Food Combining: What To Eat To Flatten Your Tummy + Optimize Digestion

There’s quite a lot of controversy when it comes to the practice of food combining. Does it work? Is it worth all the effort? Despite all the opinions, the practice of food combining can significantly ease digestion and promote proper assimilation of nutrients. It’s worth a second look if you’ve already written this practice off.

Developed in 1911 by physician, Howard Hay, who studied and concluded that foods would be better digested if they were eaten with other comparable foods that digested at similar rates or contained the same enzymes necessary to breakdown their nutrients. Sounds rational enough.

The controversy began when after further research and a growing understanding of nutrition we realized that, one – most foods naturally contain a combination of fats, carbohydrates and proteins, making it hard to pinpoint which group a food belongs to categorically, and two – the more combinations of these food categories an ingredient or meal contains, the more types of enzymes are needed to break them down for your system to use. While there has been little direct research on the effects of food combining, the practice has helped many people ease digestion complaints and help with nutrient assimilation, whether scientifically validated or not.

Some believe that because a heavy and complicated meal containing many different ingredients requires different enzymes as well as an acidic or alkalizing environment, these secretions in the digestive process may actually cancel each other out, causing the digestive process to slow and work less efficiently. This can result in gas, bloating, and other complaints of indigestion. More so, poor food combining coupled with indigestion can lead to stagnation and fermentation in the gut, causing bacteria and yeast overgrowth, candida, symptoms of weakened immunity and other results of poor or compromised digestion down the road. Remember, good health starts with a strong gut!

It’s worth revisiting food combining, especially if you have weak digestion. Here’s what you might experience if you give it a go:

– Improved digestion
– Reduction of toxin buildup and formation in the gut
– Increased nutrient absorption
– Reduced gas and bloating
– More rapid elimination
– Improved energy

In Practice: The Rules of Food Combining

eat when hungry

Only eat when hungry. Trust your instinct. If you still feel full from lunch but it’s time for dinner, skip it – it probably means your body still needs time to digest. Try some soothing digestive aid tea instead.


Starches like potatoes combine best with other starches and non-starchy vegetables. Skip the meat and potatoes and instead pair more acidic foods with alkaline ingredients such as leafy greens.


Eat fruit alone or not at all. This is especially true for watery sugary fruits like melons and mangos. Always eat fruit when very ripe as well. Some fruits may be tolerated when eaten with leafy green vegetables. Don’t combine fats with fruits.

fruits and veggies

Biologically classified fruit like tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers, as well as low sugar fruits such as lemons and limes can be eaten with leafy green vegetables but not starchy vegetables.

Don’t combine fruits and vegetables as they digest at different rates and if we consume them at the same time may lead to unwanted gas and bloating – despite both being healthy choices on their own.


Most lower starch vegetables combine well with most categories of food, the exception being fruit. Mix low starch vegetables with starches or protein but do not include both in the same meal. Low starch vegetables mix well with fats.


There is some degree of varying option when it comes to consuming fats with or without certain food groups. Trust your own personal reaction and if you have sensitive digestion to begin with it may be best to keep the combinations to a minimum when consuming a lot of it. Fats do tend to combine well with almost every food group, except fruit.

beverages and meals

Avoid drinking with meals. Liquids are best consumed about 15-30 minutes before meal or about and 1-2 hours after a meal to help avoid diluting enzymes needed to breakdown foods. If you do reach for a drink with your meal (like most of us do), reach for an herbal tea or kombucha that that will enhance the digestive process.

lighter meals

Focus on lighter less concentrated ingredients, such as fruit or vegetable juices, in the morning (before noon) to help improve the elimination cycle since these require very little digestion.

Breaking the rules
Every now and then it’s ok to stretch the rules just a bit, and there are certain instances involved in the practice of food combining where breaking the rules actually works to our advantage.

vitamin C and leafy greens

The vitamin C in many fruits may help to increase the absorption of iron from iron-rich plant foods, such as spinach.

fat soluble vitamins

Consuming fats from nuts, seeds, avocados or oils, with green vegetables may assist in the absorption of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins from these ingredients.

food processing

Our beloved green smoothies…while these may break food combining ways in more ways than one, just the act of blending alone may be enough to help breakdown and digest these ingredients.

Listen to your body after you drink your smoothies to gauge if you need to cut back on the complexity of your ingredient combinations.

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