Should You Try Food Combining For Weight Loss?

Food combining is a way of eating designed to optimize digestion and by extension promote weight loss. The idea is that foods take varying times to digest (think steak vs. apple) and require different digestive environments. With that in mind those that follow the principles of food combining only eat specific groups of food together. It can get complicated! But the basics are: don’t eat starches and protein together (the reason being, according to the principal, proteins require an acidic environment to be broken down while carbs need an alkaline one) and always eat fruit before a meal – not after – since fruits digest the fasts. People who believe in food combining say that if you don’t eat this way you’re likely to experience bloating, gas, and skin problems.

A lot of health experts I look up to believe in food combining (Kimberly SnyderMelissa WoodDr. Mona Vand…) – and a lot of them do not (Dr. Lipman, Tanya Zuckerbrot…). The limited research on the topic shows that it’s not backed by science and that our bodies are more than capable of digesting multiple foods at the same time but again, the research is LIMITED.

I mix protein and starches all the time and eat fruit at the end of almost every meal and feel fine. What I do love about food combining is that it makes people more conscious of what and how they’re eating (kind of like following the kosher “laws”). It’s so important to be conscious of how we’re eating and something I, at least, often struggle with. Maybe it’s that consciousness more so than the actual combinations that are leading to better digestion… When I asked a nutritionist I really respect, Danielle Hamo, RD, LDN about it she said that she doesn’t follow it but “I think people should try it and if you feel better, than stick with it! Everyone’s body is different so it’s worth trying to see what makes you feel your best.”

I tend to agree…if it makes you feel better than who cares what science says…

I did want to get more in depth into the topic so I spoke with Dr. Lisa Davis, PhD, PA-C, CNS, chief nutrition officer at Terra’s Kitchen,  and got her expert opinion on the matter.

Are there food combinations that can dial up your weight loss?

Since there is not much research backing the food combining claim, it is hard to say. One might benefit from practicing proper food combining in order to optimize digestion by working with their body to make it as efficient as possible, which could help assist weight loss.

Are there foods/food groups that when eaten together can hinder weight loss/cause bloating?

According to trophology (or food combining), consuming protein and carbohydrates together is a big no-no. Since they both have different needs in terms of hydrochloric acid and enzymes, this can lead to bloating and digestive distress in some people. If you experience continuous digestive issues; this could possibly lead to weight loss resistance because your body is having to continuously battle inflammation.

People who believe in food combining say you must eat fruit on an empty stomach because they digest quickly. What about dried fruit – do those need to be had on an empty stomach?

According to food combining principles, dried fruit is considered a “sweet fruit” (listed in the same category as bananas) and can be tolerated and consumed well with acid and sub-acid fruits like apples, oranges and berries.

Melons, such as watermelon and cantaloupe, are the fruits that should be consumed alone due to their super quick digestion rate.

And what about veggies? How come those don’t need to be eaten on their own, don’t those digest fast as well?

Non-starchy vegetables are easily digested and versatile. They can break down well in both acidic and alkaline environments, making them suitable to consume with any type of food group.

 Is it possible that food combining works for some people and not others?

When it comes to digestion, there are many factors. It can be hard to determine what is working and what isn’t. If you experience extreme bloating/digestive distress and have already tried an elimination diet and/or food intolerance testing, practicing proper food combining could be a very good idea. And for those who have tried food combining and it doesn’t help with their digestive issues, then there is likely another culprit at play. Digestion can be affected by so many variables so it’s good to try multiple techniques to see what helps and what doesn’t.

Images: Vogue 

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