Food combining involves only consuming carefully chosen combinations of certain foods. Some you eat together, and others should never be mixed. The combinations are designed to aid digestion and weight loss.
We’re going to examine whether or not food combining works and what the benefits of it are.
To answer this, we’ll cover the following:
- What is food combining?
- Is food combining essential?
- Why should you follow food combining?
- Reasons why food combining is unnecessary.
Table of Contents
What Is Food Combining?
There are variations of food combining, but the basic principles remain the same.
Food combining is all about approaching your meals with nutrition and health in mind. Your aim is to:
- Lose weight.
- Improve digestion.
- Boost overall health.
To achieve this, foods are put into groups—for example:
They can also be categorized based on acidity. This is because people claim pH levels impact your digestion.
Food combining also comes with a few other rules regardless of what regime you follow. Some of these are:
- Avoid consuming carbs/starches alongside protein.
- Don’t mix different types of protein.
- Only consume dairy when your stomach is empty.
- Don’t pair acidic foods with starches.
- Eat fruit before a meal, but never after.
- Don’t eat fruit and vegetables at the same time.
- Avoid drinking cold beverages during, and for one hour after, a meal.
Is Food Combining Essential?
Food combining is far from essential, and scientific research is extremely limited on it as a practice. That said, it’s possibly a good way to try and ensure smooth digestion.
But the thing is, your body is equipped to digest almost whatever you throw at it. Plus, most of the world pays no attention to food combining, and they live fine. So unless there’s expert evidence that supports food combining and its association with improving digestive issues, it’s questionable whether it’s essential.
Why Do Food Combining?
Food combining is based on three beliefs that followers of this practice claim are true, or at least think are true.
- Foods digest at differing speeds. This can lead to uncomfortable/negative consequences in health and digestion.
- Some foods need different enzymes to break them down. pH levels impact this and cease some enzyme functions when you consume certain food combinations.
- Food ferments in the stomach, becoming harmful for your health and digestion.
Food Combining Benefits
Currently, there’s only one official study on the theory of food combining. It focuses on this practice for weight loss, with a catch: the participants could only eat 1,100 calories a day.
When losing weight, it’s common to aim for about 1,200 calories a day. So the diet doesn’t really show us if you lose weight in general when food combining. It shows us whether you lose more weight than a group who aren’t food combining but eating a calorie-restricted diet.
However, that aspect of the diet doesn’t matter very much at all. Six weeks into the study, both groups had lost the same amount of weight—between 13 and 18 pounds. Food combining didn’t impact weight loss at all, and why would it?
Two groups eating the same number of calories are going to lose the same amount of weight regardless of what they consume. The only way one group will burn more is if they incorporate exercise into their weight loss regime.
There are no benefits to food combining when it comes to weight loss. Actually, there’s no evidence to support any of the principles of the practice—including the three digestion claims.
Food combining was first put into practice over a century ago, back when we knew very little about digestion and nutrition.
Today we know more, and all of it contradicts the claims, further proving the absence of benefits.
Why Food Combining Is Unnecessary
The mixing meals aspect of food combining is mixing certain nutrients and avoiding combinations of others.
Our bodies are designed to work as efficiently as possible. That doesn’t mean they always can, but besides allergies and intolerances, they’ve got the digestion part down.
We evolved to eat foods from all sources. Meat and fish, from hunting prey. Roots, nuts and berries from gathering. Dairy from farming. We developed back when being picky wasn’t an option—besides saying a yes or no to dairy when we first started milking animals.
No matter what combinations you consume, the stomach releases pepsin and lipase enzymes to break down even tough food. Carbs, fats and proteins are broken down in the small intestine. However, the digestive system doesn’t distinguish between the different food groups.
Food and pH of the Digestive Tract
Some claims relate to how consuming certain combinations of acidity in foods can change the pH balance in the digestive tract. This can make it hard/impossible for enzymes to do their job.
Again, these are false claims.
Let us refresh your memory on what pH is: it’s the scale that tells you how alkaline or acidic something is, with seven as neutral, acidity going from one—highly acidic—up to 14—alkaline/mostly alkaline.
Now, while it’s true that some enzymes need certain pH levels to function correctly, it’s your body’s job to get it right. It keeps your balance on track, regardless of how acidic and alkaline, your food is.
Your stomach is about a two on the pH scale, making it very acidic, but it rises to a five when you eat. Then your body releases substances that bring it back down, keeping things on track. There is a series of scientific, peer-reviewed studies on how this all works.
The last claim is that if you don’t do food combining, food can ferment in your stomach. This is false.
- Your stomach is too acidic for bacteria to survive.
- Food ferments in your large intestine.
- It’s released as gas and waste products.
- This fermentation can reduce inflammation, lower the risk of colon cancer and improve blood sugar control.
So, in short, there is no evidence to support food combining. You’ll have better luck if you stick to the basics.
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