The merits of food combining…

by Khushboo on November 4, 2013

Hey guys…how’s it going? It’s no new phenomena that fad diets are a multi-million industry.  Even though it’s been proven countless times that exercise & balanced diet are the most effective means to weight loss, there’s no stopping new diets from creeping up.  One that stands out particularly to me is the not-so-new Food Combining Diet. Especially given the amount of success it’s had over the years, there is probably some truth to it.  It centers around the notion that eating inappropriate combinations of certain foods can hinder weight loss, digestive & metabolic process as well as lead to various ailments.  Although a number of diets are based on this theory, they tend to share similar principles.  Three points in particular stood out, especially as newer studies reveal the opposite for weight loss:

  1. Do not proteins with starchy carbs
  2. Do not mix starches
  3. Eat fruit separately

The underlying guideline of Food Combining is to not eat proteins with starchy carbs.   As proteins digest best in an acidic solution whereas starches require an alkaline base for digestion, the digestive tract cannot properly digest both foods simultaneously.   As true as that may be, it doesn’t really take into account the macro effect of combining the 2 food groups i.e. eating a source of protein with a carb  lowers the meal’s overall GI value and the rate at which is sugar is released into the bloodstream.  As a result, this combination can also reduce cravings for high-fat, sugary foods later on in the day.

Salmon & Udon Noodle Soup

Salmon & Udon Noodle Soup

And speaking of insulin & blood sugar levels, another food combination “tip” is to not mix starches.  The premise behind this is that an overload of carbs will make your blood sugar levels skyrocket and then crash, leaving you hungry and tired.  While in theory that makes sense, it’s far too simplistic to classify all starches within the same category.  Although I’m not vegan or vegetarian, I often rely on complimentary proteins for a protein-rich meal.  In other words I try to combine certain plant-based proteins to compensate for each other’s lack of essential amino acids.  Daal (a.k.a. lentils) with brown rice is an ideal example of this.  Whereas daal isn’t a good source of tryptophan, methionine, and cystine, all 3 are found in brown rice.  On the flip side, grains like rice are low in the essential amino acid lysine whereas lentils contain decent amounts.  Suddenly starch-combining doesn’t seem so bad does it?

photo 1

And finally my “favorite”, and most frequently heard: Eat fruits separately, as they digest very quickly given their simple carbohydrate structure.  According to Food Combining principles, pairing them with other foods slows down the process, leaving the fruit juices to rot & ferment.   That would mean cereal without blueberries…yogurt without applesauce…bananas without peanut butter.  That doesn’t sound right, does it?  Aside from keeping things regular, adding some fiber in the form of fruit to my breakfast every morning keeps me from gnawing at my arm all morning…and everything in my kitchen for that matter.

photo-89

It’s great that the Food Combining Diet’s guidelines focus on unprocessed, whole foods.  However I think that any weight loss is more likely to be a result of limiting one’s options during mealtime, rather than a result of certain combinations.  I don’t want to knock it entirely as many people have been successful with food combining for weight loss.  If anything, it’s just a reminder to do your research.  For every new  diet or nutrition-related “tip” which creeps up, I can guarantee we’ll find another one that counters it.  Keep experimenting until you find one that suits YOUR lifestyle, goals & preferences…even it means throwing certain “rules” out the window.

What’s your favorite food combination?

What nutrition-related “tip” doesn’ t work for you? 

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Arman @ thebigmansworld November 4, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Wow for every one of those points, there’s another diet out there preaching something different- I’m so confused!

I’ve heard HEAPS on the Glycemic Index seeing as it was started here in Sydney (I think)- Alot of Australian dietary principles are centralised around that!

My favourite food combination is actually protein AND carb- My meals need to have both otherwise I will eat my arm AND leg off….and fruit. I can’t even remember the last time I ate fruit alone!

One I often hear is the ‘no fats after a workout’ thing- I still eat fats and haven’t turned into a whale 😉

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Khushboo November 4, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Ah that ‘no fats post-workout’ tip doesn’t do it for me either. Sure our muscles might not absorb it as quickly as protein but they still bring something to the table..errr I mean body 🙂

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Angela November 6, 2013 at 8:29 am

The Glycemic Index was not started in Sydney – it was created by a professor at the University of Toronto in Canada Dr. Wolever – he actually taught me in my Nutrition course! (I’m a U of T student)

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Khushboo November 6, 2013 at 10:12 am

Awesome- what are you majoring in?

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Ksenija @ With An Open Mind November 4, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Dietary guidlines can be so confusing. Especially since there are so many out there and one seems to disagree with the next. I could never stop combining my food and I highly doubt that you can determine how each and every combination is digested in your body. My all-time favorite breakfast consists of eggy nana oats with greek yogurt, apple sauce and nut butter. I might have broken each of the rules of food combining, but it keeps me full and satisfied for hours.

