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food combining chart

Why Combining Right Foods Matters

food combining chart

I think combining the right foods is one of the most important things when it comes to eating the healthy way and feeling good.

I always wondered why I have stomach cramps after eating oats with fruits โ€“ now I know that fruits should not be combined with anything besides nuts and seeds.

I am often amazed by the lack of knowledge whenever I happen to eat out โ€“ cooks just know how to combine a plate that will give you bloats, indigestion, and feeling of dizziness or just a simple stomach-ache.  Cooks should be taught the basics of nutrition at school, but unfortunately this is not the case.

And as result people tend to think that it is rather normal to feel uncomfortable after eating, although it should be the other way around โ€“ eating is supposed to make you satisfied, filled with good thoughts, emotions and senses.

Food combining can be applied to any diet to help lose weight, reduce post meal digestive un-ease, improve elimination, resolve skin issues, and to increase energy levels.

Of course there are always people who could even digest steel. These people would not feel the adverse side-effects of combining the wrong foods and are therefore luckier than the rest ๐Ÿ™‚

One of the best known bad combinations is the traditional plate you find in every Italian restaurant โ€“ ham and melon. Now, melon (including watermelon) is the one food that should be eaten alone. In general, it is preferred to eat fruits separately from proteins or starches.

Let us move on to the mechanisms.

How digestion works:

  • you put food or liquid into your mouth, swallow it
  • your body breaks these molecules down into a size it can absorb
  • what your body doesn’t use is excreted as waste

But food is actually broken down in a number of different areas, including in your mouth, stomach, and the first and middle sections of your small intestine respectively.

Furthermore, there are two kinds of digestion:

  • Mechanical (chewing and churning) digestion
  • Chemical digestion

There are three primary categories of food: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Proteins begin their digestion chemically in your stomach. Carbohydrates are divided into two categories: fruits and starches. While fruits pass through your digestive system with relative ease, starches require three levels of breakdown; the very first stage is in your mouth. Thatโ€™s why itโ€™s crucial to carefully chew starchy foods.

According to the rules of food combination, you do not want to mix proteins and starches in the same meal. This means, no bun with your hamburger, no meatballs if you have pasta, no potatoes with your meat… Why is that? Dr. Pickering explains:

โ€œStarches require an alkaline digestive medium to digest. If you put your fist in your stomach while itโ€™s digesting steaks and all that, chances are, you wouldnโ€™t have a hand anymore. The acid is intense… When you mix them both together โ€“ an acid-type of food and an alkaline โ€“ basic chemistry shows that they donโ€™t digest. They neutralize. Then what happens? If the food is not digesting… itโ€™s going through your body [undigested], throwing it into all kinds of turmoil.โ€

Basic rules of food combining:

