power to change your relationship with food.
Ever suffer from after-dinner acid reflux or gas? Have you sworn off
because your stomach rebels after a meal of melons? Raw food combining
There's a good reason why you experience these symptoms, and by
learning how your digestive system works you can avoid putting food in
it that will cause these unpleasant consequences.
Think this is a subject
you can ignore?
You might be able to get
away with it, but as a whole our civilization can't. The
antacid pharmaceutical market alone is an $8 billion a year
industry in the United States (1). That sum doesn't even include the
spent on laxatives and other drugs that address our various digestive
and stomach complaints. Simply put, there are a lot of people with sour
stomachs out there.
Although this guide covers raw food combining, I'm also including
explanations that will assist those transitioning from diets that
include meats, grains, dairy, starches and legumes. Although these
foods are not optimal, and in some cases quite harmful, understanding
how the body digests them will help you improve your food choices.
Raw Food Combining: Why
are good physiological
reasons for combining foods properly.
The rules presented below are not based on my own whims, but on
chemistry. Starchy foods, for instance, require an alkaline digestive
medium. Protein-rich foods require an acid medium.
Most people learn in high school that acids and bases (alkalines)
neutralize each other.
If you eat a starch together with a protein -
which happens to be the combination found in most western meals,
such as the iconic meat and potatoes - digestion is impaired because
the body produces two digestive mediums that neutralize each
The end result is a
partially digested mass of food in your gut that can cause many
If your body can't digest your food, bacteria will quickly move in and
ferment and decompose it. Unfortunately, one of the numerous byproducts
of this process is poisonous alcohol, which inhibits nerve function,
among other side effects. It quickly penetrates the gut lining and
enters the blood stream, making you, for lack of a better term, a bit
Another byproduct of the food fermenting in your gut is gas, which
eventually makes its way out of the anus in foul-smelling bursts.
Although some gas is natural, if yours smells badly you're either not
properly combining meals or eating food that just doesn't digest well
the human gut, such as meat.
Raw Food Combining: The Case For Fruits and Veggies
Our species developed in equatorial Africa while eating mostly
water-rich tender greens and
fruit, and that is what our digestive systems are best suited for.
Although our bodies are flexible enough to consume less-than-ideal food
like tubers, we eventually pay the price in degraded health.
Raw fruits and vegetables, unlike the protein and starch-rich foods
digest in a medium that is very close to neutral, but often slightly
They require very little actual digestion in the stomach, and quickly
move on to the intestines, where most of the nutrients are absorbed.
Because the body is not required to produce a constant deluge of
digestive fluids to break these down, eating them uses up considerably
less of your body's energy, leaving more for enjoying life. This at
least partially accounts for the high energy levels claimed by most low
fruit-centered raw foodists.
There is no more perfect diet for a human than fruits and tender
greens, and your meals should be centered around them.
Raw Food Combining: Questions To Ask
Outside of whether a food should be eaten at all, there are essentially
three questions you need to ask yourself when making food
Will this meal result in
acids mixing with bases (either from the foods themselves or from the
digestive mediums the body releases to break them down)?
Will this meal result in
quick-to-digest food being hampered by a slow-to-digest food?
Will the meal
overwhelm the digestive system?
To be able to answer these questions, you have to learn a bit more
about the different types of food.
Raw Food Combining: Your Options
Your options for raw food combining fall into 11 categories based not
culinary classifications, but on the actual composition of the food. If
you're eating well, though, there are only really eight categories
you'll be eating from with any regularity.
It might seem complex, but once you get the hang of it you won't even
need to think about it anymore. For me, it's pretty much instinct.
* = Unhealthy or hard-to-digest food
included for completeness.
Leafy Green Vegetables and Celery
Romaine, Bibb, Iceberg and all other common lettuce varieties. Spinach,
Celery, Celeriac. Fresh herbs such as Basil, Oregano, Parsley, Dill,
Leafy green vegetables (not to be
confused with the tougher greens) are easy to digest and can be
combined with most other foods without a
problem. They digest quickly like fruit, spending little time in the
Examples: Kale, Bok Choy, Asparagus,
Eggplant, Fresh Corn, Brussel Sprouts*, Cabbage, Zucchini, Summer
Squash, Okra, Broccoli, Swiss Chard, Sweet Peppers, Green Peas, beets,
These vegetables are slightly harder to
than the leafy greens above, often containing a bit more starch. They
not be combined with sweet fruits, melons and subacid fruits. Use
caution when combining them with acid fruit. They combine
well with proteins, fats and oils, starches and grains, legumes,
vegetables, and leafy greens and fatty fruits.