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Khushboo November 4, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Your breakfast sounds delicious and so well-balanced: perfect mix of protein, carbs, fiber & healthy fats 😀

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Lucie@FitSwissChick November 4, 2013 at 3:47 pm

I heard of that diet too, long ago, it was a trend here in Switzerland. I defînitely break all the rules here and I ALWAYS eat my fruit in a yogurt bowl.
Diet tip ‘fast for 12 hours through the night’ does not work for me, as I get up so early and then I need food – but I can not eat my last meal at 5:30 pm, I would be starving at 8pm!

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Khushboo November 4, 2013 at 10:33 pm

The few times I need to leave a 12-hour gap for the sake of blood tests alone suck…I don’t even want to imagine following that every day!

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Amanda @ .running with spoons. November 4, 2013 at 4:13 pm

I honestly had no idea this was a diet fad. I’ve been learning about food combining in my classes, but it’s aimed more at digestive health than weightloss.

I’ve given the theories a try before, and while I did notice an improvement in how my stomach behaved, the rules kept me from enjoying some of my favourite combos so I gave up.

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Khushboo November 4, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Sometimes the benefits aren’t enough for the sacrifice!

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Davida @ The Healthy Maven November 4, 2013 at 6:34 pm

I would fail so hard at this diet! I just can’t get behind anything that doesn’t let you mix FRUIT. I think we should be promoting fruit consumption no matter how or in what combination it is consumed…that’s just me though and I’m sure someone would like to whack me over the head for this.

Almond butter and bananas is a pretty classic combo for me
Or Peanut Butter and Pickles 🙂

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Khushboo November 4, 2013 at 10:34 pm

AGREED about fruit- who cares how/when you are eating it so long as you are eating it! Peanut butter & pickles is definitely a combo I wouldn’t imagine but I can’t knock it either…not until I try it 🙂

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Sam @ Better With Sprinkles November 4, 2013 at 7:01 pm

This is just one example of why food ‘rules’ are annoying and tend to clash – from what I’ve seen, a lot of fitness-focused diets promote carbs and protein after a workout! i definitely would fail at the food combining thing…I don’t like putting that much effort and thought into what I want to eat.
As for the fruit thing….just no. a banana and peanut butter is so much more satisfying than just a banana or two.

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Khushboo November 4, 2013 at 10:35 pm

True story…heck 1 banana with peanut butter is more satisfying then 10 bananas 🙂

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dixya| food, pleasure, and health November 4, 2013 at 7:21 pm

never heard of this one – woah I will so fail on this diet..

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Khushboo November 4, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Haha!

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Parita @ myinnershakti November 4, 2013 at 7:38 pm

I’ve never heard of this diet before. Glad you provided some counterpoints though. It amazes me how there are so many diets out there and how each one claims to be the end all be all thing that will work for everyone. FRUSTRATING! We have to take our health into our control and do what’s best for our body…what feels good physically, mentally, and emotionally!

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Khushboo November 4, 2013 at 10:36 pm

You nailed it- the “perfect” diet needs to be all-encompassing!

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Lisa November 4, 2013 at 10:04 pm

Oh man, food combining seems a little too complex for me. I can totally see how it can work for some people, but it’s just not for me. To each their own though!
I love getting to see more insight into other diets. It’s just quite fascinating to me.

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Khushboo November 4, 2013 at 10:37 pm

Same here! While I may not agree with some of the diets, it’s interesting to read about some of the logic behind it!

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Tessa @ Amazing Asset November 4, 2013 at 10:22 pm

I want to echo what Arman said about how there are all different “experts” out there saying that such claims are actually the BEST and these are WRONG. It is so darn confusing and what i take away from “tips” like these are that you need to listen to your body, eat what you want, a mix of fruits, veggies, carbs, proteins and fats. Done and done. Oh and exercise sometimes too, no need to go to the extreme. Stop eating when you are full, start when you are hungry…. How simple, yet obviously complicated for so many, including myself of course. If I thought in such terms, I wouldn’t have the years and years of a complicated relationship with food, all part of the concern of weight, burning calories, what is “right” and “wrong” to eat, etc.

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Khushboo November 4, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Although they led to years of a complicated relationship with food, I guess the silver lining is the amount of knowledge you’ve gotten out of it i.e. figuring out (or at least getting a better idea) of what does & doesn’t work for your body 🙂

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Sig @ Melbourne Maharani November 5, 2013 at 3:33 am

Yep…this is exactly what we are learning in my health coaching certification (and what I strongly believe in) – bio-individuality i.e. no one diet fits all alongside looking at all the other aspects of a fully healthy life which for me means the balance between not just physical health in terms of nutrition and exercise, but emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

It def is interesting to learn about all the diff diet theories though! People’s bodies are incredible how they are all different.

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Khushboo November 5, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Yup I couldn’t agree more- physical health is only a fraction of overall wellbeing 🙂

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Tara @ Sweat like a Pig November 5, 2013 at 3:47 am

One of the first things I tell my clients is to not eat fruit as a stand-alone snack, as it spikes blood sugar. It’s funny what some of these diets promote! I laugh at the idea of never combining protein and carbs… whoever invented this diet would be horrified to see how I eat!

