FOOD RITUALS DEFINITELY OUR CIVILIZATION . For thousands of years, Homo sapiens has learned to combine products and combine their taste – taking into account their availability, their experience, ideas about the world around them and religious canons. National cuisines and food culture in different countries are largely determined by the complex rules of combinations – but we tried to understand this issue from the point of view of health. Is there any basis for the theory of separate nutrition and is it still possible to combine carbohydrates with fats?
Who came up with the theory of separate nutrition
One of the theorists of nutrition, Herbert Shelton, at the beginning of the last century, came up with a complex system of combining products and laid the foundation for a system of separate nutrition. Shelton divided all foods into seven categories: proteins, starchy foods, fats, acidic fruits, semi-acidic fruits, non-starchy and green vegetables and melons. He believed that digestive enzymes – the proteins responsible for digesting food – worked most efficiently with only one category of food at a time. Shelton argued that some combinations of foods are not absorbed by the body and can even lead to disease.
According to the author of the theory, far from the basic concepts of chemistry and physics, for the digestion of starchy foods, an alkaline medium is needed, and proteins – an acidic one. When these two classes are combined, the environment is supposedly neutralized, the digestion process stops, and the food “rots” in the body, harming it.
The successor to the ideas of separate nutrition was surgeon William Hay – by changing the structure of food intake and quitting smoking, he significantly lost weight and began to feel better. Based on his experience, Hay developed a diet by dividing food into three categories: “acidic” fruits and “acids”, “acidic” proteins and “alkaline” carbohydrates. According to his theory, “acidic” foods should be limited, as they supposedly “acidify the body” – and “alkaline” foods should be consumed in unlimited quantities, because they “neutralize” the negative effects of “acidification” of the body. Other models of separate feeding are based on approximately the same principles. They also prescribe the refusal of water while eating – supposedly water interferes with digestion.
Interestingly, Shelton stood at the roots of another pseudo-scientific direction – “natural hygiene”, which calls for the use of only “natural” ways to fight the disease, including refusal of drugs. At the same time, Herbert Shelton did not have a medical education , was prosecuted several times and even sat in prison for medical practice without a license, in one case resulting in death. Haye’s methods were also considered unscientific (in addition to food theory, he called for the abandonment of vaccinations and the use of aluminum dishes) and received condemnation in professional circles – but this did not prevent his ideas from becoming popular among Hollywood stars and launching a whole fashion, the fruits of which we can see from this day.
How digestion actually takes place
Although at first glance such theories look like scientific ones, in fact they have nothing to do with biology and chemistry. The efficiency of enzymes really depends on many factors – this is not only pH ( acidity level ), but also the temperature and concentration of both the enzyme itself and the substances it processes. The process of digesting food begins in the mouth, where starch is broken down under the influence of the enzyme amylase. There is also an enzyme in the mouth that digests fats (lingual lipase), although its effect is limited. In addition, food is crushed by the teeth and moistened with saliva – this allows it to easily pass further along the gastrointestinal tract and simplifies the work of other enzymes. The oral environment is neutral and the pH is between 6.0 and 7.0.
After passing through the esophagus, the crushed food enters the stomach – a vessel with an extremely low pH (1.0-3.0), that is, with a very high acidity. The cells of the stomach walls secrete hydrochloric acid, creating an extremely aggressive environment. Hydrochloric acid “eats away” everything in its path, primarily proteins – they lose their usual structure and become more accessible for digestion and assimilation. Also, hydrochloric acid partially protects us from microorganisms that can enter with food, reducing their activity. In addition, lipase, which breaks down fats, and pepsins, enzymes that affect proteins, work in the stomach.
So that gastric juice containing hydrochloric acid acts only on food, the walls of the stomach are protected by special mucus. At the exit from the stomach into the small intestine, a neutralizing liquid, bicarbonate, is also released. It is an alkali that neutralizes the acid in semi-digested food; in the small intestine, the pH rises to neutral (7.0–8.0) and further breakdown of proteins, fats and carbohydrates occurs, and then the absorption of their components. The frequency of emptying the stomach, the secretion of enzymes and gastric juice are precisely controlled by the nervous system – this takes into account stimuli such as the taste and smell of food, individual food components and signals sent from one part of the digestive tract to another. Enzymes of different departments are “turned off” when they move from a familiar environment to another – for example, the pepsins of the stomach stop acting, reaching the small intestine.
What’s wrong with split power models
Obviously, the theories of separate nutrition simply do not correspond to reality – after all, eating food does not lead to any acidification or alkalization of the body as a whole. The ideas that certain foods stimulate the body to produce acids and alkalis are also erroneous, and their mixing leads to neutralization and subsequent decay. In fact, food, entering the body, turns into a mass, the acidity of which changes from one part of the gastrointestinal tract to another – these processes are maximally “unified” for any food suitable for consumption. Our body is adapted to digest and assimilate any combination of foods. In addition, it has been proven that for weight loss, separate meals are not more effective or beneficial than just a balanced diet.
This applies not only to separate meals, but also to combinations of different products in principle. It’s hard to believe, but the rules that you can’t drink milk with cucumbers or eat ice cream on beer are a common myth. If you mix milk and lemon juice, the milk will turn sour – but the resulting liquid will not be harmful to eat. Another thing is that the taste and general appearance can be unpleasant – apparently, this is the reason for the myth of harmfulness. In the scientific literature, there is no justification for prohibiting any combination of foods in the diet. Exceptions can only be specific to specific people, for example, due to intolerance to certain products.