Did you know that digesting food requires more energy than any other function in the human body? It’s no wonder we’re exhausted after a big lunch! It stands to reason, then, that the best way to free up some extra energy is to make our digestion as quick and efficient as possible.
Food combining is one of my favorite tricks to streamline the digestive process. Though food combining principles can get very complicated, depending on which expert you ask, I prefer to keep them simple. Simply pick just one dense food at each meal, whatever you’re craving most at that moment, and then fill the rest of your plate with raw and cooked non-starchy vegetables. Easy! By simplifying your meals, the digestive system doesn’t have to tackle too much in one sitting, helping you to avoid that bloated, sluggish feeling that can put a damper on the rest of your day.
Studies have shown that humans have a tendency to overeat when we are offered a wide variety of foods during a meal. (source) So, by simplifying our meals, we will naturally eat less, without counting calories or worrying about portion sizes.
Best of all, you don’t have to give up any food groups that you love– you just may not want to eat them all at the same time. The following guide should help!
(click on chart above to enlarge or print)
As you can see in the chart above, the foods have been divided into four general categories:
- FRESH FRUIT
- ANIMAL PROTEIN
- NUTS/SEEDS/DRIED FRUIT
Note: Look for these food combining labels clearly marked in my cookbooks, and here on the blog. All of the recipes in my cookbooks are properly combined, and both cookbooks include properly combined meal plans to help you easily get started.
For a properly combined meal, simply choose ONE category and only eat foods out of that category for that particular meal. The foods listed within the same category combine well with each other, and you may also include anything from the “Neutral” column to fill out your plate.
Wait 3-4 hours between each meal, before switching categories.
Properly Combined Sample Meal Ideas
A properly-combined STARCH meal might look something like this:
A sandwich on whole-grain bread, filled with avocado, mustard, lettuce, tomato and sprouts. Served with a leafy side salad and a baked sweet potato topped with butter. You could follow this meal with some dark chocolate for dessert!
A properly-combined ANIMAL PROTEIN meal might look something like this:
A leafy green salad topped with cherry tomatoes and goat cheese, followed by a piece of baked fish served with a side of roasted broccoli and cauliflower. You could follow this meal with some dark chocolate or goat’s milk ice cream for dessert!
A properly-combined NUT/SEED/DRIED FRUIT meal might look something like this:
A leafy green salad topped with dried cranberries and raw walnuts, followed by a platter of raw hummus served with raw crudités. Dessert could be a slice of raw cheesecake, a few raw macaroons, or a couple raw almond butter cups!
FRESH FRUIT is best eaten in the mornings, on an empty stomach.
This is because fruit digests so quickly, typically within 30 minutes of eating. (However, fruit can be combined with leafy green vegetables in a green smoothie, if you like!) Fruit is not recommended as a dessert after a meal, as it could potentially cause fermentation, gas and bloating, and promote bacterial overgrowth in the body. You can eat fruit as an afternoon snack or post-workout, as long as it’s been 3-4 hours since your last properly-combined meal.
Note: There is a lot of debate over the science behind food combining, without much evidence to back it up. (There is little money to be made in this field, which probably accounts for the lack of funded studies.) Personally, I think why food combining works for me, and for many others, is that it encourages you to make better choices, without feeling restricted. When you’re choosing just ONE food category at a time, then filling the rest of your plate with raw and cooked vegetables, you’re bound to be making healthier choices! So, food combining may just work because it encourages the consumption of more whole foods and simpler meals.
I think it’s also important to note that there’s no need to be “perfect” with food combining rules all the time. I like to follow the 80/20 rule, because life’s too short to stress about what you’re eating.
For properly combined meal plans and entertaining menus, be sure to pick up a copy of my first cookbook, Everyday Detox.
My second cookbook, No Excuses Detox, has 3 more meal plans, including a Budget-Friendly properly combined meal plan that feeds you for less than $6 each day, and a Speedy Meal plan that has everything ready in 30 minutes or less. Both of my cookbooks are loaded with properly combined recipes to help make things easier for you.
Questions and Reviews
thank you for the info! So useful! But what about tofu?
