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Your Handy Guide to Food Combining

April 23, 2014

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For years, I convinced myself that I didn’t suffer from indigestion. I hadn’t experienced the telltale signs like acid reflux or heartburn, and I never took antacids or other over-the-counter remedies meant to treat digestive disorders.

Only when I started paying attention to what I ate and how my body responded did I realize the ugly truth: my digestive tract was completely out of whack.

At around 3pm every day, just a few hours after eating lunch, it would kick in. The bloating, the cramps, the nausea – there was no denying any longer that I had indigestion!

So I did my research and after a little bit of trial and error with my diet I discovered that the cause of these symptoms was improper food combining. I was eating salads topped with fruit and filets of fish with roasted potatoes or butternut squash, combinations that were wreaking some serious havoc on my digestive system.

It took me some time to figure out which food combinations are easiest to digest, but now that I know, I am symptom-free and feeling great. That’s why I put together this handy dandy list of food combination do’s and don’ts. If you’re hesitant about completely overhauling the way you eat, try heeding the advice below one step at a time. Whichever path you take toward proper food combining, the result will be a sparkling clean digestive tract and healthy gut!

Food Combining Do’s and Don’ts


  • Eat fruit on an empty stomach. Fruit is made up of simple sugars that pass through the stomach easily and digest quickly. However, when they’re eaten with complex foods that take longer to digest, like protein and starches, fruit will linger in the stomach and start to ferment, leading to bloating or an upset stomach. So, it’s best to consume fruit first thing in the morning or on its own a couple of hours after a big meal. The exception to this rule is acidic fruits such as lemons and limes, so you’re in the clear if you start your day with a tall glass of lemon water alongside breakfast.
  • Add a side of non-starchy veggies or leafy greens to protein. A grilled chicken breast with cauliflower or a kale salad topped with tofu or shrimp are ideal meals. This is because proteins take the most time for the body to break down, so it’s best to combine them with easily digestible, leafy green or non-starchy vegetables that aid in the absorption process. Spinach, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and mushrooms are some great options.
  • Enjoy a snack of raw veggies and nuts or seeds. When those pesky hunger pangs strike, reach for a snack of raw almonds or pumpkin seeds with a couple celery stalks or cucumber slices. The high water content in the vegetables will help breakdown the nuts and seeds, aiding in their digestion.  


  • Mix proteins and starches. Proteins like meat, nuts, and cheese require an acid base for optimal digestibility, while starches like potatoes and rice require an alkaline base. This means that combining these two food groups in one meal may cause an upset stomach or improper digestion of either food. As an alternative, you can eat a starch with a leafy green or a protein with a side salad of non-starchy vegetables.
  • Double up on protein. Consuming a large amount of protein in one meal is hard for the body to digest because it’s a complex, heavy food type. So, it’s best to avoid protein-rich combinations like fish and beans or bacon and eggs. Instead, refer to the second “do” on this list and stick to a side of non-starchy vegetables or leafy greens along with one protein.

If you’re interested in learning more about proper food combining, check out this useful graphic created by Health Coach Megan Gilmore.