Can Fruits be eaten with or after a meal? which proteins can be combined with starchy foods? DO some food decrease your digestive rate? Are there some food combinations to avoid?
These are a few questions that I will attempt to address in this article. I have also described the reasons why a few food combinations are beneficial and why some of them must be strictly avoided.
Before understanding the rules regarding the best and worst food combinations, let us define every food category:
Starchy foods: Pasta, bread, cereals, grains, potatoes/ sweet potatoes, winter squashes or pumpkin
Non-Starchy foods: Asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, onions, brussels sprouts, artichokes, broccoli, celery, eggplant, mushrooms, leafy greens, peppers or zucchini
Proteins: Chicken, beef, eggs, fish, seeds, nuts, beans, legumes or soy products like tofu.
Fruits: Includes all the acidic, less acidic, sweet fruits and melons
Lets look a few food pairings or combinations that have to be avoided:
1. Latte and a croissant:
This breakfast combination consists of processed foods like croissant, which lacks fibre. This combination spikes the blood insulin levels and can lead to a serious sugar crash. It further decreases the energy production in the cells and allows the liver to store the excess calories as fat instead of using them as fuel.
As an alternative, it is better to include a whole-grain English muffin and a Black coffee in your breakfast. This combination is rich in fibre and low in fats. The caffeine in the black coffee will help the cells burn fat faster, while the whole grain muffin will cause a slow release of energy.
2. Fruits with a meal:
Fruits are a rich source of sugar and can break down at a faster rate compared to a heavy meal, which consists of meat, vegetables, starch etc. This leads to a fermentation reaction in your stomach and causes many digestive issues.
Similarly, combining some fruits with dairy can lead to bloating. Avoid eating citrus fruits with milk, however, you can eat dates and milk. Fruits must be consumed individually, and not with any other foods. The best time to eat fruits is in the mornings, on an empty stomach, with a glass of water, as it helps in detoxifying your system. You can also indulge in a fruit as an afternoon snack rather than reaching for those chips!
3. Dairy products with meat, fruits or vegetables.
Milk needs to be consumed alone. You can use a few spices like cinnamon and cardamom to enhance the flavor of milk. Avoid using milk with sour foods. The acidic nature of these fruits curdles the milk in the stomach and can lead to many digestive problems. You can eat dates and milk.
Dairy products like cheese and yoghurt with fish, eggs, beans, meat etc., must not be combined together.
On the other hand, clarified butter or ghee can be used for cooking vegetables as it displays similar properties as cooking oil.
4. Beans with dairy, eggs, fish, meat or fruit.
Though beans are very beneficial and product vital micronutrients like Iron and magnesium, they contain a high quantity of soluble fibre, which can lead to flatulence. Combining this food product with meat, eggs or dairy can become very difficult to digest and can lead to bloating.
Instead pair beans with nuts, other beans, vegetables or lentils. These need to be cooked well to aid in digestion.
5. Melons with other foods:
Melons must always be consumed on their own or not consumed at all. They MUST NOT be combined with dairy, grains, fried foods, eggs or starchy foods.
Hence, in summary, some of the food combination rules are as follows:
1. Foods that CAN be combined:
• Starchy foods can be combined with the non-starchy items
2. Foods combinations that MUST be avoided:
• Starchy foods and proteins
• One form of protein with a different form
3. Some foods that NEED TO BE EATEN ALONE
These rules are based on the fact that all different categories of foods are digested at different rates and generate different by-products. For instance, the starchy and non-starchy foods can be combined together since they can be digested at the same pH level; while starches and proteins are digested at different pH levels.
Also, some foods like fruits are digested faster than proteins, and hence need to be eaten separately. If combined, it can overload the digestive system and decrease its efficiency.
Let’s look at one example of an ideal food combination:
Breakfast: You can include a fruit bowl with bananas, berries or grapefruit
Mid-morning snack: A whole-grain toast with avocado, or scrambled eggs or veggies. (DO not add cheese since 2 proteins must be avoided and also dairy is eaten separately). You can have a cup of black coffee.
Lunch: A tofu or chicken salad with veggies like lettuce, peppers etc. You can also use a vinaigrette or olive oil dressing on the salad.
Afternoon/Evening Snack: You can include a fruit like apple or pear. It should be 2-3 h before your dinner
Dinner: Brown rice with any one protein of your choice.
These food combinations are based on the ancient Ayurvedic theories regarding which foods work best. Though, not all the rules can be practically followed, you can always try your best to incorporate a few of these rules in your daily lives. Remember to include a large variety of foods in your diets to derive the maximal amount of nutrients.