I would consider tofu to be part of the legume family– since it’s technically a bean curd made from soybeans. Legumes are complicated to digest, as they contain both starch and protein, so they are often not recommended for optimum digestion. Personally, I think it’s fine to enjoy legumes as the “density” of your meal. In other words, I wouldn’t mix them with any other dense starches or proteins, but rather eat them with plenty of raw and/or cooked vegetables. They make a great salad topper, and a filling vegetable soup. 🙂 Hope that helps!
I have a question about mixing rice or pasta with ketchup for better taste. Or some fruit along woth oatmeal in the morning. Any advice?
Why not try and see how you feel? Trusting others is more confusing than anything. 🙂
Trying to follow along with the reply #17, i’m assuming lentils are also in the legume family, but which catagory would beans / lentils / etc be in? Nuts / Seeds or Flesh, due to the protein? Lentil Soups, Black Eyed peas, pintos, etc. Thanks Megan!
I’d flat out call them a starch and leave it at that. They happen to have some protein riding along, but so do grains.
The other sites I have visited regarding food combining tend to be confusing and also more focused on what not to do. Thank you for providing a chart to make things simple. By focusing on the positive things we can eat together, it makes it exciting to take on rather than scary/stressful. The sample meals are also super helpful!!!
I am just beginning my raw journey and this chart answers ALL of the questions I had about food combining. THANK YOU!!
I just stumbled upon your site…it’s great and very interesting. I definitely think this is something that could help me with my digestion discomforts. I saw the question above about lentils and other beans. I too am wondering about this. I do not eat a lot of meat and do not eat tofu, so I usually eat things like chic peas, lentils, black beans, etc. Where do they fit in? When I do eat them I usually mix them into a salad or make home-made “veggie burgers” with either black beans and veggies or chic peas and veggies. However, I notice that is not something you suggest?
Hi Alicia! Lentils and beans are not very popular among those practicing strict food combining, as they are both a starch and a protein, and therefore are naturally “miscombined.”
While I don’t eat them often, I do think they work perfectly fine in starch-based meals. Homemade veggie burgers are a great option, and you can also enjoy them over a leafy green salad, or in a vegetarian Mexican-style meal with rice and guacamole.
Hope that helps!
is avacodos a fruit or starch? it is in both groups.
Avocados are unique! They combine with fruit (other than melon, which should be eaten alone) in a simple fruit-based meal or smoothie, OR they can combine with starchier foods, like breads and squashes. Just make sure you don’t mix the fruit with the starches in the same meal.
What category do vinegars fall into; red wine, balsamic, apple cider.
I’d consider those neutral, since they’re often used in such small amounts, as in a salad dressing.
Megan, I <3 your website! Been on it for hours. One question, soy nuts? Where do they fall? Also, in many of your recipes you use almond, cashew, nut butters… do you think soy nut butter (I'm allergic to nuts) would be a good substitute for these both in recipe results and food-combining practice? Thanks! You're amazing!
LOVE THIS!! Where would gluten-free flours, such as coconut flour fall? Thanks so much!
The grain-free flours will combine according to the ingredient– so coconut flour would combine as shredded coconut would, in the nut/seed category. Nut flours will combine in the nut/seed category as well, or in the overall “protein” category, depending on how strictly you combine.
Is there anyway you can post some more meal combining examples? I am a newbie and can use all of the help I can get. There are a few things that are confusing to me ( ex. in the starchy meal, tomatoes are included even thought they are not a “cooked” veggie.). I would truly appreciate your help. : )
Hi! I´ve read that you should eat protein with every meal. What kind of protein can you combine with fruits?
People who practice food combining don’t necessarily agree with that idea, but bananas are an exception to the fruit rule– you can enjoy them with any nuts or seeds for a protein boost. Also, leafy green veggies are surprisingly protein-rich, and they combine with any fruit. Green smoothies are a good option!
I would like to please ask a question about other vegetables not mentioned on the chart. I saw the raw leafy greens are under teh neutral category, but I am wondering how other veggies combine, like tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, mushrooms, and so on and so forth.
Thanks so much! Your site is great!
