Food Combining is simply a tool to implement when consuming food to create digestive efficiency. The practice of food combining foods breaks food into four categories. Fruits, proteins, starches, and neutrals. Fruits are always consumed on their own and always on an empty stomach. Proteins only combine with proteins and neutrals. Starches only combine with starches and neutrals. The current mainstream “diet” culture emphasizes a mixture of starches and proteins in the same meal, often referred to as a “well-balanced meal.” As a result of this incorrectly combining foods, many people experience digestive discomfort.
Examples of digestive discomfort can include bloating, exhaustion after eating, poor skin, and often weight gain. These symptoms occur because foods digest at different speeds and require different enzymes to break down starches and proteins. When we properly combine food, the body becomes efficient and efficiently digest food—using the nutrients it needs and allowing the body to release the rest of the matter (aka-poop it out). Practicing food combining will eradicate digestive discomfort like bloating, gas, uncomfortable fullness and can encourage steady weight loss and help stabilize weight.
The mantra for fruit is “eat it alone or leave it alone” fruit is swift to digest, and the sugars in fruit are highly bioactive and cleansing to the body. Fruit rushes through the body and into the bloodstream looking to cleanse and pull endogenous toxins deep within cell walls to the surface where the body has a chance to eliminate toxins. Therefore it is essential to eat fruit alone and on an empty stomach. Fruit only combines well when it’s paired with leafy green vegetables. A great way to eat fruit is to enjoy a bowl of fruit 45 mins or later after consuming a green juice or consuming this blueberry smoothie with only greens and other fruits. After eating the fruit, ideally, you would wait at least 45 mins before consuming your next meal!
Neutral Foods are my favorite group because you can eat this food group in great abundance! For the most part, Neutrals are all your greens like baby lettuces, kale, arugula, spinach, swiss chard, etc., then vegetables like cabbages, green and red, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel zucchini, bell peppers, etc.! When food combining, feel free to mix as many neutral vegetables as you would like with your choice of protein or starch.
Proteins combine best with proteins or neutrals. Examples of proteins are animal products like chicken, fish, eggs, dairy products including milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream, and lastly, plant-based proteins like nuts and seeds, tofu, and tempeh! When eating proteins, enjoy the protein with an abundance of neutral vegetables. This pairing may look like a large leafy green salad topped with a filet of salmon or maybe a free-range egg omelet with mushrooms, peppers, onions, and greens; it’s perhaps a roasted spaghetti squash topped with marinara sauce and some raw goat cheese crumbles.
Starches combine best with starches or neutrals. When eating starches, pair with an abundance of neutral vegetables or more starches. This pairing may look like a large leafy green salad accompanied by a scoop of steamed rice, roasted sweet potatoes with sautéed kale topped with sliced avocado, and fresh herbs! Examples of starches are all grains like rice, quinoa, buckwheat, whole wheat flour, pasta, etc. Starchy roots and vegetables like white and sweet potatoes and squashes like butternut, acorn, etc.
Fats pair best with neutrals or starches. Since fats are often calorically dense and are slow to digest, they pair best with neutrals or starches. A few great ways to consume fat while practicing food combining can be drizzling a high-quality olive oil (always cold or stone pressed) on a raw leafy green salad. Try sliced avocados or cold-pressed coconut oil spread on sprouted grain toast or raw almond butter spread onto celery sticks or used as a base in salad dressings.
Legumes are the trickiest of all to combine and require some intuitive eating. For ease of food combining, consider a legume a starch. I believe Legumes are “imperfect” because they are equally starch and protein. Hence many can experience bloating and gas after consuming beans/legumes. I think it’s best to consume legumes with neutrals only, so for example, I would make a large leafy salad and top it with a scoop of lentils and roasted beets and fennel. Some people do very well combining legumes with rice or other starches. Moreover, it’s best to only pair legumes with neutrals for consistent digestive comfort.
Once you get the hang of the concept, you can experience more food freedom and deepen your practice with intuitive eating! Rarely should you experience any digestive discomfort; you can stop calorie counting or feel restricted with meals. Remember, food combining is a tool to implement as a daily practice; I always suggest giving food combining a try to anyone looking for relief from bloating, lethargy after eating meals or losing a few pounds. The approach to food combining should be enjoyable and not dreaded. Keep in mind the mantra of “progress over perfection” if you incorrectly combine a meal, don’t worry about it. Try combining again the next time you eat. Learning life skills to improve our lives should be enjoyable and something we look forward to rather than an activity we dread!