Food Combining: Healthy or Just a Trend?

excerpted from The Family Groove.

If you live in New York City, or any metropolitan area for that matter, you probably have been inundated with friends and acquaintances or at least read about this celebrity or that one talking about going on a “juice fast” or “doing a cleanse!” Along with “cleansing”, another hot topic that is coming up more and more in my work as a diet coach, is “food combining!”

Just what is ‘food combining,’ you might ask?

Food combining in the most basic terms is not combining starches or carbohydrates with protein and eating fruit by itself in order to aid digestion and the absorption and assimilation of nutrients. The premise behind this is that protein and starches require different food enzymes and PH balance in the stomach in order for optimal digestion.

Protein digestion requires the enzyme pepsin and a hydrochloric acid-rich environment in the stomach and starch digestion requires the enzyme amylase and an alkaline environment in the stomach, a concept that Dr. William Hay came up with in the 1920s. He felt that when you combine protein and starches together it compromises your digestion and leads to fermentation in the gut.

May’s philosophy has been built upon in Dr. Norman Walker’s Becoming Younger,  Steve Meyerowitz’s Food Combining and Digestion, Natalia Rose’s The Raw Food Detox Diet and others to even more specific definition of what constitutes a protein and starch and also to introduce the idea of food sequencing.

What is ‘food sequencing’?

‘Food sequencing’ is taking ‘food combining’ a step further and not only eating fruit alone and food and starches separately but even going so far as to eat foods in a certain order according to how long they take to digest and exit the body.

Foods that are digested and exit quickly, such as fruit and vegetables, are to be eaten before heavier slow to digest foods such as proteins or starches. Ideally, the sequence of eating would be the following: Fruits first; then vegetable juices, soups or smoothies; then salads and other vegetables;  then starches and grains and finally protein!

How are the food groups broken down? How do I make sense of it all?

Food combining can sometimes get so complicated and seem so intimidating that those not completely dedicated feel completely overwhelmed. I will try to break it down to the most basic 5 rules:

  1. Always eat fruit by itself: Bananas are the one exception due to their starchy content and can be eaten with starches; if you are following food sequencing, fruit should be eaten first since it exits the body most quickly
  2. Always eat starches and protein separately: Starches are grains such as quinoa and rice, breads, pasta, root vegetables such as baked potatoes, beets and carrots, and avocados (yes, they are considered a starch.) Protein is beef, chicken, fish, dairy, beans, nuts and seeds.
  3. Vegetables can be eaten with either starches or protein: This means you can always have a green salad with anything! Remember, the root vegetables are considered starches!
  4. Fats can be eaten with either starches or protein (olive oil, coconut butter, flax seed oil, etc)
  5. Wait 2-4 hours between each meal: For lighter meals such as fruit you can wait closer to 2 hours but for heavier meals like meat or a heavy pasta you might want to wait 4 hours.

How does this apply in daily life? Is food combining necessary for everybody?

For practical purposes, following food combining to the letter would mean that you would never put berries over your cereal, never have avocado and nuts on your salad, eat your pasta with fish or meat, have your chicken with rice and should always order sashimi instead of sushi. But we all know that this is not practical or reasonable!

There are definitely those who adhere to food combining to the letter, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that! But, unless you have a digestive issue like IBS, chronic constipation, Crohn’s, candida, bloating or other chronic issues, I find it is more important to listen to your own body and find out what works for you!

Tune into how you feel! How do you feel when you eat certain foods together? I am typically fine with a handful of berries on my morning granola and fruit personally just does not seem to do it for me in the morning but this is just what works for me. I also will have avocado and nuts on my salads but, again, I feel fine when I do it.

Generally speaking, what I find is more important is just having simple meals without too many combinations. Having an avocado and nuts on a salad or having a plate of beans and rice at a Mexican restaurant is not the same as having a steak and a baked potato or a pasta dish with meat sauce!

If I do have a complex meal then I will make sure I give my body ample time to digest what I have put in and make sure I have a simpler meal for my next meal.  Rigidly sticking to a formula only leads to food obsession, which is certainly not the point of adopting food combining for better health!

Listening to yourself and your body is paramount to good health! Only you know how you feel!


  • Juice Fast Until Dinner | Be in Balance
    March 1st, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    […] here to learn more about Proper Food Combining but in a nutshell we cannot properly digest our food and tax our body when we mix carbohydrates […]

  • everett
    July 27th, 2014 at 8:56 am


    tnx for info!!…

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