How to Food Combine

Food CombiningToday I want to talk to you about an often overlooked practice that can dramatically improve your digestion and even help you shed excess weight.

Food combining is one of those things that I’ve always kind of known about but didn’t really put into serious practice until about 4 or 5 years ago. Although I had already been eating pretty healthy for quite some time, integrating food combining into my life elevated my digestion to a whole new level and helped me shed the excess weight that left me feeling a little heavier than I desired.

In a nutshell, food combining is a way of eating that respects the natural biochemistry of the body. Different types of foods require different types of digestive enzymes to break them down, along with varying pH environments (i.e. acid/alkaline). They also have different rates of digestion. Eating foods in easy-to-digest combinations ensures that things move smoothly all the way through without encountering pileups along the way.When digestion is optimized nutrients are assimilated efficiently, waste matter exits the body in a timely fashion, and energy is freed up for other metabolic functions.

A few ill-combined meals here and there isn’t going to hurt you too much, but eating difficult-to-digest combinations day-in and day-out over the years will eventually take its toll, manifesting in one symptom or another.

I can attest to this myself because even just after a weekend of miscombined, otherwise healthy meals, I start to feel the effects on both my digestion and energy levels. This is the reason I always naturally gravitate back to proper food combining after getting a bit off track. I know that when I’m mindful of my food combos my digestion runs smoother, my belly is flatter, and I have more energy.

The goal isn’t to be a perfect food combiner, but rather to optimize your digestion so you can feel your absolute best.

Below I’ve listed the main food combining principles. Keep in mind there are always exceptions to the rules, and depending on where you look you’ll see that there are many different food combining charts floating around that may differ slightly in their placement of certain foods.

When I work with my private clients I always teach them how to specifically apply the food combining principles to their own life and health goals. I show them which principles will be most helpful in getting them closer to their goals, while also showing them where they can bend the rules a bit while still making progress!

Food Combining Principles

1. Fruit is best eaten alone on an empty stomach and approximately 15-30 minutes before other foods depending on the type of fruit and quantity eaten. Exceptions: raw leafy greens like spinach and lettuce can combine with fruit.

2. Starches (grains and starchy veggies like sweet potatoes and winter squashes), combine with all raw and cooked vegetables. Exceptions: avocados combine well with starches.

3. Animal Proteins (meat, fish, eggs, cheese) combine well with all raw vegetables and cooked, non/low-starch cooked vegetables, and other animal proteins.

4. Nuts & Seeds combine with all raw vegetables, other nuts and seeds, bananas and dried fruit.

5. Legumes & Beans combine best with vegetables but can also be combined with the starch category. Note: Generally legumes & beans contain more starch than protein which is why they combine better with starches, although they do have enough protein to make them a food combining challenge – one of the reasons why many people have a hard time digesting them. Keep in mind, the smaller the legume, the easier it is to digest.

A Few Other Considerations

  • As you can see, raw vegetables pretty much combine with everything so you can consider them “neutral” – meaning they combine with any category (except fruit).
  • Avocados are technically a fruit but also combine well with starches. They also combine well with bananas and dried fruit. No nuts and seeds though!
  • Bananas are also an exception because they combine well with other fresh fruits, dried fruits, and nuts & seeds.
  • Melons are best eaten alone or ahead of other fruit since they’re so water-containing and digest quicker than other fruit.
  • Condiments/Sweeteners for the most part can be considered “neutral” since they’re usually used in such small amounts (i.e. mustard, salsa, tamari, raw honey), but concentrated fats like oils  generally combine better with vegetables and starches, rather than proteins.

Keep in mind these are the general principles. As individuals with unique bodies, certain food combinations may register differently for some people which is why it’s important to listen to your own body. For example, if you have a lot of weight to lose or suffer from only minor digestive upsets you may not have to be as nuanced with your combinations to get results. On the other hand, if you have that more subtle weight to lose (i.e. 10-15 pounds) or have more serious digestive issues, then being more diligent with your food combining will likely serve you better.

* Context is also really important when it comes to food combining. There’s obviously a huge difference between putting a spread of almond butter on your high-quality sprouted-grain bread (technically not the best combo), and having a chicken sandwich on Wonder bread! Or, putting a few berries in your natural organic yogurt verses eating a bowl of fruit following a plate of pasta. Quantity definitely matters.

