimes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And this especially true for some food combinations.

The typical Western diet is high in animal protein, which increases the body's acidity slightly. Fruits and vegetables reduce the body's acidity--that is, make it more alkaline. It’s not that meat is acidic, but rather that it contains acid-forming compounds, such as amino acids and phosphorus. Similarly, fruits and vegetables have alkaline-forming compounds (even though many of them taste acidic). The goal is to try and balance both extremes. They never eat animal protein with complex carbohydrates at the same time. Instead to always eat either animal protein or complex carbohydrates with vegetables to better balance acidity and alkalinity levels.

Try to never eat an animal protein with complex carbohydrates at the same time. Instead, always eat either animal protein or complex carbohydrates with vegetables to better balance acidity and alkalinity levels. Vegetarians and more so vegans don't have this problem because of the abundance of alkaline-forming foods consumed at every meal.

Check out our Acid-Alkaline Food Chart to create food pairings that are neutral and not overly acidic. Diets that are very rich in alkaline forming foods do not particularly have a harmful effect on the human body, however those that do not dabble on the acidic spectrum occasionally may be in for a shock should they abstain for long periods and then decide to have some pomegranate juice (true story I've seen that effect first hand).

The many misconceptions people have about acidic and alkaline diets are that they make your blood dramatically migrate to one pH extreme over the other. This is simply not true and merely misinterpreted concepts promoted by food and beverage manufacturers to make you believe they have the next best thing to put your body in an alkaline state.

The pH of your blood is tightly regulated by a complex system of buffers that are continuously at work to maintain a range of 7.35 to 7.45, which is slightly more alkaline than pure water.

If the pH of your blood falls below 7.35, the result is a condition called acidosis, a state that leads to central nervous system depression. Severe acidosis - where blood pH falls below 7.00 - can lead to a coma and even death.

I've actually been to health conferences where very misinformed sales people believe that alkaline water systems can bring your body into a state of alkalinity far below the population norm. Again, marketing hype, not fact.

If the pH of your blood rises above 7.45, the result is alkalosis. Severe alkalosis can also lead to death, but through a different mechanism; alkalosis causes all of the nerves in your body to become hypersensitive and over-excitable, often resulting in muscle spasms, nervousness, and convulsions; it's usually the convulsions that cause death in severe cases.

The bottom line is that if you're breathing and going about your daily activities, your body is doing an adequate job of keeping your blood pH somewhere between 7.35 to 7.45, and the foods that you are eating are not going to cause any wild deviations of your blood pH.

Do keep in mind however, that having a blood pH leaning towards the acidic side is not favorable. The typical Western diet is far too high in acid-producing animal products like meat, eggs and dairy, and far too low in alkaline-producing foods like fresh vegetables.

Additionally, we eat acid-producing processed foods like white flour and sugar and drink acid-producing beverages like coffee and soft drinks. We use too many drugs, which are acid-forming; and we use artificial chemical sweeteners like NutraSweet, Equal, or aspartame, which are extremely acid-forming. One of the best things we can do to correct an overly-acid body is to clean up the diet and lifestyle.

Constantly eating acidic foods forces the body to borrow minerals--including calcium, sodium, potassium and magnesium--from vital organs and bones to buffer (neutralize) the acid and safely remove it from the body. Because of this strain, the body can suffer damage due to higher acidity levels than normal and it may lead to other digestive and other disorders and conditions that may go undetected for years.

Examples include cardiovascular damage, weight gain, obesity and diabetes, kidney stones, immune deficiency, osteoporosis, cancer, joint pain, chronic fatigue, low energy and many others.

You can improve the body's ability to digest and assimilate nutrients by creating an acid alkaline balance for every meal you consume. Here are some examples of beneficial food pairings that can dramatically improve digestion and healing properties.

Turmeric and salmon
Turmeric has anti-inflammatory and healing properties. Salmon is low on carbohydrates and high on protein. When the two are combined, the properties of Omega 3 fatty acids present in salmon get a boost and it guards the nervous system against the effects of aging. It also increases the level of HDL (good cholesterol) which improves heart health by keep the arteries clear of bad cholesterol.

The combination is also believed to slow tumour growth by keeping the cancer cells from multiplying.

Whole grains and onions
Whole grains, such as maize, brown rice, barley and wheat contain iron and zinc in different quantities. The two minerals are absorbed by the human body more easily in the presence of sulphur compounds present in onions - which is also what makes you cry when you slice them.

Beans and greens
Beans are rich in proteins and iron. When paired with veggies rich in Vitamin C such as spinach, sprouts and potatoes, it aids weight loss. "Your body uses three times more energy to metabolize proteins than carbs and fats," says Tanna. "Vitamin C rich foods do not aid weight-loss directly. But they have water soluble nutrients which make them very low calorie foods. The combination of beans and veggies won't let you gain those extra kilos."

Also the iron content of beans gets better absorbed in the presence of Vitamin C from vegetables.

Tomato and olive oil
Tomatoes contain Vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene in substantial quantities. This antioxidant lowers the risk of cataracts, osteoporosis, cancer and the effects of aging. Olive oil, also rich in antioxidants, promotes the formation of HDL (good cholesterol) in the body. Lycopene gets better absorbed in the presence of olive oil and is highly beneficial for the heart. It purifies the blood and dissolves gallstones. The combo also boosts liver function of protein synthesis and detoxification of the body. It's believed to reduce effects of hypertension.

Broccoli and mustard
Broccoli is a good source of Vitamin C, antioxidants and a compound called sulforaphane. This compound exhibits anti-cancer and anti-diabetic properties. The absorption of sulforaphane is better in the presence of myrosinase, an enzyme present in mustard. The two combat bacterial infections in the urinary tract, excretory system, digestive system and the colon. Iron is part of blood cells in the body and carries oxygen from the lungs to muscles and organs. Zinc helps in healing wounds. Antioxidants and Vitamin C present in onions also facilitate the iron absorption from whole grains.

Whole grains are also rich in Vitamin E which when combined with Vitamin C become beneficial for the skin. This also goes for other combinations of vegetables rich in Vitamin C such as carrots, cabbage, peas and pumpkin with whole grains.

Kind of puts the whole cheese and turkey sandwich into perspective doesn't it?

Natasha Longo has a master's degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.

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