Don’t mix proteins with carbs? Eat fruit separately to everything else? HFG Nutrition Director Catherine Saxelby calls out food combining.
The theory behind food combining goes back to the early 1900s, but emerges every so often in various forms, including the Hay Diet in the 1920s, the Alkaline Diet in the 1970s and ‘Fit for Life’ in the 1990s. They chase the same notions about digestion and metabolism with rules like “you should never drink water with meals, because it ‘dilutes’ digestive enzymes” or – here’s a good one – ”carbohydrates and proteins should never be put in the stomach at the same time, as they start to ‘rot’’’.
Is there any truth to these ‘rules’?
Our body is designed to break down proteins and carbohydrates ( and fats too) at the same time. An enzyme called amylase resides in saliva and this, along with the upper intestine, works to break down starchy carbs into glucose and fructose, which are absorbed into the bloodstream.
At the same time, our stomach contains pepsin and trypsin, to cut proteins down into amino acids. These enzymes can and do work happily together. If they didn’t, you would never be able to digest a meal like spaghetti bolognese!
Proteins and carbs co-exist
Many healthy foods, like rice, oats, bread, beans and yoghurt, are a mixture of protein and carbs, so you often can’t avoid consuming them together. Indeed, many cultures have thrived, in good health, on such staples for thousands of years! If the body couldn’t process them, we wouldn’t still be eating them.
Will I lose weight?
Many people swear they shed weight on a food combining diet, but I suspect this is simply because there are so many rules about what and when to eat, that you can’t help but end up being too scared to eat anything at all! There’s scant research on food combining as a diet. Only one clinical trial has been conducted, which reported no difference for weight loss when compared to a standard, low-kilojoule diet.
Food combining doesn’t make sense from a digestive, or food, point of view. Your body can handle protein and carbs at the same time – in fact, along with vegies and a bit of fat, that’s what makes a balanced meal.