* It’s also important to keep in mind that eating healthy miscombined meals is always better than eating perfectly combined unhealthy meals.

Want to know what a day in the life of well-combined eating looks like?

There are many possibilities but below I’ve outlined a few sample meal options to give you some ideas!

Breakfast

Option #1: Smoothie – Avocado, blueberries, kale + coconut water OR Banana, hemp hearts or almond butter, spinach + almond milk

Option # 2:  ½ cup of raspberries (wait at least 15-20 minutes) followed by a 2-3 egg omelette with spinach, mushrooms, and onions

Lunch

Option #1: Quinoa salad topped with fresh vegetables of choice and dressed with lemon juice, EVO + sea salt

Option #2: Spinach salad topped with fresh veggies of choice + a piece of organic, free-range chicken

Snack

Option #1: Vegetable crudités  with olives

Option #2: “Ants on a Log” (celery sticks + almond butter topped with raisins or goji berries)

Dinner

Option #1: Romaine lettuce topped with tomatoes, cucumber, raw corn, black beans and avocado + a baked sweet potato topped with sea salt and organic butter.

Option#2: Arugula salad with roasted beets and goat’s cheese + steamed broccoli + a piece of baked wild salmon.

Dessert:  70% or higher dark chocolate

As you can see this way of eating is in no way restrictive! Once you get the hang of food combining, it’s actually really simple to create well combined, delicious and satisfying meals that will leave your stomach happy and thanking you.

Here’s to optimal digestion!

xo Elaine

Have a food combining question you want to ask me? Leave a comment below and I will do my best to address it!

 

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51 thoughts on “How to Food Combine

  1. Thanks for this article! I’ve been working on food combining for the last little while, although I didn’t realize that nuts needed to be eaten apart from everything else! Why is that? My favourite breakfasts right now are blueberries, hemp and chia seeds OR a smoothie with kale, blueberries, bananas and sun warrior brown rice protein (sometimes I add almond milk, sometimes just water). Are both these options out now?

    • Hi Alison! The great thing about food combining is that it doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” approach. Those two breakfast options you mentioned are actually pretty healthy in the grand scheme of things so if they don’t give you any problems and you feel good after after eating them, then I wouldn’t worry too much!

      Nuts & seeds are best separated from animal proteins. I know many food combining charts just lump all the protein-rich foods into one category but nuts/seeds usually have more fat than anything so digest better away from animal proteins.

      Also, the smaller the seed/nut the easier it is to digest, so a sprinkle of hemp or chia seeds over fruit (or even cereal) likely won’t be an issue for many people. Just for reference though, nuts and seeds combine well with all raw veggies, bananas, and dried fruit.

      In terms of the smoothie, you’re right in that it’s “technically” not a perfect combo with the protein-powder/fruit combo, but again, if you enjoy this combo and it doesn’t give you any problems (i.e. your stomach feels calm after) then I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

      In the spirit of sharing here are a few of my favorite well-combined smoothies. As you can see I like to keep them pretty simple!

      1) Avocado + banana and/or berries + spinach + water
      2) Banana + hemp hearts + spinach + water
      3) Banana + almond butter + almond milk

      (Bananas should always be ripe)

      Hope this helps!

      Elaine

      • I read somewhere you cant combine acidic fruits with dairy. How about non dairy say berries + almond milk?

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  5. Thank you for sharing this. Have been browsing the internet for the last hour for info on food combining, and you summed it up the best :)
    Thank you!!

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  7. I like to make banana-milk. I chop up 1 banana in a blender and add water. How long would this stay taken on an empty stomach. 45 minutes as well or less?
    -I have difficulty noticing if banana has left my stomach to the small-intestine. That’s why I ask.

  8. Hi, i’m a newbie here, planning to start taking care of my food from tomorrow onwards (just realized the importance of proper food pairing)… I read that nuts/ seeds are better eaten by themselves; just a quick question though, i usually have sprouted grain bread + organic sunflower seed butter spread (lightly) + banana slices…. is this proper combining? Thank you!!

  9. So happy I came across your page! Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I noticed you mentioned a banana combined with almond milk is an option. I was wondering if I could enjoy caramel almond butter with a banana, if not, is there anything besides celery, I can combine with it?
    Thanks!

