FUNCTIONAL FOOD COMBINING
Functional food combining is another form of food combining sometimes used in functional nutrition to help heal the gut and support weight loss. It’s a creative way to nurture and support digestion through whole foods and mindful food combinations.
Unlike nutrient synergy, which explores how foods work together to boost nutrition and support health, this version highlights which combos are best to avoid. Rather than working together, these foods are thought to work against each other when included in the same meal. This is mostly due to the rate at which each food is digested.
According to this theory, combining foods that break down at different rates may be a major source of digestive discomfort. Avoiding specific combinations may help alleviate bloating and gas, while optimizing metabolism and reducing digestive stress. For example, some nutrients, such as simple carbohydrates, digest quickly. Other nutrients, like proteins and fats, require more time to be broken down into fuel for the body.
Less Desirable Combinations
While there are many versions of food combining from a functional nutrition standpoint, here are some combinations considered most taxing to the digestive system. Avoiding these pairings may help reduce digestive stress.
PROTEIN + STARCHES
Protein and starches included in the same meal may lead to suboptimal digestion. For example, dishes like meatballs and pasta or meat with rice could lead to bloating or discomfort.
Tip: Zucchini noodles and cauliflower rice are great non-starchy substitutes for protein-based meals.
The combination of protein and acid is thought to be additionally taxing on the digestive system. Meats with acidic marinades or fish in an acidic sauce might lead to indigestion.
Tip: Swap seasonings, like oregano, basil, paprika, and cayenne, for the marinades and sauces.
MILK + ANYTHING
For optimal digestion, milk is considered best consumed on its own.
Tip: Consider nut, seed, or oat milks instead
FRUIT + ANYTHING
Based on this theory, fruit shouldn’t be combined with other foods because it digests quickly. In addition, food combining recommends eating fruit on an empty stomach and considers it the perfect food for the morning.
Tip: Make banana “ice cream” by blending bananas in a food processor and putting it in the freezer!
If you love chocolate and texture as much as I do, check out my guilt free, vegan chocolate mouse recipe here
While the combinations above aren’t recommended in this theory, the following pairings are thought to be generally tolerated well.
Protein + Non-Starchy Vegetables: Protein paired with non-starchy veggies
is considered a winning food combo that can help ease digestive strain. This combination is also considered ideal as an evening meal. Here are some examples:
- Chicken + peppers
- Steak + green beans
- Tuna + broccoli
Fruit + Fruit: Fruits are generally considered to combine well with other fruits, but melons – like watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe – are best enjoyed on their own. If you’re interested in exploring different combinations, here are a few ideas:
- Oranges + grapefruit
- Peaches + cherries
- Apples + pears
Nuts + Non-Starchy Vegetables: Fattier foods, like nuts, combine well with non- starchy vegetables. A great way to try this is to add some nuts to a fresh salad or sprinkle them over a vegetable soup. Some other ideas include:
- Walnuts + rocket
- Almonds + cucumber
- Pistachios + Brussels sprouts
Starches + Non-Starchy Vegetables: Starches pair best with non-starchy vegetables. Grains, beans, potatoes, and pumpkin are all starchy foods. Here are some examples of ideal combos:
- Brown rice + asparagus
- Sweet potato + green beans
- Lentils + cauliflower
Other Functional Food Combining Tips
Food combining is about not only the types of foods combined but how those foods are eaten. Eat “lighter” foods, like fruit, earlier in the day and “heavier” foods, like protein-rich dishes, in the middle of the day to best support digestion. Functional food combining also recommends chewing food completely and getting enough water, exercise, rest, and sleep for optimal health
Combining Food For Health
Each school of thought around food combining has unique properties, but they all share the belief that foods should be paired mindfully to best support digestive health and overall wellness.
These may be interesting dietary frameworks to explore, but remember that you’re unique – bio-individuality plays a big role here! These strategies may help you further discover the diet that works best for you. You may find that some combinations work very well for you or you may learn combinations that you don’t tolerate as well.
For more tips on gut health click here