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Khushboo November 5, 2013 at 7:40 pm

You and me both, my friend! 😀

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Jess November 5, 2013 at 3:55 am

Great post!!!!!

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Khushboo November 5, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Thanks 🙂

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Nikhita November 5, 2013 at 11:14 am

This is so weird, I mean – peanut butter + banana = carbs, fat and protein. just banana = carbs = blood sugar levels CRASH so soon. I don’t know, this may make sense on a purely digestive front but in terms of satiety I don’t know how it can help lose weight! I think you’ve got it best Khushboo – healthy, balanced meals is the way to go.

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Khushboo November 5, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Thanks Nikhita 🙂

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Alex@Veggin' Out November 5, 2013 at 7:53 pm

Wow, I love this post! First, the whole idea to not just blindly accepting whatever you read…. two thumbs up! And second, I love how you discuss the reasons behind these clams and why they might not be accurate or perhaps why the benefit of not following them outweighs the “harm” from doing so. I know that personally my food seems to digest better when I have both carbs and protein with a meal instead of just carbs. Everyone’s different though which is why individual experimentation is necessary as you mentioned! 🙂 And the whole thing about fruit… I agree that it’s better to just eat it and make it a part of the diet than worrying about when to eat it. Fruit is good at any time in my opinion 🙂

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Khushboo November 6, 2013 at 10:11 am

I totally agree about fruit- rather than micromanaging our consumption, we need to just focus on eating enough…regardless of when or how!

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honeywhatscooking November 6, 2013 at 2:58 am

Good article. I typically eat some protein with good (whole wheat) carbs and some kind of vegetable, but totally depends on the meal. I’ve eaten all protein by itself and as much as I hate to admit, it does speed up weight loss.

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Khushboo November 6, 2013 at 10:13 am

I guess doing anything differently will help shock your system and rev up your metabolism 🙂

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Gina @ Health, Love, and Chocolate November 7, 2013 at 1:38 pm

I used to be all about throwing every single “food combining” rule out the window, but in the past year I realized eating fruit on its own early on in the day does SO much for my digestion, and with all my gut problems, anything that help is a huge plus for me. So I ate my words, quite literally, haha. But I do still believe that it is crazy to follow rules with food to the point of obsession or restriction, I just day do what makes you feel good!

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Khushboo November 8, 2013 at 8:32 am

Thank you for pitching in- I’m glad that you have noticed an improvement in the effects of your fruit consumption when you eat it separately! So long as it works for you, I’d say keep on with it 🙂

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Heather @ Kiss My Broccoli November 10, 2013 at 5:50 am

Oh wow! I learned SO much from this post! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this, Khushboo! I’ve heard of food combining before, but never really read up on it or anything so I had no idea about the ideas behind it. I can’t imagine following a diet like that since I’m all about combining fruits in my yogurt bowls, bread, beans, and potatoes with my proteins, and I LOVE bananas with sweet potatoes…and seriously, bananas without peanut butter? That’s a world I don’t want to live in! Haha!

What nutrition “tip” doesn’t work for me? The whole “don’t eat before bed” thing…I don’t care what people say, I HAVE to eat my “last” meal in the morning right after I get off work. I’ve tried to eat a few hours earlier, but I ALWAYS end up waking up after a couple hours STARVING! And then it’s hard to go back to sleep…and I just don’t have time for all that nonsense!

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Khushboo November 10, 2013 at 10:31 am

Oh boy falling asleep on an empty stomach just ain’t happening…bedtime snacks is where it’s at :D!

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Heather @ Kiss My Broccoli November 10, 2013 at 5:50 am

Ohhhh! Love the new header! 😀

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Khushboo November 10, 2013 at 10:31 am

Thanks so much, Heather 😀

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Ameena November 10, 2013 at 7:03 am

So confusing how much “research” is out there. I’m never sure what to do! But I don’t think I could worry about my food combinations. It’s hard enough figure out what to cook / eat as it is.

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Khushboo November 10, 2013 at 10:32 am

True story- nothing like overcomplicating matters unnecessarily!!

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Meghan@Clean Eats Fast Feets November 10, 2013 at 8:23 am

You got a new header!!! It looks great!!
I enjoyed this post because you got into the science behind both sides of the argument. Plus you put it into terms I could understand. Science is my least favorite subject, yet I find the info fascinating. Go figure.

There are so many food rules I couldn’t be bothered with. No more than one banana a day. Phft: get outta here with that nonsense. 😉

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Khushboo November 10, 2013 at 10:33 am

Thanks Meghan :D! I remember my Weight Watchers lady back in the day telling me not to have more than 3 bananas A WEEK as that’s why my weight loss had stalled…needless to say, she was cray cray!

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