  10. Hi Elaine,

    Thanks for this helpful article! I have just started looking at food combining as I suffer from irregular digestion and gas. I have just made really yummy sweet potato brownies consisiting of sweet potatoes, nuts and dates- are these a no-no?!! Thanks for letting me know! V

    • Hi Victoria,

      Those brownies sound delicious! Okay, so technically they’re not the perfect combination as per what I outlined above – sweet potatoes would fit under the starch category and wouldn’t combine with nuts and dried fruit, BUT keep in mind food combining is just a tool and the degree to which you might want to follow “the rules” is really dependent on how bad your digestion is at this point in time. I can think of a lot worse combinations than the one you mentioned. I would let your body be the judge based on how you felt after eating them:)

  11. @Doona Goodall: Follow the TCM guidelines for gallbladder issues and the common ayurvedic rules for eating and soon you will forget your gallbladder issues.

    @Victoria: sweet potatoes are just slightly starchy and according to some guides ok to combine with Proteins, also carrots. Dates are an extraordinary fruit, cause according to ayurveda they can be combined with milk. So it seems your combination is quite ok.

  12. hello !!!!!!!!!
    your article is really very interesting.
    i have been dealing with heartburn issues lately so i decided to follow the food combination lifestyle. one question though, i cant quit coffee. just one a day. when is the best time for it?

    • Hi Ayline,

      I generally recommend drinking coffee away from food, so you might have it in the morning before eating breakfast – but after drinking water first!

      • what is a good combination with oatmeal. i have it in the morning gluten free with hot water. what can i add to make it a bit more tasty? nuts? or dried fruits?

        • I also eat organic scottish porridge oats in the morning made with water. On the recommendation of my friend I have this with a mindfully chopped banana. Fantastic start to the day and fills me up with no digestion issues. I’m only just post oesophageal cancer (op was in June) so I need to be ultra careful about what I eat and this works well. As an aside I’ve been told to minimise smoothies as digestion needs to start in mouth. Also please minimise acid forming fruit – after effects are not pleasant – sore insides.

          • You can also start the digestion of smoothies in mouth.
            Minimizing smoothies is a goog idea, since they are cold. And keep them simple, obeying combining rules.
            Banana is a fruit and should not be combined with starchs.

  13. Hi!

    I have recently began following the food combining protocols and can see that it really makes a difference.

    I am making smoothies using:

    Silk Unsweetened Cashew Milk
    Tera’s Bourbon Vanilla Whey Protein (Grass-fed, organic whey concentrate)
    and, fresh, organic greens like spinach, kale, wheat grass, etc.

    It seems to go down and digest nicely.

    Do you see any issues with this combo? I wonder about the Cashew Milk and whey protein combined.

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this!

    Linda

    • Hi Linda, I don’t really see any issues with this combo, but the true test is how you feel after consuming it – which sounds like fine. In this case I would consider the cashew milk more of a neutral since it’s liquid…if they were actual whole cashew nuts then it might be a different story. Hope this helps!

      • Hi Elaine
        Can oatmilk be considered ‘neutral’ as well ?
        And what about ‘coconut water’ ?

  14. Hi Elaine. Is it ok to mix coconut water with vegetables when making smoothies? Or given that coconut is a fruit should I avoid that? What about almond milk with fruit or veg in smoothies? Thanks.

    • Hi Trevor, I consider those liquids to be neutral. See my comment above about nut milk!

  15. Hi, thanks for great info! Food combining has been so complicated to understand, but your writing is so clear! I have one question, though. How do you think of banana’s combination with starchy food such as grains or sweet potatoes? I haven’t dare to try them since I have weak digestion issues…. but I’ve seen some recipes mix bananas and sweet potatoes for making smoothies…

    • Hi Amy, Glad you found the post helpful. Bananas are definitely more starchy so you may be able to get away with combining them with a starch (i.e. banana slices over a grain like quinoa or oats) or throwing them in a smoothie with a starchy veggie. I always used to add bananas to my pumpkin smoothies! The best test is to try it out and see how you feel:)

  16. this is very helpful. have you considered a plant-based diet? it sounds like you are pretty plant-based. Are you familiar with the works by Dr. Neal Bernard, Dr. McDougall, Dr. Michael Greger?

