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Food Combining Re-Visited

Going back a couple of posts: Thank you all for your feedback regarding the pasta salad recipes! I look forward to providing more recipes within the next few months that will work great at picnics during the warmer months, veggie pasta recipes, and some more vegetable based dressings!
One of my first posts on this blog was on food combining.  It was for good reason. Food combining really changed my health for the better. It was the difference between a bloated, uncomfortable belly, and a flat, calm belly. It was also the difference between a bad night of sleep and a good night of sleep, or a lack of energy or abundant energy throughout the day.
With that being said, sometimes people are really overwhelmed by the idea of food combining. This is because food combining has a lot of quirks. For example, one of the main principles of food combining is that fruit should always be eaten only on an empty stomach, however, bananas are an exception to this rule (they combine with avocados as well as nuts). If my experience has taught me one thing, it’s that a lot of people really do not need to know about these exceptions at first in order to improve their digestive health. It may confuse them and scare them away from food combining all together. This is a shame, because this simple practice can truly alleviate (or even diminish) your symptoms and help you progress much more quickly.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am pretty strict with food-combining. I’ve tried mis-combining foods to see what happens, such as say: millet with macaroons for dessert, or a sweet potato with macaroons for dessert, and it just doesn’t leave me feeling too well. A lot of people think I take this too seriously, but the truth is, I just don’t like feeling less than my best! I have always been particularly sensitive to how I feel physically. When I don’t feel my best physically, I don’t feel my best mentally or emotionally either. However, I realize that many people don’t feel their best if they do not allow themselves go out and have Shrimp Scampi at their favorite restaurant with their partner. We’re all entitled to do what allows us to enjoy our lives in the fashion we would like to.
So today I would like to present to you a simplified food combining approach. This type of food combining is for someone who is new to the concept, a bit intimidated, but also really wanting to improve their digestive health. Remember, the results that you will experience with food combining properly will not be subtle, especially if you are suffering from IBS- (irritable bowel syndrome) like symptoms: constipation, diarrhea, bloating, cramping, or excessive gas. This isn’t to say that someone who experiences non-stomach related issues won’t benefit from proper food combinations (such as skin breakouts or headaches/ migraines). On the contrary, skin breakouts are directly related to our digestive health, the skin reflects toxins that the colon is not able to eliminate. Once the colon is congested, the lymph backs up, and the body will push the toxins out of the skin. Migraines and the head in general are directly related to the colon and also the amount of gas pressure we experience, which is directly related to our food combinations.

How is what we eat related to our skin or our head? That’s a great question. When you eat food in poor combinations (such as animal protein with starch, a great example of this would be a slice of pepperoni pizza), this food will create a lot of gas in the digestive tract. This carbonic gas creates pressure, which can result in nausea, headaches (this is literally pressure on the stomach, or pressure on the skull from the carbonic gas), and constipation (which means the bowel is impacted and the waste will show up on the second most important elimination organ: the skin). Let me illustrate for you an ill-combined meal and what happens in the digestive tract.

When you eat animal protein (such as chicken), the stomach utilizes the digestive enzyme pepsin to break this down, which is an acidic enzyme. When you eat starches (such as rice or a yam), the stomach utilizes an alkaline medium to break it down. So what happens when we combine animal proteins with starches? Both the acid and alkaline mediums arrive in the stomach to break down these foods. Having acid and alkaline in the stomach at the same time results in neutralization of the acid enzyme and the alkaline medium. In other words, the food just sits and begins to ferment because there is no digestive assistance from stomach acids.

The result from this sort of mis-combination is that the food moves very slowly out of the body, causing a lot of discomfort via gas and fermentation. The longer food sits in the digestive tract, the more it ferments and feeds yeast. This results in constipation, bloat, nausea, along with many other symptoms. It’s really not surprising that the typical modern diet, filled with cooked animal flesh and starch combinations, has resulted in so much obesity, poor digestive health, and illnesses of all kinds. It all starts with what we are eating and the combinations we are eating it in!

Fun fact: cooked yams combine as a starch, but raw they combine nuetrally. They are delicious raw! Kind of like carrots, only yummier and sweeter.

So here is food combining explained as simply as possible, for those of you who are maybe a bit intimidated by the idea of food combining, but also desperately want to change your current digestive situation.

1. Eat fruits on an empty stomach.

If you are eating melons (watermelon, honeydew, or cantaloupe), eat them before the other fruits (such as in the case of a fruit salad- which is so popular and refreshing at summer gatherings!).

Since fruit has such a quick transit time and leaves the stomach in about thirty minutes, you can enjoy other types of foods relatively soon after. Raw vegetables are fine with all fruits other than melons for most people (remember, it‘s important to be conscious of how you feel after you combine foods, not everyone will react the same way to the same foods).

