Food Combining 101: Rules, Benefits, and Chart
The process of food combining is an eating pattern with centuries-old roots that takes into account how blending different food categories at meals impacts your digestion and overall health. Let’s take a deeper into facts about ayurveda food combining, how it works, the rules of this diet, and how understanding a food combining chart could impact your health.
If you currently consume a typical Western-style diet, you pay no attention to how you are combining your foods.
Meaning, combining starches and proteins – eggs and toast for breakfast, a turkey sandwich for lunch, or meat and potatoes for dinner – is pretty standard in your daily diet.
But do you ever consider what these combinations could be affecting your digestion?
What is Food Combining?
Food combining – also known as trophology – has become a popular diet trend in recent years, but its roots are far more ancient than any of us could imagine.
The philosophy of food combining comes from Ayurvedic diets, dating back to consumption patterns in ancient India. Additionally, the food combining approach also includes principles of the macrobiotic diet of the 1920s. If you’re interested in Ayurveda, check out this lunar charged Moon Water!
This pattern of eating rejects the mixing of different food categories, like proteins and starches, at meals. Due to the belief that improper food combinations may have a counteractive effect on your body’s ability to efficiently digest or ‘breakdown’ these foods for proper nutrient absorption. Consequentially, having a negative impact on your overall health.
Rules of food combining are strict, breaking down foods into basic categories that mix in very specific ways and times. Some approaches to food combining plans classify food as acidic, alkaline, or neutral, but most break foods down into groups. Including:
- Fruits (broken down further into sweet, acidic, and melon fruit categories)
- Non-Starchy vegetables
There are many rules to correctly combining these food groups. To understand these further, here are 5 fundamental rules that loyal diet followers suggest make a difference in your digestion and health.
Ayurveda Food Combining Rules
1. Eat fruit on an empty stomach.
Eat fruit or drink juices (which should be diluted with water) first thing in the morning, between meals, or as a starter, but do not eat them with other foods, in the middle of a meal, or as a dessert.
This is due to the belief that fruit requires less effort from the body to digest and moves quickly to the stomach for breakdown, leaving it ready for lunch.
2. Never combine high-quality proteins and very starchy foods in the same meal.
Proteins, such as seeds, nuts, and nut butter should not be combined with starchy vegetables.
The thought process behind this combination is that starch and protein foods digest differently due to the release of pepsin enzymes to digest proteins.
Instead, consume proteins with non-starchy and sea vegetables for best digestion results.
3. Grains can be combined with all vegetables
Food combining suggests that starches, in both grains and starchy vegetables, are digested in a similar fashion.
4. Combine protein fats with non-starchy vegetables
Protein fats, like avocado, cheeses, olives, and nuts, and non-starchy vegetables are said to be a good food combination. In addition to non-starchy vegetables, acidic fruits, like citrus, are believed to combine well with fats.
5. Consume pulses with vegetables
Beans and legumes are proteins that also contain high amounts of starch. Lentils, beans, and peas are an important source of plant-based protein and a staple around the world. Pulses are a fantastic source of protein and fiber, but combining them mindfully can help make them more digestible.
Soy, such as tofu and tempeh, should be considered a high-quality protein, and all other pulses as starch. If you have trouble digesting pulses, only eat them with vegetables. For example, eat hummus with vegetables or rice cakes, and lentils with vegetables and no other protein added. On the other hand, tofu would be best with vegetables rather than rice.
Following a 3-Step Food Combining Chart
Charts can vary widely considering what ‘type’ of diet you are following – pH vs food groups.
Following the food group approach, here is a simple 3-step flow you can apply to any food combining chart you’d like to follow.
- Choose one category at each meal
Pick a main food component for your meal from one of the following food categories.
- Pair with non-starchy vegetables. After choosing a main component, choose any non-starchy vegetable to fill the rest of your plate.
- Wait 3 to 4 hours before eating a new category. Wait between meals to ensure ample time for digestion. However, you can enjoy small snacks of non-starchy vegetables between meals if needed.
Food Combining Pros and Cons
In addition to the key philosophies and rules of food combining, it’s also important to understand the potential benefits and cons for your health.
- May improve digestion
Stomach cramps, pain, gas, and bloating are all signs of poor digestion.
Food combining suggests that strategically combining your foods can improve stomach troubles associated with inefficient food breakdown in the gut.
Additionally, increasing nutrient absorption and providing boosting your energy post-meal.
- May Promote Weight Maintenance
The benefit of improved digestion with food combining may also assist with maintaining your weight.
In this philosophy, the is thought is that pairing the wrong foods together results in residue of undigested food being left in the gut to rot and ferment.
However, it is believed that properly combined foods are fully digested in the gut, removing build-up and eliminating gas production. Resulting in weight loss.
- Lacks Scientific Evidence
Unfortunately, the scientific backing for the food combining diet is lacking. This makes it difficult for health and nutrition professionals to determine the truth and actual benefits. Including digestion rates or pH levels of different food categories.
- Not Suitable for All People
This diet is also not appropriate or safe for individuals with certain nutrition- and digestion-related health conditions. Such as those with diabetes.
- May Not be Sustainable
Due to the highly restrictive consumption rules, food combining may not be a long-term diet for most people. And, like any diet, you may experience weight gain once returning to your original dietary habits.
Could Food Combining Benefit Your Health?
A diet with ancient Ayurveda roots, is once again becoming popular.
Though combining has both its pros and cons, loyal followers believe good food combinations can improve digestion.
With a clearer understanding of this diet, you can decide if this is the best diet to improve your overall health.
Plant-Based Food Combining Recipe Ideas
- Stir Fry with either Rice (starch) or protein (like this ginger tofu)
- Mushroom and Spinach Risotto
- Broccoli Soup with Cashew Cream
- Minestrone Soup
- Instant Pot Lentil Soup
- Pea Pesto Penne Pasta
- Chopped Greek Salad with Chickpeas
Sources consulted for this article:
The Complete Book Of Food Combining, by Kathryn Marsden.
- Fill a salad bowl with lettuce and top with cherry tomatoes, avocado, carrot, and radish.
- Top with tofu (or chickpeas + quinoa).
- Drizzle with dressing and enjoy right away.
This is a protein-versatile veggie food combining recipe. Feel free to swap the tofu for any protein you'd like. Or, for a starch-versatile veggie recipe, swap the tofu for chickpeas and a cup of quinoa, which are still high enough in protein.
I like the linked book below best as it has a more relaxed, realistic approach.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 1 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 375