Peanuts, Navy Beans*, White Beans*, Lentils*, Black Beans*, Fava
Beans*, Kidney Beans*, Mung Beans*, Chick Peas*, Green Beans*, Lima
Beans*, and Soy Beans*.
Most legumes require cooking to be
digestible. Even when they're cooked, they don't digest well, as
evidenced by the gas they cause, which means they're putrefying. Humans
lack the ability to produce large-quantities of the starch-digestive
enzymes known as amylases needed to break them down in an efficient
manner. Their high protein levels also causes problems. If you're going
to eat these foods, they combine well with other legumes, vegetables
and leafy greens. Use caution when combining them with starches and
grains as well as fats and oils. Do not combine them with proteins or
any type of fruit. Peanuts -which are not actually a nut - are an odd
food. You can read more about their unique digestive challenges here.
Starches and Grains
Potatoes*, Sweet Potatoes*, Yams*, Dried Corn*, Barley*, Buckwheat*,
Carrot, Yucca, Winter Squash*, Wheat*, Breads and Pastas*, Quinoa*, and
As we lack sufficient amylase production
to tackle these foods properly, and they generally wreak havoc on the
digestive system, they cannot be considered optimal. They combine well
with leafy greens and vegetables. Use caution when combining them with
legumes and fats and oils. Do not combine them with proteins or any
type of fruit.
Fats and oils have a number of health
that make them unsuitable for consumption. Read about oils here
and why a low fat diet is necessary for health here. In
terms of food combining, fats tend to slow down the digestion of
whatever they're eaten with. They should not be combined with sweet
fruit, high-fat fruit, melons, proteins and sub acid fruit. Use
caution when combining
them with acid fruits, starches and legumes. They combine well with
leafy greens and vegetables.
Pine Nuts, Pumpkin Seeds,
Sunflower Seeds, Walnuts, Filberts.
Because meat and the other
animal proteins have no fiber, they pass through the digestive system
at a crawl, requiring a barrage of acids to break them down. Animal
proteins are traditionally eaten with a starch, which means they rarely
completely digest due to conflicting digestive mediums. The mass of
undigested meat that results meanders through the
dark, fetid interior of your body in temperatures around 100 degrees
and quickly starts to rot.
Many people say they are "allergic" to fruit or that it gives them
an upset stomach. The reality is usually that they've
mixed a meal of animal protein and starch at dinner, and when they try
to eat fruit the next morning their previous meal is still being
digested. The fruit meets up with this rotting mixture in the stomach
or intestines and combines to create an even worse combination. A
stomach ache can only be expected.
Proteins should not be mixed together, and the general rule of thumb is
to stop at a handful.
It's ok to eat nuts, and they provide us with some important nutrients,
but the body does not digest proteins and fats as easily as it does
leafy greens. It's best to eat them in limited quantities.
Proteins combine well with leafy greens, vegetables and acid fruits.
Use caution combining them with sub acid fruits. Do not combine them
with legumes, starches, fats and oils, melons, high-fat fruits, or
Acid fruits should not be eaten with
sweet fruits, melons, legumes, or starches. Use caution when combining
them with vegetables, fats and high-fat fruit. They combine well with
leafy greens, proteins, and sub acid fruit. At least partially because
of their high water content, acid fruit tends to digest very quickly.
Sub acid fruit combines well with acid
fruit, sweet fruit and leafy greens. Use
caution when combining them with proteins. Do not combine them with
sweet fruit, melons, high-fat fruit, vegetables, legumes, starches, or
fats and oils.
Melons move through the stomach and
digestive system faster than any other fruit, and they often combine
with most other foods. This is why melons, perhaps more than any other
fruit, are often signaled out as upsetting people's stomachs. They
combine well with leafy greens, and that's about it.
