In this post, we’ll unpack all you need to know about the concept of food combining, through the lens of Ayurveda, defining exactly what it is, why it matters, detailing compatible and incompatible food combinations and more.
What Is Food Combining?
Food combining is a way of eating that involves combining foods for optimal digestion. It is based on the idea that some foods digest well together while others do not.
Food Combining & Ayurveda
For many, the concept of food combining is entirely new and somewhat foreign. However, according to Ayurveda, it is an essential part of understanding how to eat properly.
When it comes do our diet, what we eat and how we eat play a vital role in our health. In Ayurveda, food combining is just as important as discovering one’s body type, known as dosha.
Why Food Combining Matters
Ayurveda assigns 5 properties to food. They are:
- Taste (Rasa)
- Quality (Gunas)
- Metabolic Effect – either heating or cooling (Virya)
- Post-Digestive Effect (Bipaka)
- Unique Healing Property (Prabhava)
Combining foods that have different properties can impact both agni and ama. They can overwhelm our digestive system (agni), resulting in indigestion, fermentation, gas, bloating and ultimately the creation of ama ― a toxic substance that is the root cause of sickness and disease.
This aligns with modern science as well as a quote attributed to Ancient Greek physician and “father of modern medicine” Hippocrates who, over 2,500 years ago stated: “All disease begins in the gut.”
Therefore, careful food combining is vital to optimising digestion, supporting the body in receiving a deeper level of nourishment and positively impacting our overall health and wellbeing.
Compatible Food Combinations
When foods that are compatible are combined together, they assist digestion and create health.
Below we’ll look at some common compatible food combinations and explain why they should be embraced.
- Eating Fruits Alone
Fruits are best enjoyed on their own because they are usually somewhat acidic, fairly simple to digest, and often digests quite quickly. When eaten with other foods, fruit tends to move through the digestive tract too slowly which can tax the digestive system and cause fermentation, gas and bloating.
- Grains & Vegetables
Grains can be enjoyed with almost anything except fruit and so make for a great staple in many meals. Combining rice with dal results in kitchari, which Ayurveda considers one of the easiest foods to digest.
Incompatible Food Combinations
When foods that are incompatible are combined together, they hinder digestion and create disease. Naturally, certain combinations disturb the digestive system more than others.
Below we’ll look at some common incompatible food combinations and explain why they should be avoided.
- Bananas & Milk
Bananas have a heating effect on the body while milk has a cooling effect on the body. The sour nature of bananas as it breaks down can curdle milk inside the digestive tract. This can overburden the digestive system, resulting in poor digestion and the accumulation of ama.
- Nightshades & Cheese
Nightshades contain alkaloids which defend them against insects but can be mildly to fatally toxic to humans. As such, nightshades can be difficult to digest even on their own. Combining them with cheese which is heavy can overburden the digestive system, resulting in poor digestion and the accumulation of ama.
- Beans & Cheese
Both beans and cheese are similar in that they are heavy and difficult to digest. Beans can have either a heating or cooling effect on the body while cheese has a mostly heating on the body. When eaten together, they tend to overburden the digestive system, resulting in poor digestion and the accumulation of ama.
- Proteins & Starch
The combination of proteins and starches prevent salivary digestion of starch. Proteins and starches require different enzymes and acidity levels to be digested. When eaten together, the body is only capable of digesting the protein. The undigested starch undergoes fermentation and decomposition.
- Orange Juice Or Coffee With Cereal
Acids found in orange juice destroy the enzyme needed to digest starches in cereal. Acidic juice can curdle the milk and create excessive mucous. Coffee contains tannins ― a class of bitter and astringent compounds ― which block the absorption of iron from plant foods.
Food Combinations Table Summary
Below is a table summary of compatible and incompatible food combinations.
|Beans||Grains. Vegetables. Nuts. Seeds.||Fruit. Milk. Cheese. Yogurt. Eggs. Meat. Fish.|
|Butter & Gee||Grains. Vegetables. Beans. Nuts. Seeds. Meat. Fish. Eggs. Cooked Fruit.||N/A|
|Cheese||Grains. Vegetables.||Fruit. Beans. Eggs. Milk. Yogurt. Hot Drinks.|
|Milk||Rice Pudding. Oatmeal. Dates. Almonds.||Bananas. Cherries. Melons. Sour Fruit. Yeasted Breads. Yoghurt. Eggs. Meat. Fish. Starches.|
|Yoghurt||Grains. Vegetables.||Fruit. Beans. Milk. Cheese. Eggs. Meat. Fish. Nightshades. Hot Drinks.|
|Eggs||Grains. Non-Starchy Vegetables.||Fruit. Beans. Milk. Cheese. Yogurt. Potatoes.|
|Fruit||Fruit.||All Other Foods.|
|Lemon||Most Foods.||Milk. Yoghurt. Cucumber. Tomatoes.|
|Grains||Vegetables. Beans. Nuts. Seeds. Cheese. Yoghurt. Eggs. Meat. Fish.||Fruit.|
|Vegetables||Grains. Beans. Nuts. Seeds. Cheese. Yoghurt. Eggs. Meat. Fish.||Fruit. Milk.|
|Nightshades||Grains. Beans. Nuts. Seeds. Meat. Fish.||Fruit. Cucumber. Milk. Cheese. Yoghurt.|
|Hot Drinks||Most Foods.||Mangoes. Cheese. Yoghurt. Meat. Fish. Starches.|
|Raw Foods.||Other Raw Foods.||Cooked Foods.|
Food combining is a nutritional strategy that advocates combining specific foods while separating specific foods. It is based on the idea that certain foods are compatible which assist digestion and create health while other foods are incompatible which hinder digestion and create disease.
By being conscious and intentional about what foods we combine, we can optimise digestion, support the body in receiving a deeper level of nourishment and ultimately maximise our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual well-being.