Author: Christine Peck
It is not well to eat fruit and vegetables at the same meal. If the digestion is feeble, the use of both will often cause distress and inability to put forth mental effort. It is better to have the fruit at one meal and the vegetables at another (Ministry of Healing, 299-300).
Biblically speaking, “fruit” is the product of plant reproduction involving blossoms and pollination. The seeds are contained within a fleshy or nutty pod. Vegetables are the rest of the plant, including the leaves, stems, and roots:
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat (Genesis 1:29).
Grains are described in Genesis 3:18:
Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.
For combining purposes, foods can be generally divided into three categories—the “fruits” group, encompassing most of the high-sugar-content fruits we’re familiar with; the “vegetables” group, encompassing most common greens, tubers, and stems; and the “neutral” foods which encompass grains, legumes, nuts, and some vegetables and fruits which are compatible with either the fruit or vegetable category. These include cucumbers, herbs, lettuce, sprouts, tomatoes, watercress, avocados, and olives.
Most fruits are digested in 1-2 hours. Most vegetables, on the other hand, take 3-4 hours to digest. The neutral foods take between 2-3 hours, making them suitable to combine with either the fruit or vegetable groups.i
As Ellen White counselled us in Ministry of Healing, fruits and vegetables should not be combined in the same meal. Scientists have discovered that stomach will not empty its contents into the intestinal system until everything in it has been properly broken down. The stomach cannot select out individual ingredients from your meal and send them on separately. Everything put into the stomach together has to be handled in one package.
There is a sensor in the duodenum that tests small samples from the stomach to determine if the meal you just ate has been processed enough to be sent on to the intestines. If it has, digestion proceeds smoothly. If it hasn’t, the valve is closed and the stomach works a while longer. Fruit will ferment in the time it takes for vegetables to be processed.ii
The gas from this fermentation process may contribute to acid reflux, because it can escape up the esophagus. When the stomach valve opens to release the gas, stomach acid can also escape, irritating and eroding the lining of the esophagus. Doctors have discovered that long-term acid reflux can cause permanent damage. We hear enough about this on television commercials offering antacids, pills to reduce stomach acidity, and special medicines to treat acid reflux disease and its resulting esophageal damage.
The best antidote is, of course, prevention. Eat the fruits and vegetables in separate meals. Avoid eating animal proteins as well, as very high acid levels are required for proper function of the enzymes necessary to digest these proteins.iii
Avoid eating desserts with your meal, since desserts often contain refined sugar, which also ferments in the stomach while other meal ingredients are being digested. We would do well to heed the counsel given us in Counsels on Diet and Foods, page 336:
If for dessert sweet cake is eaten with milk or cream, fermentation will be created in the stomach, and then the weak points of the human organism will tell the story. The brain will be affected by the disturbance in the stomach. This may be easily cured if people will study from cause to effect, cutting out of their diet that which injured the digestive organs and cause pain in the head. By unwise eating, men and women are unfitted for the work they might do without injury to themselves if they would eat simply.
Fruits and neutral foods can be combined in dishes like oatmeal-and-raisins or waldorf salad, while vegetables can be combined with neutral foods in dishes like vegetable stew, lentil soup, and lasagna. A nutritious meal can be made of spaghetti with a tomato sauce seasoned with olives, green peppers, onions, and culinary herbs; a side salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts and carrots; and a selection of legumes or soy meat substitute seasoned to taste.
i Professor Walter J. Veith, Life At Its Best Video 5: An Alternative Lifestyle.