Sweet fruit contain less water than most
other fruit, and digests slower. They combine well with leafy green
vegetables, sweet fruit and sub acid fruits. They do not combine well
vegetables, legumes, starches, fats, proteins, and acid fruit.
High-fat fruit is an odd-ball category.
Many could be placed in either the fats/oils category or the sweet
fruit category. These fruits are unique, though, in their
higher-than-usual fat content, increased digestion time, and propensity
for slowing down the secretion of digestive fluids. They should
generally be eaten by themselves or with leafy green vegetables for
optimal digestion. You may be able to get away with combining some of
them - such as avocado- with acid fruit like tomato as part of a salad
Raw Food Combining: Dried Fruit
Dried Fruit of most types is generally considered to fall into the
sweet fruit category. However, without its natural water content, dried
fruit tends to digest poorly and needs to draw water from the body.
Mild dehydration usually results when consuming
more than minimal amounts of dried fruit.
This problem can be partially overcome by soaking dried fruit overnight.
Although fine on occasion, it should probably not be a major staple of
Raw Food Combining: The Implications
What conclusions can we draw from the above information?
Namely, that the way most people on this planet eat makes no sense from
a digestive standpoint, and this bring on the vast majority of
digestive disorders people suffer from.
If you're going to include harmful foods like meat, dairy, and eggs, it
makes sense to eat them by themselves, for instance, which clashes with
our traditional idea of a meal.
raw food combining demands that we rethink how we eat things.
Even the standard idea of a fruit salad, which may combine bananas from
the sweet fruit category, watermelon and cantaloupe from the melon
category, grapes from the sub acid category, and pineapple from the
acid category, really doesn't make sense. You're just asking for gas
and digestive complaints.
Although the idea of mixing foods together seems normal, it is
only normal to our species.
In nature you won't find animals mixing foods. A bonobo camps out under
a mango tree and eats his fill.
Afterward he'll wander away, tracking down a banana tree three hours
later for his next meal.
What you won't see him doing is grabbing an armful of mangoes and
wandering a mile to the banana tree to mash the mangoes between the
bananas to create sandwiches.
If you understand the chemistry of the stomach, it becomes clear that
we have to rearrange our ideas of what constitutes a meal.
Raw Food Combining: Practical Conclusions For Good
Here are some practical
conclusions you can draw on when planning your meals based on the
The most easily digested
meals consist of one type of fruit eaten to satiation. If you must mix
fruit, do so according to the rules outlined above.
Leafy green vegetables
digest well with virtually anything. This allows us to follow up a
dinner meal of oranges, for example, with a salad of lettuce, spinach,
celery, tomatoes, and and acid-based dressing with no problems.
Eat acids and starches at
separate meals because acids neutralize the alkaline digestive medium
needed for starch digestion. The result of this combination is usually
Eat proteins by themselves
or with leafy greens. Don't mix proteins.
Be careful when you mix
anything with a food that has a high fat content. This includes fats
and oils, high-fat fruits, and even nuts, which are over 50 percent fat
and take hours to digest. Do not combine fats
and proteins. Keep fats under 10 percent
of calories consumed. Our body has a limited ability to digest fat,
so do not overwhelm the digestive system with too much.
Eat melons alone.
Raw Food Combining: In the Real World
There are numerous subtilties and nuances of food combining that are
covered here, and leeway must always be given for individual digestive
It's very clear that some people can get away with the worst dietary
abuses without immediate repercussions. This does not mean these ideas
are any less valid.
For instance, when I combine cantaloupe with any other food I get a
stomach ache. I am able to combine watermelon with other very watery
fruit like tomatoes without a problem, however.
Most people have no problems with subacid and sweet combinations, but
they certainly bother me.
Always try for eating meals of just fruit. Throw in a large salad once
a day. Strive toward that, and you'll do fine.
Raw Food Combining: Can We Simplify This?
There's certainly something to be said for simplicity. If you're on a
raw food diet you can try a simplification of the above rules, although
your results are unlikely to be as good.
Try this: When it
comes to fruit, just make a distinction between dry fruit and
wet fruit. Bananas and dates, for instances, which are fairly dry,
would not be eaten with oranges or tomatoes, which are wet.
I know those who tackle raw food combining this way, although they
sometimes run into problems with melons and other combinations.