Food Combining: How Does It Work?

When my digestion was a mess, practicing food combining was incredibly helpful. It seemed silly at first, actually. I looked at the rules and said, “Really? C’mon…it can’t be so hard to just eat!” What I didn’t fully understand at the time is that my digestive system just needed to be babied for awhile. You know how it is when you feel stressed or overwhelmed and you just want to yell, “STOP” and give yourself some space? When you want to cancel everything on your calendar and just rest. That’s about how my digestive system felt at the time.

Food combining was a way to give my system a low-stress sort of spa vacation so that it could heal. Here’s how it works.

Food Combining Can Be Very Helpful If You’re Experiencing:
  • Symptoms of poor digestion, like – gas, bloating, nausea, abdominal pain or cramps
  • Low energy or fatigue after meals
  • Belching, heartburn/reflux (or GERD)
  • Headaches

Eat Foods That Digest Similarly

The basis of food combining is to remove stress from your digestive process by only eating together foods that digest in similar ways.

Foods that require different speeds or enzymes for digestion can tax a weak digestive system, causing a wide variety of symptoms.

Especially Important If You Eat Grains Or Seeds With Grain-Like Properties (Like Quinoa)

Food combining is particularly helpful if you’re eating grains because they can be harder for a troubled small intestine to digest. Many people with digestive challenges choose to remove grains while they heal, and these folks tend to have fewer issues requiring food combining.

Four Basic Food Combining Principles

#1 – Eat Proteins With Non-Starchy Vegetables Only

Protein foods include animal protein (meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and fish) and plant proteins like nuts and seeds.

  • Proteins combine well with non-starchy vegetables. Examples are arugula, asparagus, bell peppers, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, collards, cucumbers, kale, lettuce, spinach, and Swiss chard.
  • Proteins do not combine well with starches. Examples of starches are grains (and seeds with grain-like properties), bread, and crackers; and starchy vegetables like potatoes (white and sweet), winter squash, yams, parsnips, corn, and peas. In other words, you would not eat meat and potatoes or a hamburger with a bun. Instead, you could have meat with steamed broccoli or a hamburger on a salad or wrapped in a lettuce leaf.
#2 – Grains Combine Well With All Vegetables

that is, starchy and non-starchy vegetables.

#3 – Eat fruit alone, On An Empty Stomach

Fruit digests very quickly, so if you combine it with protein or carbohydrates, it can slow down in your digestive system, leading to internal fermentation and causing uncomfortable symptoms.

***Some people can tolerate fruit with nuts and seeds (like an apple and almond butter, for example), and these do combine well in your digestive system. However, always eat melons alone because they digest the fastest of all fruits and tend to combine poorly with other foods.

#4 – Eat Fats and Oils With Anything, Except Fruit

Think of using butter, ghee, olive oil, or flax oil.

Two Things I’ve Learned Over the Years

  1. If you are eating grain free, you may not need to follow food combining principles.
  2. Cooked fruit behaves differently than raw fruit. Therefore, cooked fruit may combine well with other dishes. I’ve seen a pattern of these being true for others, but everyone is unique!
Do you follow food combining? I’m curious to hear your thoughts!
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As a coach, writer and recovered former executive, I understand the challenges of creating a balanced, healthy lifestyle when over-scheduled. In my journey to radiant health, I created a whole health system of eating, exercise, renewal and recharging -- a roadmap toward health & vitality. I empower clients to create their own whole health systems, in their own unique ways. I have seen amazing results in working with my clients!