There is so much information available on the internet that can be overwhelming, and therefore it can be hard to know what is truly accurate. Today we will discuss the concept of food combining and if it is evidence based or not.
What is food combining?
If you have not heard, food combining is a thought that specific combinations of food should be consumed together or separate. It proposes a list of rules that advocate for eating or not eating certain foods together; i.e not eating starches and proteins together, always eating fruit before a meal, not eating fruits and vegetables together, etc. It also states that separating certain macronutrients and food groups can help with digestion and weight loss. Their belief is that consuming the wrong combination of foods can create a buildup of toxins and can increase digestive stress.
The proponents of food combining believe that the three different types of macronutrients-protein, carbohydrates and fats- take different times to digest and uniquely affect the pH level in the stomach, so should therefore be consumed separately.
The promotion of food combining is not fact based and clearly displays some characteristics of pseudoscience. It was originally promoted by Herbert M. Shelton in his book, and then further popularized and promoted through social media. There was one randomized controlled trial of food combining in 2000 that concluded this idea was not effective.
What is the Problem with Food Combining?
The stomach is a highly acidic environment that will break down your food no matter how it is eaten, as well as kill off a variety of bacteria that may impact your intestines. When food items pass through to your intestines, they enter a more basic pH environment and keep getting further broken down. The pH is already highly regulated.
Food combining classifies foods as acidic, alkaline, or neutral. Meat, cheese, seafood, chicken and other proteins are classified as acidic. Breads, pastas, and cookies are classified as alkaline. We listed a few examples below on what could happen if you follow a food combining diet.
Grains and vegetables are acceptable if eaten by themselves. Although both of these are excellent sources of fiber, eating them alone for someone with issues with blood sugar can cause a blood sugar spike. It is important to pair high fiber grains and vegetables with a protein, which helps slow the digestive process. This would keep you fuller for longer and keep your blood sugars more stable.
Starch and protein cannot be eaten together. When we eat starches on their own, they cause our blood sugars to spike and drop rapidly. This in turn would cause us to crave more starch because our blood sugars would be so unstable, as well be hungry quite soon. When we eat starch and protein together, digestion is delayed, which further stabilizes our blood sugars and slows the increase.
After speaking with your registered dietitian you can imagine that these thoughts are incorrect! None of these claims are research based and have no evidence behind them.
Until Next Time,
Katherine Ancona, MS, RDN, CDN