Would you believe me if I told you this bowl comes together in six minutes? Assuming the hummus is already waiting for you in the fridge, you can soft-boil the egg in five minutes, drop asparagus in to blanch the last two, and warm the beans while the egg is cooking. And after all that, there's still a whole minute left to peel the egg and assemble the bowl. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little. Perhaps it really takes eight minutes once everything is said and done, but still that's minimal effort for a meal that has a triple-protein threat from beans, hummus, and egg. I initially created this bowl for breakfast, as I'm always trying to add more savory options to my breakfast rotation. But I've also found it very suitable for lunch on the go because it's quick to assemble the morning of. Either way it's a versatile meal that I hope finds a place in your weekday meal plan.
Food Combining, Simplified
Food combining is a vast nutrition topic that examines how protein, fat, and starch should be combined in a meal for optimal digestion. As we know from Part I last week, digesting food is an energy-draining process, one our body must do daily and obviously benefits from, but also should not work harder than necessary. In Ayurveda and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), food combining guidelines operate under the premise that consuming foods that don't combine well results in symptoms such as fermentation, indigestion, gas, and bloating. Different foods require unique digestive enzymes to be properly assimilated in the body, and eating many different ingredients at once can prevent our body from producing all the necessary enzymes simultaneously. This can weaken digestive fire, or our body's ability to break down and assimilate food efficiently, and eventually lead to disease.
There is a dizzying array of confusing food combining guidelines out there. So my intention is two-fold. It is not to get bogged down in the tiresome details of it all, but rather to:
- Provide a few easy-to-execute "best practices" and fundamental principles, and in turn
- Help bring more mindfulness to our meals and the connection between what we eat and how we feel.
Food Combining Best Practices
We all know we don't need more food rules! So think of these principles not as a list of dos and don'ts, but rather suggestions to experiment with as needed. Maybe you want to identify one or two principles you find easy and helpful to incorporate on a regular basis. Or use them as a tool to get back on track after holiday or travel. And if you suffer from mild digestive issues or generally feel lackluster after meals, it certainly wouldn't hurt to start experimenting. After all, we don't know if we can feel differently until we do something differently!
- Simple meals are easiest to digest; have no more than three compatible foods per meal.
- Eat fruit on its own or better, in the mornings on an empty stomach
- Combine protein with raw or cooked low-starch vegetables
- Combine high-starch foods with raw or cooked low-starch vegetables
- Combine avocado with low-starch vegetables
- When protein, starches, and greens are eaten together, eat protein at the beginning of the meal and with plenty of greens to aid digestion.
*Best practices are based on Ayurvedic philosophy and Paul Pitchford's work.
Nobody knows our bodies better than we do, and if we have a few investigative tools and knowledge at our disposal (see the Wellness tab for index of these tools), we'll feel empowered to be our own healer. This is my aim in my health coaching practice; to provide my clients with an arsenal of dietary and lifestyle tools customized to their needs so they feel adequately prepared to make adjustments as needs and circumstances change over time. On a broader level this is what I try to do for you on the blog. Armed with these tools we can proactively tweak and refine the what, where, how, and when we eat to prevent a mild annoyance from becoming a major health concern.
Black Bean Breakfast Bowl
Serves 1 - adjust quantity of ingredients to your appetite
Notes: This black bean bowl is my humble attempt at simplifying a meal, to my own standards. Lack of funded studies to validate food combining rules leaves room for much debate and subjective interpretation. And although these rules might not be practical to follow all the time (I certainly don't always follow them), I do find keeping them in mind serves as a helpful reminder to simplify my approach to eating. Science has shown that we get overwhelmed with choices and tend to overeat when presented with too many options (think buffets or potlucks!). The same applies in our materialistic society; with everything at our disposal we overspend and overlook quality for quantity. But the saying "less is more" could not be truer, and what I love most is how our relationship with food can teach us these life lessons. When we find wellness in the kitchen it becomes a mindset which follows us beyond the kitchen, and vice versa. That, my friends, is the essence of Whole Nourishment!
- 1 egg
- Black beans with some cooking liquid (from can or cooked from dried)
- 4 spears asparagus (or other seasonal greens such as broccoli)
- 2-3 slices avocado
- Dollop of Sweet & Smoky Hummus, recipe below (or your favorite hummus)
- Drizzle balsamic and extra-virgin olive oil
- Toasted sunflower seeds
- Place egg in a small sauce pan, fill with water so egg is mostly submerged. Bring to a boil, then cook at a gentle boil, uncovered, for five minutes for a soft-boiled egg.
- In the meantime warm as much black beans and liquid as you'd like, season to taste. Remove woody ends of asparagus and chop.
- Drop chopped asparagus in boiling water with egg the remaining 2 minutes of cooking time.
- Drain asparagus and egg and run under cool water to stop the cooking process. Peel egg and halve lengthwise.
- Assemble bowl: Place beans and some liquid in bottom of bowl. Layer on top asparagus, avocado, hummus, a drizzle of balsamic, olive oil, salt and pepper, and a sprinkling of sunflower seeds.
Sweet & Smoky Hummus
Notes: This is our favorite go-to hummus. It's smooth and creamy, and the smoky, tangy, sweet and spicy flavors are balanced nicely.
- 1 1/2 cups (262 gr. or 15 oz can) cooked chickpeas
- 4 Tbsp. tahini (sesame paste)
- 2 medium roasted red peppers (jarred works well)
- 3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 1 scant tsp. honey
- 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- Dab roasted red peppers with a paper towel to remove excess liquid.
- Add everything to a food processor except for olive oil. Blend until smooth. With motor running, pour in olive oil.
- Taste and adjust for seasoning, if necessary. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a week.