Hi Alexia! All non-starchy vegetables, like the ones you mentioned above, are all considered neutral.
this is great! I have a qurstion,
I like to have oatmeal on the morning. so could i do then oatmeal, almond milk, coconut oil, but I like to add some protein like whey protein is that okay or would the whey be considerend as a flesh?
I do suffer from a lot of tummy discomfort even after going wheat free and mostly dairy free except for the whey protein adn yogurt.
Why do you include fruit in your dessert recipes if they are best eaten alone?
I include dried fruit in some of my dessert recipes, which do combine properly with nuts and seeds. Fresh bananas also combine with nuts and seeds.
What about hemp seed or hazelnut milk (store bought)- can this combine the same as almond milk (nuetral and with avacados in smoothies)? Thanks :)!
Yes, all nut and seed milks can be considered neutral for our purposes, since the pulp has been removed. Be sure to look for store-bought milks with little to no fillers, for best digestion. I believe Pacific brand makes some good options!
I saw on some websites that artichoke hearts are considered a starch. In your opinion, or according to your studies, would you categorize it as a starch? Meaning I could combine it with avocado and non starchy veggies?
What about tahini? it is made from sesame seeds so only add a tahini dressing on a salad with no flesh and no starch? Meaning just raw veggies?
I tend to keep my food combining as simple and easy as possible– there are definitely more strict charts out there! Personally, I know that if it’s too complicated, I won’t follow it. So, for my purposes, artichokes fall into the neutral category. If you find that they disagree with you in that category, however, you can change how to combine them! Combining will definitely vary from person to person– usually people start having simpler meals as they become more accustomed to combining over the years.
Tahini does fall into the nut category, so yes, it can combine with raw veggies, dried fruit and bananas.
I have been making morning smoothies that combine fruits – bananas, pineapple, cantaloupe and berries with veggies such as kale, spinach, cucumbers, zucchini and other greens. I also add in some fresh ginger, almond meal and flaxseeds. Oh and occasionally avocado. It is jammed packed : ) Is this not a good idea?
For food combining purposes, the almond meal and flaxseeds wouldn’t work with all that fresh fruit, but food combining isn’t for everyone. If you enjoy the smoothies, they sound pretty nutrient rich!
I have a question about baking with almond flour. I suppose using eggs in a recipe with almond flour (and coconut flour for that matter) would make it miscombined, is that right? If so, I guess it’s best to not bake too often then. Or just stick to your chocolate chip cookies recipe. YUM YUM!
Yes, technically those recipes are mis-combined– though, they do still stick to the most basic rule, which is not to combine starches with protein. They should definitely be considered a treat!
I would use a ground flax egg instead of regular egg if you want to keep to the same category. It works great!
I like to use organic canned coconut milk in creamy soup recipes. Can I combine canned coconut milk with starches to make creamy squash soups? Also is it okay in curry recipes that contain flesh?
Canned coconut milk actually falls into the nut/seed category, because it’s made from mature coconuts. Unless you’re making your own coconut milk, blending together young coconut meat and water, it wouldn’t be a perfect combination to mix it with starches. However, I find that the more liquid a substance (such as a soup) the easier it is to digest overall, so it wouldn’t be the biggest deal to mis-combine there.
I have recently bBeen note rested in food combinig and have been doing some research but there are a lot of contradictions out there! Some say that avocado is in the protein category, and then some say you should only have one concentrated protein at a meal, and that dairy products should be eaten on their own… !? I’m also curious about fruit … Some sources say that you can mix acid fruits with protein? And then in some baking recipes use applesauce or other fruits with grain or nut flours and then add eggs to that as well… Any thoughts on how to sort all of this out? I’m also wondering if you have ever read the book “eating Alive” by John matsen? Thanks!
I don’t like to get too complicated with food combining rules, so the chart above is what I follow to keep things simple. Also, I feature some recipes on my site that are not properly combined, but they could be considered helpful “transition foods” for people who are coming off the Standard American Diet. I always encourage people to upgrade the quality of their foods, even if they aren’t perfectly combined, so any step in the right direction is a good thing, if you ask me!
I’m also curious about flaxseeds? Where do they fall in?
Flaxseeds are a seed, so they’re in the nut/seed category.
