Food combining is a style of eating that involves consuming certain foods in combination with one another to improve digestion. This theory is based around the idea that certain food categories break down at different rates and require different pH environments. Because of this, proponents of food combining believe that consuming fast-digesting foods alongside slow-digesting foods can create a “traffic jam” in the digestive tract.
Although the science is lacking around this theory, food combining principles have been embraced for hundreds of years in Ayurvedic medicine. Whether you have digestive issues or not, food combining principles are something that anyone can experiment with.
Food combining proponents claim that it can help to improve nutrient absorption, gut health, detoxification, and alleviate digestive symptoms. In response to these changes, one may experience clearer skin, decreased inflammation levels, improved immunity, increased energy levels, improved bowel movements, and reduced discomfort after eating.
How it Works
To understand why it is thought that certain foods should be combined or eaten separately, it helps to have a general understanding of the three main macronutrients that the body needs in large amounts, which food categories digest the quickest, and which digest the slowest.
The three main macronutrients include proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. There are animal sources of protein, plant-based sources of protein, saturated fats from animal sources, and monounsaturated fats from plant sources. There are complex and simple carbohydrates, and starchy and non-starchy forms.
Fruits digest the quickest, followed by other carbohydrates, then fats, and then proteins. Although there are different variations of food combining and it can be quite complex, we have broken down the most common, basic “rules” below to get you started.
1. Consume fruit on an empty stomach.
2. Consume protein with non starchy vegetables. For example, fish and broccoli. Do not consume any protein with starchy carbohydrates. For example, steak and potatoes would not pair well together.
3. Leafy greens and non starchy vegetables combine well with anything.
4. Eat starches alone or combine them with non starchy vegetables.
5. Consume protein sources of meat towards the end of your meal.
As mentioned, there are various “rules” and suggestions within the theory of food combining, and many follow this theory strictly or with great flexibility. As we believe everybody and every body is unique, what works for one person may not work for you. The most important thing to do is practice mindfulness while eating so you can become more in tune with your body’s unique needs and more familiar with the practice of intuitive eating. Pay attention to how you feel after you eat and recognize what makes you feel your best. We encourage you to nourish your body in the ways that work best for you!