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Food Combining Diet

Digestion, Diets | May 5, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

diet, Digestion

Food Combining Diet

We all understand that the foods we eat in our diet are important but what about when we eat them? The principles of the food combining diet is actually very simple and are based upon the principle that macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fat and protein require a) a  different digestive enzymes b) different digestive environments and c) digest at different rates. For many people, eating foods in the wrong combination can result in bloating, reflux, abdominal pain and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Food combining diet rules

Once you get the used to the principles of the food combining diet—it’s quite easy to follow, even long-term. Unlike other diets which suggest you cut out whole food groups, the food combining diet suggests it’s all about the timing. Here’s come of the basic recommendations.

Eat fruit on an empty stomach

Eat fruit on an empty stomachFruits have a fast transit time through the digestive system and may not react well with other foods which are more complicated for the body to break down. The theory is that if you eat the fruit with other foods such as protein, it will leave you with partially digested food in your system that just sits there in your gut while the other foods are being digested. This can lead to bloating, gas and symptoms of IBS as the partially digested food will ferment.

Drink water away from meals

If you are eating meals it is recommended that you drink water 1 hour away from food. This is to avoid dilution of critical digestive acids and enzymes that are needed to break down our foods and absorb important nutrients. It is also suggested that you don’t drink icy cold drinks but rather warm or room temperature.

Mix protein with non-starchy veggies

In order to be digested, protein needs an acidic environment, while starches such as potato require an alkaline environment. This is why it is considered a bad food combination to eat protein with starches. Instead, pair protein with leafy greens and other vegetables that contain a high-water content such as broccoli, celery, capsicum or asparagus. Since vegetables are rich in their own enzymes they don’t require an alkaline environment for digestion.

Suggested protein combinations include:

  • Wild-caught salmon with baby spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes and cucumber salad
  • Steak with cauliflower mash and green beans
  • Thai chicken balls made with chicken mince, shallots and capsicum

Other protein sources include soy, cheese, yoghurt, cow’s milk, seafood, red meat, nuts, seeds and eggs.
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Combine starches with healthy fats and vegetables

If you do plan on eating foods high in starches you can pair this with any kind of vegetable and a healthy fat such as avocado, butter, olive oil or coconut milk.

Combine starches with healthy fats and vegetablesFoods high in starches are sweet potato, rice, cereals, flour, breads, corn, peas and pasta. 

This is when it can get a bit tricky because beans and lentils are high in starch but also considered a protein.

Because they are higher in starch they could be included in this combination and not cause any digestive issues.

Examples of how you would combine starchy foods include:

  • Vegetable and lentil soup
  • Quinoa and cannellini salad with mixed salad leaves, avocado and celery
  • Mixed veggie stir-fry of pumpkin and green beans served with brown basmati rice
  • Baked potato with avocado, mushrooms, chives and organic butter

Non-starchy veggies mix with starch and protein

The good news is non-starchy vegetables are easy to digest in both an acidic and alkaline environment. They can match with anything including proteins, oils, butter, grains, starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds and any neutral foods. There are loads of non-starchy vegetables to choose from including zucchini, bok choy, carrots, cauliflower, leafy greens, turnips, sprouts, radish, zucchini and beetroot.

Herbs, spices and citrus are neutral

Feeling like the meal suggestions are a bit bland? The good news is that flavoursome ingredients such as ginger, garlic, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, lemon and lime can be added to any meal. These foods are considered neutral and can be paired with a protein, fruit, starch or healthy fat.

Getting started

In the initial stages of the food combining diet certain foods which are considered hard to digest are taken out of the diet. This includes dairy foods that are high in lactose, dried peas, beans and soybeans. These are common foods that when consumed lead to gas and bloating. After a period of time these foods can be introduced back into the diet in small quantities but focuses more on fermented forms such as tempeh, miso, natural yoghurt or kefir for their probiotic qualities.
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What are the benefits?

Many of the benefits of a food combining diet are anecdotal but include improved digestion, a stimulated metabolism, increased energy levels and a boosted immune system. A well-designed food combining plan, cuts out processed and fast food and contains healthy foods which supply the body with optimal levels of nutrients. If food groups such as proteins and starches are not combined, then this can reduce unpleasant digestive symptoms such as gas and bloating.

Food combining for weight loss

So far there is no scientific evidence to back up any of the claims. However, there is a peer-reviewed article which compares a low-calorie food combining diet to a low-calorie balanced diet. Researchers found that no additional weight loss was achieved in the food combining diet group. On a optimistic note both diets achieved positive results on their total body mass index, fasting plasma glucose, insulin, blood pressure, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Other things to remember about food combining

  • After eating a grain-based meal wait three hours before consuming a protein meal
  • After consuming a meal high in protein, give yourself four hours to fully digest
  • If you have problems digesting certain food types such as proteins, carbohydrates, lactose or fats you could supplement with digestive enzymes at mealtimes
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  • To aid digestion drink warm water with a squeeze of lemon in between meals  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Golay A, et al. Similar weight loss with low-energy food combining or balanced diets. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2000 Apr;24(4):492-6


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