  17. Hi,

    I just went for a 1 week water fasting to «reset» my health. It does me great and my boyfriend too! Now, with my boyfriend, we want to follow a food combining chart gave by a naturopathe at the center. Also, I buyed a book on the subject. But, I tend to be mostly vegeterian (flexitarian if I’m invited outside) and eat more raw. We have abundance of recipes trough Facebook, Pinterest…But it seems that a lot of appetizing vegan recipes (raw and cooked, no cheese and gluten-free) don’t rescpect food combining. For exemple, a delicious plate of quinoa and rice pasta with a sauce made of cashews and yeast instead of cheese- but nuts and seeds are proteins! Veggie pad thai with juice of limes and a bit of maple sirup in the vegan fish sauce (delicious!): acids don’t combine with carbohydrates…Hmph… It’s complicated, and it seems that all I can do as a type of sauce will be veggies in a blender for my meal of protein or my meal ar starch (with avocado at least! But no citrus juice as it is acid, so no tabouli made of quinoa…). Is it me or am I too strict?

    • Hi Evelyne,

      You’re right in that a lot of vegan food isn’t well combined. If you’re looking for some properly combined recipe inspiration the best book I know on the subject is The Fresh Energy Cookbook by Natalia Rose & Doris Choi. The recipes aren’t all vegan but they are vegetable-centric. There’s also a little breakdown on food combining at the beginning of the book, although the focus of the book is the recipes!

  18. Hello. Ive been trying to combine my foods properly but to be adventurous I made a cream sauce for my pasta. I found a recipe using almond milk thickened with flour. It was really good but I realized after that I probably shouldn’t have combined it with a starch. Is nut milk the same? Not to be combined with starch or protein?

  19. Hi Elaine,

    Your page was very informative – I have been learning quite a lot about food combining as I am feeling bloated after a lot of meals even though I have a healthy diet.
    I eat a boiled egg and avocado for breakfast and can feel bloated after this – I read on another blog that you should mix proteins and that mixing egg and avocado was a no no? But you don’t seem to mention it… Can you mix 2 different types of protein in the same meal?

    thanks in advance,

    Shabana

  20. Hi Elaine!!
    First lemme start by saying what a wonderful website you have. and I appreciate how thorough you are with your answers:)
    I am trying to follow the food combining rules as I believe my body really takes to it, but my biggest struggle is breakfast..I generally work out 5-6 days a week. In your opinion how does the following sound?
    wake up have warm water and lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
    Coffee with coconut hemp milk (unsweetened)
    lately I been doing 1/2 sweet potato and butternut squash mash with flax oil, and black salt..but if technically the only time to get my fruit in is the morning then one of your green smoothies seem great and light.
    what smoothie would you ideally recommend if i go to the gym after?

  21. My query is about the protein and fat combination. Does this mean that I can not have nuts, seeds, beans or tofu for an example in a salad that uses an oil based dressing? Salad dressings using water are very thin and I miss the viscosity that an oil dressing has.
    Must I saute onions or veggies using broth or water rather than oil before combining with proteins and grains or seeds.
    I do have serious issues with digestion and any help you can give with regards to food combining would be appreciated.

    • Hi Annette,

      I wouldn’t be too concerned with having beans or tofu in a salad with oil-based dressing. Lots of nuts and seeds though combined with oil may be problematic though if you have poor digestion (it’s a lot of fat). If on the other hand you’re just having a tiny sprinkling of seeds in a salad then a little bit of oil might be okay.You’ll need to test it out for yourself though. It really comes down to context (i.e. portion size matters). And to your other question about sauteing veggies – a little oil should be fine!

  22. Hi Elaine,

    Thanks for your articles and answers. I am a big believer in the food seperation diet. I first did it in college over 15 years go and Harvey Diamond’s book introduced me to it, especially the world of seperating fruit from everything and eating that first thing in the morning.
    I then neglected this diet until about a year ago when I decided to start it again and I lost 15 pounds and have keeping that down ever since. However a couple things I am still having a hard time figuring out on how to properly combine them and I hoping you could share your input on them:
    – if I want to eat cereal or oatmeal in the morning. Besides combining it with a spoonfull of chia seeds and maybe some bananas what else can I put in it but even more important, what milk is really considered neutral for the cereal? My thought process is unsweetened rice milk or help since those are made from grains and cereals are grains? do you agree? what about soy or coconut or almond milk? soy is type of vegetable/legume so could I technically combine it with grains? I often do tofu with rice or quinoa and that seems to be doing me fine…but what about almond and coconut milk?
    – bread – besides combining it with avocado and cucs for example…what else can I put on? I read that “cream” is ok since it’s a fat to combine with carbs? so could I put a full fat cream cheese on it or butter? I love almond butter and sometimes put a little on my whole grain bread with banana slices on top even though I know it’s no the right combination but again I have been doing this a few times a week for a year now and my stomach doesn’t seem to mind it and am keeping my weight down.
    -what about beans like garbanzo beans or edamame…would you eat those with grains or use them as a protein with salad??
    looking forward to hearing from you
    Monika

