Your go-to breakfast is a bowl of oatmeal with almond butter and frozen raspberries. A healthy mix of carbs, protein and natural sugars, right? Not if you subscribe to food combining, a nutritional approach that’s been trending recently. But is there any reason you should be paying attention to which foods you eat together? Let’s examine.
What’s the Idea Behind Food Combining?
In general, proponents of food combining believe that different foods digest at different rates and require different digestive environments, so foods need to be eaten in specific groups to achieve optimal digestion. (Note that what we’re referring to is separate from Ayurveda, a traditional system of medicine with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent that advocates for a type of food combining.)
The benefits of food combining are believed to include weight loss, good digestion, improved energy, better skin, better absorption of nutrients and improved detoxification.
Basic food combining principles state that you shouldn’t eat starches and protein in the same meal, and you should only eat fruit before a meal, not after. Why? Food combining fans believe that proteins need an acidic environment to be broken down, whereas carbohydrates require an alkaline environment. Additionally, the thought is that eating foods with different digestion speeds can overload your digestive system, thereby making it less efficient.
Does It Actually Work?
Probably not. According to registered dietitian Tamara Duker Freuman, “The rationales employed to advocate for food combining reflect a profound misunderstanding of the basic biochemistry and physiology of human digestion, and are poor pseudo-science at best.” She told U.S. News, “They are also grounded in a gross underestimation of our digestive system's ability to multi-task.”
The science on food combining as a means for weight loss is also spotty. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity examined two groups of obese patients. One group ate a traditional diet while the other ate the same amount of calories and protein in meals that followed food combining. After six weeks, researchers found no difference in the amount of weight lost by the two groups.
If you’re having digestive issues, it’s best to consult your doctor or a specialist like a gastroenterologist. If not, feel free to chow down on that bowl of well-balanced oatmeal without a second thought.