What about fruits that are thought of as vegetables in a culinary sense. I cant see Tomatoes, capsicums (peppers), zucchinis, cucumbers, pumpkin? Are these best eaten with nuts, seeds and dried fruit and neutrals? Can you have tomato with a grain meal?
Also, where do we draw the line between seed and grain? I know that quinoa and amaranth are often referred to as “seed grains”. Also, seed grains have a lot of protein and carbs – so why are these better for us than legumes? Is it the particular types of protein??
Also, which category do sprouts fall under? One more question, noticed that raw hummus, is that made of chickpeas? Do you still consider sprouted legumes/peas as acidic/heavy. which category do they fall in once sprouted??
Can you recommend a good book on food combining, something with a bit of detail and scientific focus?? Excited to read more, as everything I have recently started reading about food combining really reflects my experience.
good book on food combining is sherie brescias, great taste no pain..
I was hoping this question would be answered. I was kinda wondering this myself. I have read those should not be combined (unless with each other) because they are fruit.
Non-sweet fruits, such as zucchini or tomatoes, can be considered neutral for basic food combining purposes.
To answer the other questions above, I consider quinoa and amaranth to fall into the grain category, even though they are technically seeds. Sprouts, like alfalfa or broccoli, are leafy greens and can be considered neutral. Even when they’re sprouted, I’d still consider chickpeas to be a legume, but they would be easier to digest than non-sprouted versions. I personally combine all beans/legumes as a starch.
Love how you made your own little chart. Might do the same for my site. Hehe love yours soo much! xx
Can you tell me where legumes fit in this chart. Thank you
Please see my responses to the comments above regarding beans and legumes.
Hmmm this smells like a bunch of bullshit to me!
You’re welcome to have your own opinion.
You have a blunt approach to matters
as I can clearly see in your B.S. response.
As a healthcare professional for 38 years,
I have struggled with indigestion and even
underwent a total collecting 4 years ago.
Nothing has provided me with more relief
more than proper food combining and mean
NOTHING! So maybe it just takes some
folks a major health set back to wake ’em
It’s my understanding that melons do not combine well with anything else- including other fruits as they’re listed in category 1 of your chart. They’re good for you, but any melon should be eaten by itself.
Yes, that’s true! I didn’t make it clear on my chart, but I always recommend eating melons alone.
Hi, there! I really appreciate the spirit of this page, but a better approach to naturally aiding digestion is lowering your FODMAP intake. Here is a link to Sue Shepherd’s website, a doctor in Australia who has done extensive research into the low FODMAP diet: http://shepherdworks.com.au/disease-information/low-fodmap-diet
Her advice was specifically formulated for people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Fructose Malabsorption (which I have), Gluten Intolerance, and Lactose Intolerance, which all cause pain and bloating after consuming different foods. However, even “normal” people will benefit from reading and understanding the mechanics of digestion of FODMAP’s, categories of foods that all people have trouble digesting. Those of us with intolerances have fewer of the enzymes that “normal” people have, but even “normal” people have a limited amount of each category of enzymes that deplete as the food is digested. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FODMAP)
As an example, eating an all-fruit meal will overload your small intestine with fructose, one of the naturally occurring sugars. As the food passes through, the enzymes that move the fructose through the intestine wall are depleted. The fructose then passes into the large intestine, where the gut bacteria feed vociferously. This causes gas, bloating, flatulence, and pain.
Hope this helps.
hi samantha! i have IBS and am roughly following a low FODMAPs diet. do you have any more sources I can look at? thanks!
Hi, I usually have overnight oats:
oatmeal, almond milk- but the kicker here is chia seeds. Can I include those? What about Greek yogurt and chia seeds? So no greek yogurt and strawberries etc either?
Yes, it sounds like you got it! It’s not easy to adjust to new food combinations at first, but with practice, it does become an easy habit. Please don’t feel pressure to give up your usual healthy combinations, though, since food combining isn’t always for everyone.
Am I allowed to eat fruit + yoghurt? Or milk?
Or should I use soy milk?
Is it ok to eat oatmeal with soy milk?
Thanks a lot!
