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Food Combining Simplified

An easy to understand article on the principles of food combining.

This article summarizes some food combining principles from chapter 26 of Shelton's book The Science and Fine Art of Food and Nutrition. Shelton advocated strict vegetarianism (also known as dietary vegan) as well as eating foods in their natural raw state.

It is important to note that food combining has nothing to do with protein combining which was an amusing bit of panic prevalent in the 1970s and 1980s when some people thought that the vegetarian has to eat foods in certain proportions in order to get a proper protein balance. This misconception persisted partly because of a misinterpretation of Frances Lappe Moore's idea that one has to combine foods in order to get the same protein balance that meat provides. Some people thought she meant the vegetarian has to combine foods so as to get the right balance of proteins which of course assumes that meat has the right balance of proteins for humans. This notion is complete nonsense as evidenced by clinical studies as well as by the historically healthy existence of vegetarians throughout history. Meat does not provide the 'right' combination of proteins, nor is it at all desirable to food combine to simulate that protein profile (which of course varies anyway depending upon the source).

Food combining has to do with eating certain foods together so as to optimize the digestive process. Eating a large variety of foods at one sitting forces the digestive system to try to accommodate for the different types of nutrients. As a result certain foods don't get digested well, experience fermentation and can cause discomfort or even ailments.

For instance, it is unwise to eat heavy proteins (acidic) and heavy carbohydrates (alkaline) together. Beans are an interesting example, since many people experience great discomfort after eating them. Beans are about 25% protein and 50% carbohydrate, providing an awkward combination for the digestive system since the conditions required for digestion of acidic nutrients are quite different from those of alkaline substances. While it is possible to 'help out' with digestive enzymes, it is best to minimize consumption of foods and food combinations that are difficult.

Below we provide some rules derived from Shelton's chapter.

  1. Do not eat carbs and acid foods at the same meal
  2. Do not eat concentrated proteins and concentrated carbs at the same meal
  3. Do not eat 2 concentrated proteins at the same meal
  4. Do not eat fats with proteins
  5. Do not eat acidic fruits with proteins
  6. Do not eat starches and sugars together
  7. Eat only one concentrated starch at a meal
  8. Do not consume melons with any other foods

For details, rationale and evidence of the above see Shelton's book.

The chart below gets into some specifics regarding which foods should and should not be eaten together.

Simplified Food Combining Chart

(for full details see Chapter 26 The Science and Fine Art of Food and Nutrition by H. Shelton)

NonStarchy and Green Vegetables
Proteins Or Starches
lentil sprouts
garbanzo sprouts
wild rice
starchy vegetables

Subacid Fruits
(All fruits not Sweet or Acid)
Acid Fruits Or Sweet Fruits
sour tasting fruits
Acid Fruits
Sweet Fruits
sweet grapes
dried fruits

vegetables, proteins or starches
nuts with citrus
lettuce and celery with fruit

Miscellaneous notes

tomatoes eat with green and non-starchy vegetables and protein
avocadoes best with salad
melons eat alone
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