Your Facebook questions answered: Does food combining make sense?

“Some people swear by it while others dismiss it as just another fad… Does food combining make sense?” asks Enlightened Eater Facebook fan, HUGS – Humans Unifying Global Solutions

There is a great deal of fact and science fiction when it comes to healthy eating strategies and food combining is up there near of the top of the list of myths. It’s one that simply won’t go away, even though it seemed to have been debunked back in the 1990s when the book Fit for Life promoted this style of eating.   The authors claimed that food combining, a very structured approach to eating,  was responsible for their weight loss and enhanced sense of well-being.

But with the internet, food fads can have a very long life indeed, even if there is no science to back them up.

Food combining is based upon specific principles – that certain foods must not be eaten together as the body supposedly cannot digest them when they’re consumed together. Fruit must be eaten before other options and never as part of a meal. Protein-rich animal selections such as meat  or fish can never be combined with starchy foods or the meat or fish will putrefy in your stomach.

Simply put, foods cannot rot in your digestive tract because of the way you eat them.

I remember watching the Diamonds, the authors of the book, debate various nutrition experts on television. The authors would rattle off a whole purportedly scientific process as to how digestion occurs. The expert would look completely baffled as to what they were talking about and ended up appearing as though he or she had no science background when in fact, the Diamonds were talking complete nonsense which led to the expert’s baffled look. The Diamonds  ended up looking  as though they were scientific geniuses.

Our digestive systems are extremely complex, releasing stomach acids and then enzymes throughout the digestive tract to break down all different kinds of foods when eaten together. Some foods, though,  do contain indigestible compounds – fibre, for example – which may be fermented in the colon by bacteria. But fermentation is not the same as rotting. This process promotes the growth of healthy bacteria.

One of the reasons for the popularity of food combining is that many people found they ate less, making for easier weight management. But there are a number of factors as to why this structured eating style could yield less food being consumed. For one, if you eat fruit before a meal (and have to wait just a  short  while before eating), your blood sugar rises and you’re simply less hungry.  As well, if you can’t eat certain foods together, it can be very restrictive at a meal, especially if you’re eating out and you’ll likely eat less than you might have otherwise.

If you look at healthy traditional eating patterns (Okinawa or Mediterranean diet,  for example),  small amounts of protein foods have been combined with complex carbohydrates for centuries. When meat or fish was consumed, it was as a garnish, not the centre-piece of a meal, along with starchy foods and vegetables.

The wisdom of the ages certainly speaks volumes as to how to make healthy choices.

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Categories: Your Questions Answered

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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