Food combining is a way of eating that when followed, is said to have a myriad of health benefits from clearer skin to less bloating. The idea behind it is that different foods pair well together but others do not. You may have already heard about food combining, as it’s a concept that is growing in popularity in the health and wellness world. However, as with many things in wellness, it is actually rooted in ancient wisdom, in this case, Ayurvedic medicine.

What makes a good versus bad food combination?

Specifically, it’s the amount of time a food takes to digest in the body.

Because there are different enzymes that digest different foods in your body, food combining believes that mixing those foods can interfere with digestion.

For example, if you eat a carb and a protein together, such as pasta and meat, it is said that half of the food will lay in your stomach unprocessed as each of these foods take different amounts of time to digest. On the other hand, eating protein with low-starch vegetables will create optimal digestion as they take similar amounts of time for the body to metabolize.

Unfortunately, many dishes in the Western diet do exactly that — and often include both starch and protein. It is said that improper food combining, along with digestive issues, can also lead to toxin build up in the body.

General rules of food combining:

Although there are some slight differences, there are some common themes and general rules to food combining. If you’re looking to explore the concept, these are some great jumping off points. You may want to choose a few to start you off and add more based on your body’s response.

  • Eat fruit alone or with green vegetables, and on an empty stomach
  • Eat protein only with low-starch vegetables
  • Eat dense starches only with low starch vegetables
  • Avoiding combining different types of protein
  • Avoid combining starches and proteins

What benefits can you expect?

Claimed benefits include improved digestion, weight loss, better skin, increased energy, and better absorption of nutrients. If you work with your body to make digestion as easy as possible, your body will not have to work as hard, and your digestion and overall health will improve significantly.

What do the studies say?

While studies have shown that there is no scientific evidence to support these claims, it’s also been noted that only one comparative study has been done on this diet and it focused on weight loss versus digestion. Anecdotally, many benefits have been reported by those who practice this dietary lifestyle.

However, there are types of food combining studies that do have scientific evidence benefits — but are not specifically labelled “food combining.” For example, it has been proved that eating dark leafy greens and olive oil (something many of us already practice on a daily basis) can improve nutrient absorption in the body.

How to incorporate food combining:

Based on the principle of bio-individuality (basically, that we all have our unique constitutions), food combining may also work better for some than others. If you are curious about food combining, begin to experiment with different combinations and pay attention to the way your system reacts. Equally, it’s important to phase new eating habits in and to stay open minded rather than fundamentalist. As always, listen to your body, make decisions about your health in consultation with trusted practitioners, and don’t forget to factor pleasure, joy, and connection — this is a combination that will never fail you.

Ali Parsons graduated from The University of Washington with a degree in Media & Communications. She is passionate about nutrition, health, and wellness and is currently in the process of becoming a Registered Dietitian. Ali enjoys cooking, running, yoga, hiking and travel!

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