Mix or not mix

If one can digest each variety of millet rice separately, why is it said that a mix cannot be digested?

This is an often asked question when we see a group of people discuss about introducing millets into their diets. In fact the more general version, is it ok to eat a mix of different foods of the same kind – lentils, fruits, meats, etc. – is also an often asked question when discussing food.

Before I share my opinion on this question, a few disclaimers: I am not a trained medical professional, dietitian or nutritionist. Please consult one (or more) of these professionals to get their advise. And remember, small changes are lighter on our bodies and observing how our body reacts helps us better know ourselves.

I would like to first share my opinion on the arguments put forth against mixing. The primary argument is that one ‘cannot digest’ such foods. I interpret this as a more dramatic way of saying, ‘one won’t get the full benefits of any of the components’. This is a plausible argument – and would be important when one is using food and diet control for treating a particular disease or condition. The other argument offered is the ‘one will clash with the other, so don’t eat them mixed’. If one has a compromised or sensitive digestive system, it might cause an upset stomach. But most people who have had mixed foods have not had vomiting, diarrhea, stomach or head ache, or other known signs of an upset digestive system.

My own take on the matter is more from a practical stand point than a philosophical or nutritional perspective. Food, like everything else in life, is a compromise. So ideally, one would eat a meal consisting of only compatible foods – food items that go well with one another and impart most of its nutrition to one’s body. But over the years, we have developed tastes for foods that are not as good or useful. We have also moved our day to day lives in such a direction that the priority for healthy eating has gone down dramatically, if not almost forgotten.

In this scenario, if buying different millets and paddy rices and storing them in one single box and using that instead of each one by itself makes life and the transition to healthier eating easier, please go for it. Mixed is better than eating bleached paddy rice every day. Though, please do realize that depending on the size of the grain and the amount of bran present on it, different millet and paddy rice cook at different speeds and need different amounts of water. Be prepared to do some trials initially to identify which combinations work best for your family’s taste and texture preferences.

So, if you are going by a doctor’s prescription or advise, please follow what they say. If it’s not a specific advise from a practitioner, explore. And please do not forget to practice the precautionary principle – moderation (small steps), observation, discussion.

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