Eating Foods in Proper Combination for the Best Digestion

stomachDid you know that you can promote or inhibit good digestion with certain combinations of foods?

Were you aware that the way in which you ingest certain foods can actually waste nutrients and even affect your health in a negative way?

It is true, some commonly combined foods actually cause our bodies to absorb far less nutrients and work much harder than they were meant to in order to complete the digestive process.

And some foods we normally combine do actually promote healthy digestion and the most efficient use of nutrients.

When healthy digestion occurs, nutrients are absorbed, energy and metabolism increases, as does cell repair, and muscle mass.

Different foods require different conditions in in digestive system. Although we are omnivores, in most of our history we did not eat the variety of foods available to us at any one time as we do today.

You may find it difficult to swallow that your favorite food combinations might be wreaking havoc in your digestive process, but it will at least help you to know in order to make better decisions from time to time.

And certainly, if you do not experience issues with your digestion then moderation is probably good enough.

However, many people, even that I know personally, have found combining foods in certain ways to alleviate problems in their digestion.

There has been some debate over this in the past, and so I’ve collected a few research papers (to start with, I have more which I plan on adding) which I’ve posted here.

Some Things Weren’t Meant to be Eaten in Combination

breadbasketHigh protein foods, particularly meat, require an acidic environment in the stomach to properly break down the protein for absorption.

Conversely, starches require a slightly alkaline balance in the mouth and small intestine for the best energy production.

When your body attempts to create the proper conditions for digesting these two food groups simultaneously, can you guess what occurs? Right. A neutral pH environment. Neither food is optimally processed.

And at the same time, the body uses a huge amount of energy continuing to try and produce the environment needed for digesting these foods, using up all the enzymes, minerals, and nutrients in the process.

Is it no wonder that we feel tired and bloated after a heavy meal of protein and starches?

Meat alone would normally take about 3 hours to digest before it reaches the small intestine. But when combined with starches, the process of digesting the meat then increases to up to 9 hours.

And worse, the proteins that have begun to break down and decompose, with the starches which have now begun to ferment, cause chemical reactions which are more harmful than good for your system. The microorganisms that result then begin to feed on the nutrients that were meant for you.

This is why you may so often feel tired upon waking in the morning, after your body has worked all night trying to digest your food and you did not benefit from the nutrients it contained.

What Combines Well and What Doesn’t

  • Vegetables and low sugar fruits (less than 8% sugar) can be eaten with starches or proteins, and healthy fats and oils.
  • Vegetables are particularly good to eat with animal protein, which in itself should be eaten in limited quantity.
  • Lemon,lime and tomato (acid fruits) combine well with green and non-starch vegetables
  • Lettuce and celery (green vegetables) combine well with all fruits.
  • Fats and oils combine well with starches, and do not retard their digestion as do the proteins.
  • Nuts, oil-rich seeds, cheese, yogurt, and other fermented dairy foods combine well with acid fruits. However, any excess of fatty or oily foods is extremely hard on the liver.
  • Sweet and acid fruits do not combine well with one another.
  • Milk should be taken alone, and particularly not with meat. Milk will tend to curdle around other foods and inhibit digestion of those foods. However, fermented dairy products and cheese do not cause this problem.
  • Nuts can be combined with any food except for high sugar fruits.
  • High sugar fruits should be eaten on their own. These foods digest extremely rapidly, and so when combined with foods that digest more slowly, will sit and rot in your stomach while the other food is digesting (for example, up to 9 hours if combined with meat and starches!). Drinking fruit juice between meals compromises digestion unless two hours past a starch meal and four hours past a protein meal.

Try not to eat while stressed, because your body does not produce the hormones and enzymes it needs for digestion during stress. And do not drink icy liquids while eating. The temperature change also disrupts the digestive enzyme production.

These might seem a bit tough for one to consider adhering to all at once, but if you are aware and at least try limiting combinations that you now know have a disruptive affect on your digestion, you will be able to start making a few changes.

Particularly if you are eating late, or under stress, or feeling run down, give your body a break by allowing it to process the nutrients it needs. You will feel better and be more inclined to be proactive about your choices in the future.

Here is a chart on Recommended Food Combinations that contains a graphical representation along with the bullet list above to help you out – print it and keep it handy in the kitchen!

To your health!

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32 Responses to “Eating Foods in Proper Combination for the Best Digestion”

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  1. Danielle says:

    Terrific article. I look forward to pairing my foods better. Where can I find the chart? The attachment does seem to open. Thanks!