  23. I’ve been food combining for several months now and really loving the results. Some combinations still perplex me thought – a recent snack completely knocked me out, and I sugar-crashed immediately after eating it. It was golden berries with some dates and pumpkin seeds. Maybe a few almonds. Can you explain this? Thank you!!

  24. Hello! Love this simple, stress-free food combining guide. Closed all other billion food-combining info tabs when I found it.
    My question is: what about Kefir? (or cultured dairy, like yogurt)… Is this considered strictly a protein and to be treated as such? Is combining with avocado technically a good or no-no type combination?

  25. I love raw cow\goat milk and was wondering what i can combine them with since i didnt see you mention it

  26. Hello and thank you for this wonderful article, I too have always known about food combining, probably since 1974 75. I only got really serious about the last five or six years. Here’s a question, what do you think about coconut milk? I want to make a coconut garbanzo bean soup which is basically nothing but the whole coconut milk in the can, sautéed onions, garbanzo beans, with spices. I’m not sure where coconut milk it’s in? Is it a night? Image case can it be used with sautéed onions? And Garbanzo beans are really good, which I couldn’t tell if you could mix them with nuts. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you she is seeds and I don’t know? Another extra money about. Thank you hope to read her response. Again thank you so much

  27. Hi
    I want to start food combining to help with my acid indigestion that I suffer with on and off.
    However, I also have lost some wight unintentionally and am convinced this is related to gut issues of some sort. Endoscopy showed some oesophagitis and small sliding hiatus hernia.. the issue is that i want to start taking protein powder to try and help put on weight and ideally would like to take in smoothies, preferably banana but would this go against food combining rules? I cannot see how to take the protein powder (it is rice protein powder) Also I really need to eat frequently as can get indigestion if I go too long without food. i need to eat a lot to put weight on!!
    I am in the UK by the way.

    thanks for your help.

    Gina

    • Hi Gina,

      I would try the protein powder in a smoothie and see how it goes. Just keep the combo simple. Your rice protein (or another protein), banana, and liquid (maybe unsweetened coconut or almond milk?) and perhaps some easy-to-digest greens like baby spinach (if you want). Keep in mind that since you’re blending it, you’re somewhat “predigesting” it and taking some of the work off your own digestion. Just make sure you drink it on an empty stomach.

      Elaine

  28. Hi Elaine,

    I enjoyed this post and reading through all of the comments! Natalia Rose’s first book (Raw Food Detox) really resonated with me and I love the food combining principles and how I feel when I follow them. I do have a couple of questions that I’ve been trying to find an answer for, and maybe you could help?

    Cooked fruit – how would that combine? More like a starch?

    Vegan Protein Powder – where would this fall?

    Thank you,

    Amanda

  29. Thanks for the amazing info! I’ve been having trouble finding info on nut butters. Assuming it’s the same rules as regular nuts and I shouldn’t be putting almond butter on my apple in the morning? Thanks again!

  30. Dear Elaine,

    First of all: thank You very much for this informative article : )
    Furthermore I have a question in which I hope that maybe You can help me out: what about combining nuts & seeds with legumes?
    I usually eat for lunch basmati brown rice with some kind of beans or green peas (90-100 gram) and also some walnuts (15 gram) – and veggies of course (kale, red cabbage, brussel sprouts).
    For dinner oatmeal and lentils (80 gram) with ground flaxseeds (10-15 gram) along with some veggies again (spinach, beets, broccoli).
    And all the time after having the mentioned meals I feel a little bit bloated – so I just wondered recently that maybe nuts & seeds with legumes is not so good idea..
    What is your opinion – maybe that is the case?

    Thank You very much for your kind help in advance and I wish You a further nice weekend : )

    Best regards,
    Zsolt

  31. Thank you for a great post. I am just starting out with food combing and was wondering about combing wheat flour with coconut milk? And also flour with coconut milk and ghee?

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