I don’t care for the term “allowed,” since you are always welcome to eat anything you like! For food combining purposes, fruit would be eaten alone, so without any dairy. I personally avoid soy milk myself, but non-dairy milks are generally considered neutral and can be enjoyed over cereals.
Thank you so much for your reply. I think I will continue to add the chia seeds for breakfast but will incorporate the rest as much as I can without letting my diet dictate my life! I loved this website. Last night we went for mexican food, and I made sure to get a burrito with bean and avacado vs the typical bean and cheese thanks to your website. The fruit things an eye opener too- would never had known! Starch wise, whats confusing is “dry beans” are considered to be a starch while beans also fall under a low starch category on other websites. Can you define starchy veggies?
I personally consider beans, potatoes, and winter squash to fall into the “starchy” category. In terms of starchiness, it all depends on what you’re comparing it to. In comparison to leafy greens, beans would be considered pretty starchy. But, compared to a loaf of white bread, beans would be considered “low-starch.”
where would coconut milk be rated?
never mind! I found your response to the same question I had 🙂 thank you
ok Q: what about coffee or hot tea? how and when do you have it? with or without food?
Caffeinated beverages should be consumed at least 30 minutes before eating, and not with or after, to avoid acidifying the food you’re eating.
I’m a bit confused about tomatoes? Acid fruit or vegetable?
still confused about whey protein…what can be combined with whey protein powder?
Hi, I just wanted to say I found your article super helpful. I’ve read through all of the comments and just have a few questions I couldn’t find answers to (here or elsewhere on the net!). What can chia seeds be eaten with? I know they’re a seed, but since they’re so high in protein I thought perhaps they would be chunked into that group instead. If it’s at all possible, I would really appreciate a specific food example or two, since I used to load chia into everything and now I’m lost! Also, I read that you said coconut milk gets lumped into the nuts and seeds catagory, but almond milk does not. I just wanted to make sure I understood that correctly, because I love coconut milk and find almond milk to taste kind of like plato.
Wonderful website. Plenty of useful information here. I am sending it to some friends ans also sharing in delicious. And obviously, thank you on your effort!
I’ve been using food combining for some years now – without it I get chronic indigestion, acid reflux, heartburn, etc, etc. By combining my foods properly, I can save myself a lot of pain and discomfort!
Sometimes I go “off” the combining, and just have to put up with the consequences, but at least now I have a choice. Previously I was taking medication that didn’t do much, and the dosage had to be increased all the time – I hated that.
One added bonus was that I lost weight without even trying when I first started food combining!
Thanks for the info, the chart is useful!
Hi, in the morning, I usually make a fruit smoothie with coconut milk almond milk and frozen berries. Is that okay to combine??
I have a question about the fresh fruit category. So is it not a good idea to let’s say, have yogurt in the morning topped with fresh blueberries? Or even putting a sliced banana in your cereal?
Thanks so much!
I am new to your site… (I have hardly been able to work I am so addicted to your site!!). I have the Raw Food Detox Diet and I LOVE IT. I have recently picked it up again and started to make a HUGE lifestyle change. I have a hard time quitting grains completely… and I was wondering how you felt about Ezekiel Breads and Tortillas? I like to make delicious (mostly raw) wraps with them, and also avocado sandwiches. I admire you going grain-free!! I may try sometime in the future. I am trying to lose weight and get my health back (I fell completely off the wagon after 15 years as a juicing, almost raw vegetarian). Oh I also wanted to ask about Brown Rice. I find it easier to ask for brown rice as a substitute at restaurants and I also love to eat it at home with roasted and grilled veggies. One last thing- I recently bough bulgur at Trader Joe’s (I live in LA too) and I was trying to come up with some recipes with it. How do you feel about bulgur?
Thanks for your help and advice!! And thank you so much for this amazing website!!!!!
I think high-quality grains can definitely be a part of a healthy, detox-lifestyle! I’m not 100% grain-free, so I still enjoy Ezekiel products and whole grains, as well. I’ve never worked with bulgur, but it sounds like something fun to experiment with!
Best of luck to you!
Just want to say i love love love your blog!!! So thankful i stumbled across it as your recipes are quick easy and simple ingredients that are easy to have around!!!! Just wondering if you have an instagram i can follow? I am currently at uni studying to be a nutritionist.