    • Hi Danielle,
      Thanks for letting me know that link was broken! I have fixed it so you may now be able to access it. Let me know if it still doesn’t work but I verified it here.
      Thanks again – to your health!

  2. Ambrose says:

    This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!!
    Finally I’ve found something which helped me. Cheers!

  3. Wow that waѕ odd. I јust wrokte ann really long сomment but after I clicked submit mу ϲomment didn’t ɑppear.
    Grrrr… աell I’m nott writing аll thaat օνer again. Anyway, jսst wanted to say fanjtastic blog!

  4. Diana says:

    Thanks for the information. I started doing some of your mentioned food combining a few weeks back and I have seen a difference. I did it because I was trying to give my body a break from all of the digesting I was requiring it to do. I feel so much better! I’m glad to have more guidelines now to work with. I didn’t know about the mellon and have some fresh cut up cantelope now. I will have it now as a snack alone before dinner!

    • Thank you Diana for letting us know this has helped you! Our bodies do a lot more work than we think digesting what we eat! Be sure though not to eat the melon too soon before dinner, as it will throw off the digestive enzymes. You’ll probably want to have it at least an hour in advance of any meal. As a matter of fact, anything sweet is best eaten alone.

      Thanks again for leaving your comment!
      Wishing You the Best of Health,

  5. Martin says:

    It makes sense from evolutionary point of view: the hunter gatherer did not eat soup, meat, side dish. dessert and drink for every meal, rather he stuffed himself with whatever single item he found

  6. Stacey Hall says:

    Thanks for sharing information that helps people keep their energy up naturally.

  7. Diana says:

    Thanks Vicki, this is great information, everyone eats proteins and starches together, I’ve gotta spread the word!

  8. John Reaves says:

    Thanks for this article, it’s causing a bit of a buzz on our Facebook page. BTW, I’ve tried to follow the links to the studies, but it gives me a 404 error.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Vicki says:

      Hi John!

      Thanks for posting the article on your Fanpage! Let me know where it is and I’ll drop in and Like your page!

      I have fixed the link, sorry about that, I moved my server and the new one is case sensitive where the old one wasn’t so I didn’t realize this was one of those cases, thank you for letting me know!

      I appreciate your support!
      Wishing you Continued Health,

  9. victor says:

    Interesting aproach on food combinations..thanks for sharing

  10. Peggy says:

    First information I found googling, (I’m not computer savy, obviously), and my issue was I do not digest food past my stomach well at all imparticular lettuce, carrots, etc. I can burp an oily substance following what I feel is heartburn and there are the vegetables I ate 4 days prior. I’ve had every procedure you can thing of but no diagnosis. I printed out the combination page. Do you think I am headed in the right direction I am also overweight and drink atleast a gallon of cold water a day. No sodas of any kind.

    Either way it can’t hurt to try it. Right? Thank you very much.


    • Vicki says:

      Hi Peggy,

      This is a very late comment but honestly I’ve had a weird case of appearing comments in WordPress that I had never seen, nor did I get email notifications of them as I expect!

      Anyway it’s long past time now but I presume you found continued drinking plenty of water along with proper food combining to help. Also reducing the carbs and then the direction should have been good. What have your results been? Please let me know if I can do anything to help, if you are still struggling you might consider the BodyByVi 90 Day Challenge which has helped a lot of people!

      Again, sorry for the long delay!
      Wishing You Continued Health,

  11. Yes, I have read about food combinations before, and it is important to note that melons should be eaten alone, and 30 minutes before eating anything else. And, yes, there is research out there as well as several books. If you doubt it, change your diet each month and track yourself.

    Additionally, if you have digestive problems, papaya and papaya enzymes aid in digestion.

    • Vicki says:

      Hi Anthony!

      Thanks for the comment and I agree, melons should be eaten alone, and I believe that the amount of fructose in the fruit has something to do with that recommendation. And you are right, papaya has great enzymes and so do a lot of other fresh fruits and vegetables!

      Wishing You Continued Health!

  12. Wonderful blog, I just came across it and I’m already a fan. I recently dropped 30 pounds in thirty days, and I am excited to share my weight loss success with as many people as possible. If I can lose the weight then any one can. Whatever you do, never give up and you WILL attain all your weight loss ambitions!

    • Vicki says:

      Thank you Devon!

      I am happy you’ve had success with your weight loss, I believe that it is important for people to hear stories of success from those who have the same struggles as they do. It is definitely possible and starts with just a few small changes!