  • Eat fruits alone. No fruits after a meal for 2-3 hours. Fruits require a lot less time to digest but if there is something in your stomach, they will sit there and ferment. It will give you an uncomfortable bloated feeling. Eat fruits an half an hour before a meal. You could combine fruits with nuts (except peanuts which are considered starch). So, it would be the best to forget about these fancy salads with melon, grapes or orange pieces.
    The exception is apples and bananas which you can add to your oatmeal or in your vegetable smoothie.
  • Tomatoes should not be combined with any starch food as it inhibits starch digestion. So, no pasta with tomato sauce. Sorry! They may be eaten with leafy vegetables and fat foods.
  • Eat melons alone, or leave it alone, or your stomach will moan. Watermelon, muskmelon, honeydew melon, pie melon, casaba melon, cantaloupe, and other melons, should always be eaten alone. These foods decompose very quickly in the stomach and are almost sure to cause trouble if eaten with other foods. If eaten aloneโ€”a meal made of themโ€”so that they are quickly passed out of the stomach, they form excellent and delightful foods.
  • Do not combine different types of concentrated protein in one meal. No fish and chicken, no nuts and dairy, or beans and meat. A meal of combined proteins will take 10-12 hours to digest if you have a strong digestion. It is always easier to digest combined plant proteins โ€“ legumes and grain.
  • If having dairy milk, do not combine it with anything, except vegetables. Definitely no fruity milk shakes unless you are craving mucous curdled milk in your stomach. Milk is the natural food of the mammalian young, each species producing milk peculiarly and precisely adapted to the various needs of its own young.
  • No animal proteins and starches at the same meal (including grains, like rice, and starchy vegetables, like potatoes), as they neutralize each other and prevent proper digestion of either food. Instead, have non-starchy vegetables and ocean vegetables with your protein meals to achieve optimal digestion.
    Non-starchy vegetables and ocean vegetables digest well in acid or alkaline environments, so they go with anything: proteins, oils and butter, grains, starchy vegetables, lemons and limes, and soaked and sprouted nuts and seeds.
    To ensure proper digestion of each food, wait two hours after eating a starch before eating protein. And wait three hours after eating protein before eating a starch. Again, it is easier to digest plant protein and starch. Try out what works best for you.
  • Do not consume concentrated proteins with fats. This means do not use cream, butter, oil, etc., with meat, eggs, cheese, nuts, etc. Fat depresses the action of the gastric glands and inhibits the pouring out of the proper gastric juices for meats, nuts, eggs, or other protein. Fats, mixed with foods, delay the development of appetite juice and diminish its quantity.
  • Keep it light, warm, and simple if tired or stressed. Healing and restoring requires energy, so does digestion. Be smart about how you use your energy resources.

Non-Starchy Vegetables: Leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, carrots, celery, lettuces, green beans, garlic, fennel, onions, chives, turnips, sprouts, red radish, yellow squash, zucchini, cucumber, beets, artichokes, baby corn, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (green, bok choy, Chinese), coleslaw, eggplant, leeks, peppers, radishes, sugar snap peas.

Starchy foods and vegetables: sweet and white potatoes, bread, cereals, rice and pasta, parsnip, plantain, pumpkin, acorn squash, butternut squash, green peas, corn, arrowroot, bananas, breadfruit, chestnuts, peanuts, yams, lentils, chickpeas.

by Nele Liivlaid (Nutriplanet)



  1. I don’t understand… Are olives/avocado really free to combine with anything? Like with meat? Or fruits? I found out that tomatoe is labeled as acid fruit. Somewhere else was mentioned that tomatoes can not be eaten with meat or feta cheese, is that true? These exceptions to the rule make me crazy.:)

    • Nele Liivlaid

      Hi Sophie,

      I’m not an expert unfortunately — I just have done some research online. Also, I haven’t looked into combining animal foods that much because I do not eat any animal derived products myself. As much as I know about tomatoes they shouldn’t be combined with starchy foods.
      As much as I know it is true about olives and avocado.
      Right food combining also is very individual — pay attention to your own body and what it’s telling you after a meal. Some combinations that are fine for some people are not suitable for others.
      Ayurveda also pays a lot of attention to right food combining — maybe you can find some help searching relative websites.

      Good luck!

  2. Is it ok to use Truvia?

    • Nele Liivlaid


      Depends on whether you have health issues. It contains erythritol and you shouldn’t have it if you have gut or Candida issues. I’d prefer pure liquid stevia or xylitol made of birch tree.

  3. I had great results by keeping proteins and starchy foods separate and also trying out different combinations like ricotta cheese and berries, apples and chocolate, fish and garlic and many more.

  4. Diane ansel

    Thank you for this chart, I lost an old scribbled one 20 yrs ago, I work w new mothers and balance is vital!

  5. Do you happen to know how beans and lentils fit into all of this, do we assume it counts with protein, and shouldn’t be eaten with starch either? Have you come across any info in that regard?

    • Hi Naomi! My take is that since legumes contain both starches and protein they can therefore be eaten with other starches, i.e. grains. However, there’s always individuality — in the end it’s about trial and error to figure out what’s best for each person. I hope I make sense ?

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