So glad to hear you’re enjoying my blog! You can find me on Instagram as Detoxinista: http://instagram.com/detoxinista
Hi, just came across your site, and can’t stop reading, going to give it a try, after all I’ve tried everything else in hopes to shed unwanted wieght gain and nothings been working.
I was wonderimg about BBQ sauce on meats and butter on breads, I am confused about the condiments.. so what spread do you put on breads? How to flavor potatoes? Butter yes/no?…. ok for Honey to be used with butter on toast? I think I understand the rest of it but not quite sure how to flavor foods? No artificial sweetner either?
Butter and honey, and small amounts of other condiments, can be considered neutral. Flavorings, such as herbs and vinegars, are also considered neutral. I avoid all artificial sweeteners.
Hello there. I have a few questions. If I wanted to eat oatmeal for breakfast, what other foods would you suggest with it? I’m also looking at blood sugar levels.
Secondly, I tend to make a smoothie that contains blue berries, spinach, kale, a cup of blue berry kefir, a banana and I throw things in like maca and cinnamon in it. Is this okay? I’m worried about the combining, particularly the kefir and now the banana after reading your post.
Let me know what you think. Thanks!
I stumbled upon your site and now I follow regularly. I love your recipes! If you have the time I was wondering about your feelings on combining fresh fruit with a raw vegan protein powder. In the mornings I usually do a spinach, fresh fruit, almond milk smoothie with some sun warrior protein which is a blend of pea, cranberry, and hemp protein fortified with coconut oil. I feel great having this for breakfast but is it miscombined?
Thank you! 🙂
How the hell can you ever get enough calories if you’re a vegetarian (vegan +eggs) and limit yourself to food combining rules..?
I should be eating nuts all day.. i’m nearing anorexia (on the bottom of my bmi score and still falling)
What the hell should i do.. my brain is starting to hurt (though that could be because of a lack of some vitamins or whatever??)
I eat a whole lot of vegetables but those things dont have calories..
i might be lucky if i get over 1000 calories a day, but i think i don’t even get there, while an adult male should at least get over 2000.
If i eat nuts i’m not allowed to eat anything for 4 hours correct? if i eat eggs i can’t eat nuts and can’t eat for 4 hours correct? if i eat starch i can’t eat nuts and can’t eat for 3 hours correct?
There’s absolutely no way to get enough calories unless the only thing you eat is nuts all day.. or a rediculous amount of nuts at once..
hi! i dont know how old your comment is but i hope this helps!
i dont follow food combining completely, but i hope this helps. food combining as detoxinista said, isnt for everyone.
try this: in the morning, have a big bowl of berries or melon (or some fruit), about an hour later, a bowl of oatmeal with some protein powder and non dairy milk
for lunch, leafy greens w 1+c lentil or bean salad with diced raw veggies or roaseed vieggies, roasted squash or other carb also
for snack, 2 sevrings trail mix (1/4c nuts & 1/4+c dried fruit)
for dinner, a big sald (2+c leafy greens), 2 eggs, 1c diced raw veggies, 1 roasted veggies, salsa, etc, yogurt
add in snacks, like she said dark choc or milk or non dairy milk as you see it! hope it helps and good luck<3
Thanks for this very simple explanation of food combining. I have hereditary gout and recently cut way back on my protein consumption. I had instinctively followed many of these guidelines and it is great to have some understanding behind it. I went from a 33 to 30 waist in about one month(nice side benefit). Keep up the good work.
Trying to figure out where pumpkin fits in-is it considered a starch?
On what do you base that nuts and dried fruit combine well, since every other site about food combining explicitely says that that’s a very bad combination?
I hope you’re right cause i’m making bars with that stuff now.. but we’ll experience that soon enough probably.
Is it acceptable to have oatmeal made with almond milk when following the rules of food combination? Thankyou
Yes, almond milk is considered neutral for most purposes, since the fiber is removed.
Is there anything you should not pair olive oil with?
Olive oil is pretty neutral, so I wouldn’t worry about how it combines since it’s usually used in such moderate amounts.