      Wishing You Continued Health,

  13. Duane Bayot says:

    Extremely interesting post thanks for sharing I just added your website to my favorites and will be back :) By the way this is off subject but I really like your blogs layout.

    • Vicki says:

      Thank You Duane!

      Sorry for the late reply but I seem to have stopped getting comment notifications to my email from this blog!

      Anyway I am glad you liked the post and my blog – I’m hoping to get around to some updates very soon!
      Wishing You Continued Health,

  14. Very informative post. I’ve found your blog via Bing and I’m really glad about the information you provide in your articles. Btw your sites layout is really broken on the Kmelon browser. Would be great if you could fix that. Anyhow keep up the great work!

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks Kristopher!

      I’ve had it on my list for along time to update this blog, it’s a daunting task! I need to upgrade the theme, wordpress AND move it to a new host, so it’s scaring me !!

      I will have it fixed soon, so thanks for giving me the heads up!
      Wishing You Continued Health,

  15. EOM says:

    I find this article very interesting since I have heard the exact opposite when it comes to weight training and food combinations.

    The main point that caught my eye was the Protein-Starch combo and how poor of a combination it is. Is it safe to assume that if you use a lot of energy in workouts that this combination isn’t as bad [or did I just make it up?]

    As a vegetarian, I get most of my protein from vegetables [or egg whites]. How would this article apply to vegetarians?

    Great article though. I shared it immediately after I read it.

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks for the comment! I do think these ideas are not as entirely in conflict as they may seem – we need more protiens and carbs when we work out a lot, but that is not to say that the recommendation is to eat starches with meat proteins together. You can eat things like starches with vegetable proteins or fish, but eat meat with veggies and you will have more energy and sleep better – all of which will work toward helping your workout!

    • Vicki says:

      Thank you! I’m sorry for the late reply but seem to have found WordPress eliminates many notifications of comments for me!
      Hope you are doing well and come back soon!

  16. smilinggreenmom says:

    I agree that many of us have no idea what really makes digestion easier for our bodies. Our family has been taking our Vidazorb chewable probiotics every day and they really have shown to be helpful with stomach issues for us. I think that what you are saying makes so much sense too and that our bodies really could benefit from eating this way as well.

  17. Vicki says:

    Yes I am compiling a post including many studies (just a start here, just wanted to post a quick reply here to let you know, and I’ll email you when I have it complete (full time job keeps me very occupied!). I consider often that I should go back and include references but so often am writing about fairly well known and understood topics, though it does help to see the evidence! There is quite a bit involving food combining, however, I am still one who will have a turkey sandwich, or an occasional (but rare) steak and potato – it just helps to know what works best, particularly if your body has any trouble assimilating nutrition, such as with many chronic medical conditions or if you are under medication.

    Thanks for your comment!

  18. Anonymous says:

    Hey! I admire your writing and the way you explain things. Some of the comments on here too are insightful. I appreciate you. keep it up!

  19. Hey Vicki, been having a great time tucking into your blog! Very interesting about the food combining, particuarly the bit about eating high sugar fruits on their own. I usually finish my meals with a piece of fruit but it makes sense to have them in between meals.

    Would be interested on your thoughts on combining fruit and yogurt, say in a smoothie?

    • Vicki says:

      Thank you Liam! Well, it seems that yogurt is far better than milk and cheese for combining, especially if only with the fruits that are not the sweetest kind – like blueberries would be better than strawberries (not as sweet), and peaches are probably too sweet. As in the bullet list above, “fermented dairy products and cheese do not cause this problem”, referring to the inhibition of proper digestion of other foods. Check out this chart on Recommended Percentages of Food Choices for a breakdown of some of the sweetest fruits, which should be eaten alone (I still plan on editing the notes section of the chart about the combinations).

  20. Vicki says:

    Thanks Alex for some valuable additions here!

  21. Alex Zorach says:

    This is a much-neglected aspect of nutrition; thanks for helping get the word out.

    I study a lot of tea-related research and the same holds for many of the health benefits of tea consumption. For example, drinking milk in tea is not beneficial because the milk protein binds to and inactivates many of the beneficial compounds in the tea. On the other hand, adding lemon to tea is good, especially darker teas, because the citric acid in the lemon inactivates the tannins, which can inhibit the absorption of iron and other minerals.

    I’m constantly reading about other potentially more esoteric interactions with tea, such as the combination of green tea and mushrooms–but I haven’t seen any of these studied rigorously enough to draw good conclusions.

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