4 Rules of Food Combining

How to Eat for Maximum Nutrient Absorption and Proper Digestion


It never ceases to amaze me how certain people can take information and turn it into hype and the latest trend in eating or weight management. Gluten free is the perfect example. It is no secret that ‘gluten free foods’ are everywhere and even food that would never have gluten in it anyway are marketed “GLUTEN FREE.” This is really a result of various companies and people taking advantage of a trend. Nothing can be further than the truth. Sure, some people cannot digest gluten, but certainly not EVERYONE is suddenly intolerant to gluten. Several years ago it was fashionable to combine certain foods together, promoting weight loss and more energy. The reality is that food combining is very serious and YES, certain foods should NEVER be eaten together, but you need to understand why!

According to the American Dietetic Association, it doesn’t matter how we combine our foods, as long as we eat proteins, carbohydrates and some fat at each meal. This philosophy is dumbfounding and unscientific. I have many clients that come to see me questioning the fact that they have listened to everything their dietician had prescribed, yet are suffering from indigestion, and bloating. Other problems that can usually occur from improper digestion are heart burn and acid reflux.

1. Never Combine Proteins and Starches

The first rule I want to address in relation to food combining is to NEVER combine protein and complex carbohydrates at the same meal. This means do not eat meat with a potato. Some of you who may have never heard this before are probably saying to yourself “but this is the way we were taught.” Yes, probably, but by whom? Protein is an acid food and carbohydrates are an alkaline base. Acid digestive enzymes and alkaline digestive enzymes will neutralize each other causing proper digestion to stop and putrefaction and fermentation to begin. Carbohydrates begin their digestive process in the mouth with amylase, ptyalin and other alkaline digestive enzymes. Protein-type foods including meat and nuts start their digestive process in the lower stomach with the release of HCL (hydrochloric acid). When a predominant starch combines in the stomach with a predominant protein, you have a clash. This is the bloating you feel after eating a meal with this combination. The liver, pancreas, and adrenal tissues get hit the hardest. It is particularly hard for diabetics to regulate their blood sugar if they eat this way.

On a personal note, I get so frustrated when a diabetic client will tell me that their doctor advised them NOT to eat fruit (nonsense as this simple sugar does not need to be broken down), yet says nothing about combining carbohydrates and protein! To ensure proper digestion of each food, wait two hours after eating a starch before eating protein. Wait three hours after eating protein before eating a starch.

An example of the ideal dinner plate would be fish or animal protein with only cooked or raw vegetables (no starch) or a quinoa stir-fry with vegetables (no protein). I do realize that it is common to see salads that contain both fruits and vegetables, but I prefer to separate them for most people because of the different enzyme properties.

2. Eat Fruits Alone

The second rule of proper digestion is to eat fruit alone… NEVER in combination. This seems to be another surprise to most clients since you often see fruit offered as a dessert, or in combination with other foods such as cereal etc. Fruit is a simple sugar that does not have to be broken down, and is therefore instantly digested. When it is combined with other food (such as after a meal), it gets trapped in your stomach with the rest of the food, where it will start to rot . You should aim to eat fruit 30-60 minutes before a meal or after.

For proper digestion, melons should be eaten alone, not even with other fruits. Melons appear to have their own mind and digest well when eaten within their own family. Therefore eat watermelons, cantaloupe, honey dew, papaya together, but not in combination with other fruits or foods.

Some may disagree with me, but I do not encourage combining fruits and vegetables either. Although vegetables do break down more quickly than starch, the digestive process is still longer than the fruit and may cause unnecessary problems.

3. Drink Nothing With Your Meals

The third rule of food combining is not to drink with your meals. This will only dilute your digestive enzymes.

4. Enjoy Your Food

The fourth and final rule of food combining is to be mindful and not combine your meal around anger or haste. Be happy when you eat. If you eat when you are angry or upset, you elevate your stomach acids which will neutralize your digestive efforts and create acidosis. Never stand while you eat. Sit, relax, chew slowly, and enjoy your food.

Bon Appetite!

Frances Michaelson

A pioneer in the fitness industry, Frances opened the first personal training center in the West Island of Montreal in 2001. In 2008 , Frances had the “gut feeling“ that there was more to learn about health and how our bodies function, which led to further her education in the field of Naturopathy and holistic nutrition. She has since authored two books. Her latest book, "Do you Have the Guts to be Healthy" was published in March 2021. As a trainer and naturopath, she truly loves seeing people transform themselves by trusting their bodies instead of getting caught up in the medical system. Practicing health is the only way to live the gift of life well!

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