You may have noticed in my meal plan for last week I had a lot of fruit on the menu for breakfast. Well the reason why is that I decided to try the “food combining diet.” In this post I will cover what that is and what my experience was.
In my post overviewing different diets, ,I didn’t cover every diet under the sun. There is always something new to discover, and I did that just last week when I ran into the “food combining” diet. I tried it for a week, and I am writing about what happened.
What it is
The “food combining” diet has its roots in Ayurvedic tradition. The basic premise is that certain food combinations work better for the natural rhythm of the body than others. Food combining aims to optimize our digestive system based on that premise.
If you are a fan of bright-line rules, this diet is definitely for you. Some food combinations, in fact, can impair digestion, cause bloating, and harm the gut, and therefore be avoided at all times.
My main curiosity with trying this diet is not actually whether I would lose weight, but how I would feel throughout the day. Would I feel more energized? Less weighed down? Never get bloated? Let’s explore the rules, then the results.
Rule #1 – Eat fruit alone or leave it alone
This is the biggest one out of the gate. The general rule is to only eat fruit on an empty stomach, and not to eat anything else. Eating it too closely to other types of foods can cause fermentation, gas and bloating, and promote bacterial overgrowth in the body..That’s what generated the “eat fruit before noon” approach. The idea is that the body can detoxify itself, including the liver, best when there isn’t any food to “stress it out.” Fruit does not need to be processed through the liver, so this process isn’t impaired.
There are limited exceptions here. Fruit can be eaten with avocado, with leafy green vegetables (like in a smoothie). Also, acidic fruits, like berries and kiswis, can be eaten with “protein fats”, like yogurt or nuts.
Rule #2: Eat animal proteins and seafoods only with non-starchy vegetables, not with starches
This basically rules out sandwiches. So that would mean, eat a meat protein with a salad or a cooked veggie combination, like a stir-fry.
Rule #3 Eat starchy vegetables only with other starchy vegetables or non-starchy vegetables, ot with protein
Applying this rule would mean, if you are going to have quinoa, sweet potato, or another type of grain, or beans, have those only with non-starch vegetables.
Rule #4: Eat nuts and seeds with dried fruit or dark chocolate, but not fresh fruit
This one threw me because my go-to was always to eat fresh fruit with nuts or nut butter. I thought the fat from the nuts would slow down the digestion of the sugars in the fruit. According to the food combining philosophy, fruit is supposed to metabolize quickly to prevent that “fermenting” process. Also,the fiber in fruit slows the sugar breakdown, so it’s not as much of a concern to eat fruit alone. .
Rule # 5 Wait 3–4 hours before switching categories. If you start as recommended with fruit in the morning, then wait until lunchtime to eat protein and then snacktime to eat a starch or another type of protein.
No weight loss or gain. Although the research is conflicting, I felt a blood sugar rush eating fruit with nothing else. Plus I got really, really, sick of fruit and it started to just taste bad after a while. Eating a high-protein breakfast helps me focus and satisfied well into the afternoon. Also, I like eating warm foods for my meals and constanly eating raw and cold stuff got really unappealing after a while.
Other than that, there’s nothing too novel about this diet. Most of my food combinations are protein and fats or proteins, vegetables, and fats. Yet, when I am in a rush, I do enjoy my Kodiak protein pancakes, or my ezekiel and sunflower seed butter combination. Eating these foods has never made me gain weight.
Was it worth it?
Hey, I am a blogger, so by nature this requires experimenting and reporting. I had heard about this approach, it sounded interesting and rooted in history, and I am glad I did this R&D – mostly to pass on my opinion that this diet is really an implict way of not overeating. But you can achieve that in many other ways than these weird rules, like portion control.
I think the one good thing about “food combining” is that it makes you pay more attention to the type of macronutrients you are getting and how much whole foods you are eating. This goes back to my PFfCW framework – making sure to get a combination of protein, carbs, and fat in every meal or snack, and getting fiber and water throughout theday. What you combine with what should depend on how you feel afterwards. I feel better afterwards if I have protein and carbs with a low amount of fat, or protein and fat with a low amount of carbs.
At the same time, I don’t totally buy into the eat fruit by itself thing. If I decide to eat a piece of fruit, I feel better if I have it with a little bit of yogurt or nuts. I also work out in the morning, so I need more to replenish myself than a piece of fruit. In fact, you definitely need a combination of carbs and protein after your workout.
It’s about what works for you and your body, and makes you feel good. I feel great when I eat my Ezekiel bread with nut butter and honey. Maybe I don’t necessaily want an apple at the same time, but I believe my body is smarter than any diet.
This diet was interesting, and certainly made me eat more fruit, but not sustainable for someone like me who works out almost every day and has a maratho-like job.. As with any diet, I would recommend consulting with a doctor, especially if you have a condition like diabetes.
If you want to learn more about the combinations and access some cool charts, I definitely recommend reading these two articles: