Ask the experts: Food combining

Q: "A few books that I have read suggest you should never combine proteins with starches, only proteins with vegetables. But almost every meal I eat, vegetarian or not, combines proteins and starches. What do you suggest is the best food combining methodology?"


A: Kristen MacKenzie, health and nutrition consultant, responds:

"Dr William Hay pioneered much of the work on food combining in 1911. He suggested that certain foods should not be eaten together due to different digestive requirements and a different 'acidic environment' being required, but science has moved a long way since that time.

The fact is that protein and carbohydrate require separate digestive enzymes to break them down. These are excreted in response to the protein and carbohydrate content of a meal and work independently of each other. All foods, regardless of their 'acidity', are processed in an acidic environment in the stomach before being neutralised in the intestine. Also, most foods naturally contain a combination of protein, carbohydrate (and fat) in different ratios. Even breast milk, our bodies' chosen food source for infants, is a combination of protein, carbohydrate and fat.

Though food combining may be tempting, the reality is that it is based on a theory that has since been well and truly debunked by science. In fact, trying to eat a diet where carbohydrate is not eaten at the same time as protein is impossible – food doesn't come like that! And your digestive system is quite happy to process protein and carbs together. If you are having digestive issues or chronic decreased energy levels, it's probably time to see a professional."

First published: Jun 2008

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