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All You Ever Wanted to Know About Food Combining

Posted Mar 21 2012 2:39pm
Plan A - Food Combining for Better Digestion { click here to download a PDF }
This plan for food combining is relatively simple and follows eating in a specific order for satisfactory digestion. This does not mean that all of these categories of foods should be eaten in the same meal; it means that the categories should be eaten in a specific sequence. The best-digested meals are in fact very simple ones, including a maximum of three foods per meal.

1. Protein // Eat proteins first. Although we’re pretty used to digging in the bread basket before our steaks (or legumes, nuts, seeds…) it is best to eat protein foods first as they require the most digestive enzymes in comparison with those required for plants and starches. When you eat protein-rich foods after starches or other food, your stomach acids will not be sufficient for their digestion. Protein foods can be combined with cooked or raw green and non-starchy vegetables.

2. Starch // Eat starches after protein foods, or omit protein foods altogether and eat only starches. Starches can be combined with cooked or raw green and non-starchy vegetables.

3. Salad // Eat raw vegetables, salad and sprouts after proteins or starch. These foods contain their own enzymes and digest more rapidly than proteins and starches.

4. Dessert // Eat sweets last. Desserts include fruits, dried fruits, and any foods containing concentrated sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, or molasses. Because of their relatively simple carbohydrate structures, sweet foods digest very quickly.


Plan B - Food Combining for Maximum Digestibility { click here to download a PDF }
This plan is similar to Plan A, but a little more restrictive for people with compromised digestion, in times of sickness, or for those wanting to prolong heir strong digestive powers.  Refer to the graphic to see which foods can be combined in one meal – they are directly connected by a dotted line.

1. Eat high protein foods, starchy foods, and high-fat foods in separate meals // The macronutrient groups that we are all familiar with (carbohydrates, protein, fats) are best kept separate when eating, and should not be combined at all in Plan B. Rice and beans? No. Pizza? No. Steak and Potatoes? You get the idea. However, all of these categories combine well with green and non-starchy vegetables, respectively. Green veggies actually aid the digestion of starches, proteins and fats, so having eggs with steamed spinach is a great idea; eggs on toast not so much.

2. Fruit and sweet foods should be eaten alone // Although we all love dessert to end a meal, fruit and sweet foods have relatively simple carbohydrate structures, meaning they digest very quickly. While the sugars in the cookie you just ate on top of dinner have already broken down, the other foods in the meal sit and ferment. Crazy as it sounds, it is best to eat dessert first (at least 30 minutes before a meal), or wait 4 hours after. Enjoy a piece of fruit first thing in the morning as a terrific cleanser, then wait half an hour before eating a full breakfast.

Plan B: The Exceptions
Of course there are exceptions to every rule, so just to confuse inform you further, here are a few more conditions to eat by 1. Foods that are high in fat and protein (cheese, yogurt, kefir, nuts, and oil-bearing seeds) are okay to combine with acidic (sour) fruit. Examples: tahini and lemon dressing, almonds and sour apples, yogurt and strawberries.

2. Drink dairy milk alone. When milk from animals is consumed with other foods it tends to curdle, insulating itself from digestive enzymes. Curdled/fermented milk products such as cheese, yogurt, and buttermilk do not cause this problem and can combine well with green vegetables.

3. Eat melons alone. Melons digest very rapidly, and will cause any other food with which they are eaten to ferment. Proscuitto and cantaloupe = digestive suicide.

4. Celery and lettuce can be eaten with fruits.

5. Lemon, lime, and tomato can be eaten with green vegetables.


As I said before, I am not so strict when it comes to food combining. I enjoy eating a banana with my morning grains, I like butternut squash and chickpea soup, and I love raw brownies! You should see my breakfast smoothies: I jam just about anything edible into that blender and whizz it up, without batting an eyelash. Fruits, veggies, nut milk, algae, chlorophyll, bee pollen, avocado, flax oil, …basically something from every single food group because I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that it won’t digest properly – I’ve been taught for so long to eat as much good stuff as possible! Doesn’t that mean all in one go? Argh. I too struggle with being a more health-conscious individual.

So where does this leave us? Well, I am going to continue on my path with greater awareness of these principles, and use them as a guide whenever possible. I will still drink my green smoothies once in a while, but maybe commit to proper food combining at least one meal a day. That feels reasonable for me right now. Start small. I love how I am talking myself through this in front of you.

In the meantime, I went back about a year in the archives and dug up a few the recipes that are a pretty good fit with food combining principles. There are many that can also be tweaked just a bit to suit the plan you choose to follow. No, the raw cashew dreamcake was not on that list, sniff, but I suppose it should be saved for special occasions anyway. Not Tuesday breakfasts.

Wild Mushrooms on Toast
Roasted Sesame Winter Slaw
Chanterelle Soup
Roasted Roots

Lemony Leeks with Chickpeas
Spicy Roasted Broccoli with Almonds
Carrots with Mellow Miso

Grilled Corn Salsa
Tarragon String Bean Salad
Black Rice Salad
Asparagus Ribbon Salad



Sources: 
Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 2003.
Haas, Elson M. Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Berkley, CA: Wiley, 2006. Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for Dietary Wellness. New York, NY: Penguin, 2003.
* Charts modeled after those found in Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford *
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