What is Food Combining?

Updated on & Medically Reviewed by Dr Lalitha
What is Food Combining?

Food combining is a dietary approach that suggests certain foods should be eaten together or separately based on their macronutrient composition to optimize digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall health. It is not a diet. You do not give up any food, you just pair it with another food and eat them in the same meal.

The practice of food combining has been popularized by various diet trends and books, but its scientific basis and effectiveness are subjects of debate within the nutrition and medical communities.

While there is limited scientific evidence to support many of the claims made by proponents of food combining, some people find that certain food combinations work well for their digestion. However, these effects can vary widely from person to person.

The idea that eating proteins and fats before carbohydrates slow down the absorption of carbohydrates is a common belief in some diet and wellness circles. This notion is often tied to the glycemic index (GI), which ranks carbohydrate-containing foods based on how quickly they raise blood sugar levels. The theory suggests that by consuming proteins and fats first, you can potentially lower the overall glycemic response of a meal, leading to more stable blood sugar levels.

However, the evidence for this specific practice is not very strong, and the impact of the order of food consumption on glycemic response is not well-established. The glycemic response of a meal is influenced by multiple factors, including the type of carbohydrates consumed, the presence of fiber, the overall composition of the meal, individual metabolic factors, and more.

While it is true that consuming protein and fat along with carbohydrates can help slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates to some extent, it's important to note that the effect may not be significant enough to warrant a strict order of eating. Also, the glycemic index is just one factor to consider when evaluating the nutritional quality of a meal. Other important factors include nutrient density, overall calorie intake, and the nutritional needs of an individual.

Some of the Examples of Best Food Combinations:

1. Fruits with Protein / Fats

Since fruits contain Fructose which is a simple sugar that is easily absorbed, there may be a sharp rise in blood sugar levels post-consumption of certain fruits, followed by a sugar crash. If you combine eating fruits with some nuts or seeds, this will reduce/moderate the sugar rush as well as the sugar crash.

2. Rice with Cauliflower / Broccoli / Mushrooms / Tomatoes / Walnuts

The above combination also reduced the blood sugar spikes post eating the high-carb rice.

3. Eating Protein (Tofu / Chicken) with Rice

Combining proteins or fats with rice is seen to lower the Glycemic index of rice. This effect is seen either when the protein is eaten before the rice or along with the rice.

4. Rice and Lentils

This combination also reduces the Glycemic index of rice.

Ultimately, a balanced and varied diet that includes a mix of macronutrients is generally recommended for overall health. Listening to your body, eating in moderation, and choosing whole, nutrient-dense foods can contribute to a well-rounded and sustainable approach to eating.

Is a Food Combining Diet Healthy?

Dietary recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture promote meals that include protein, cereals, fruits or vegetables, and dairy products. This balanced approach is advised for general health, while it is not required that every food category be present in every meal. In contrast, food-combining diets place a higher value on the time and composition of meals than on exact calorie goals. While closely observing calorie intake based on personal characteristics like age and exercise level might also be advantageous, this technique may work for weight loss in certain cases.

[ Read: Self Care Sunday Carb Counting: Optimizing Your Approach for Blood Sugar Management ]

If you have specific dietary concerns or goals, it's a good idea to consult with a registered dietitian or healthcare professional who can provide personalized guidance based on your individual needs and circumstances. You can try foods in various combinations and check out which combination gives you lesser blood sugar spikes and a happier stomach. Reducing the Glycemic Index of foods is certainly beneficial to the body and surely reduces the stress on Pancreas.


Q) What are the Common Rules of Food Combing?

A) Always eat fruit on an empty stomach
Protein can be paired with non-starchy vegetables
Fats can be paired with non-starchy vegetables
Carbohydrates can be paired with non-starchy vegetables
Always wait 3-4 hours between meals before switching categories
Only consume dairy on an empty stomach.

Q) How Do You Combine Foods to Avoid Blood Sugar Spikes?

A) You can reduce the extent of your blood sugar response by consuming high-GI foods in combination with other foods that are high in fiber, protein, or fat. Therefore, it's likely to result in a lesser response if you eat white rice along with high-protein beans.

Q) Does Protein and Fat help to Reduce Blood Sugar?

A) Fibre, protein, and fats all serve to slow carbohydrate digestion and delay absorption into the bloodstream. This helps to reduce glucose increases after eating.

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Disclaimer: The information provided on this page is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please talk to a healthcare professional.

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