2. Keep Animal Protein and Starches Separate

This is the most offensive mis-combination and it is also the most common. Many vegetarians and especially vegans have little to think about in the realm of food-combining because the animal foods are left out for the most. However, most of us are not following a vegan diet and do not have this as a goal. This is perfectly fine! We can still enjoy high quality animal foods at times and still progress once we have the knowledge of food combining.

That’s it! Start with these simple rules and see how you feel.

If You Want to Step it Up a Notch:

Simply have a raw vegetable salad before your meal to equip your body with more enzymes and life to help digest your meal.

If you are having a meal with starches such as baked yams, brown rice, millet, or whole grain pasta, you can enjoy it with a nice raw vegetable salad with avocado prior to the meal. Along with dinner, you can enjoy all kinds of delicious steamed vegetables, since these combine nuetrally.

If you are having animal protein with your dinner, such fish, eggs, or other meats, you can sprinkle some raw goat’s cheese on top of your raw vegetable salad. You can enjoy this meal along with steamed non-starchy vegetables (any vegetable besides winter squashes, yams, peas, and cooked corn).*

Once you get into the world of dried fruits, nuts, seeds, dried coconut, and different types of fruit, food combining can become a bit more complicated, which is why I left it out of this post. For people with very sensitive digestion, it’s best to avoid these food groups until your body has had some time to heal.

People often ask me about the research supporting food combining. If you would like to learn more in depth information about food combining, I would recommend the book “Food Combining Made Easy” by Herbert Shelton (despite that title, I think the book actually makes food combining seem much more complicated). This is how I feel: I do not need Herbert Shelton or anyone else to tell me that we shouldn’t be eating from several food groups in one meal. For one: my body tells me this manner of eating is not right for me by becoming bloated and exhausted whenever I would poorly combine my meals, and that’s reason enough for me. Additionally, have you ever observed how animals eat in the wild? Do we see any other species making their meals so complicated? Not really. We are living with programming that tells us we need a breakfast that really “sticks to our ribs” to keep you full until lunch, or that we need to have protein at every meal for energy, or that we need to have our carbohydrates in the form of grains and potatoes. I am aware that food is much more than just food to most of us: it is a form of nourishment, comfort, and can even remind us of happy and festive times with family and friends. I feel you! However, by making some simple changes, you can enjoy those foods you love without putting your digestive system through as much stress. Simple food combining principles can do this for you. You can have your heavier, more comforting foods, just in the right combinations! You will still feel nourished and satisfied.
Part of the beauty of food combining is that it helps to clear our midsection and can make us more sensitive to what is going on in there. I feel that this is our first step to becoming more clear on what sits well with us digestively and what doesn’t, or what agrees with our body and what doesn’t. It’s very empowering to know that you can FEEL what is right for your body, without having to read a million books to make sense of all your ailments.

I’d also like to note the differences between men and women’s digestion. Men typically have much stronger digestion than women. This is why (for example) my husband can get away with an occasional salmon and brown rice dinner and not feel it too much. He eats really well and takes great care of himself, but he can handle dietary indiscretions like this a couple times a month without drawbacks. I on the other hand, wouldn’t be so foolish to consume this! It would leave me feeling awful. Enrrico simply has stronger digestion than I do. This is a very common male/female difference.

My best advice to you is to try your best with this and not to become too militant about it. Some people are more sensitive to mis-combinations than others depending on their health history. You will know if a certain food, or combination of foods is bad for you based on how it makes you feel, but it may take you some time on a whole foods diet to be really clear on how certain foods truly affect you.


A lot of people ask me if they should worry about food combining with their children. My answer is no. Kids typically like to graze throughout the day, so paying attention to their food combinations will probably drive you crazy. It’s important to realize that young children, especially when raised on mother’s milk and a plant-based diet, are highly intelligent and intuitive. They don’t need us to tell them what to eat and when to eat it (this was evident to me quite clearly at my cousin’s daughter’s second birthday party. When she was offered a piece of birthday cake, she reached for watermelon from a nearby fruit platter instead!). Personally, I think that enforcing food combining rules on a child can be far more destructive than beneficial. Our culture is so pre-occupied with food, and children get that message loud and clear. They don’t need the people who love them to put even more focus on food and the “rules” surrounding it. Food should not be complicated, and kids know that (again, because they are so intuitive and intelligent!). So try not to confuse them.

My advice for those of you with kids is to empower them by allowing them to make their own choices around what they consume. Have fresh, abundant fruit available for them to grab whenever they are hungry. Don’t push foods on them that they don’t like, whether it is a particular type of animal flesh, or a particular vegetable. If you provide, wholesome, natural foods for them (especially if you start their life this way), that is most likely what they will go for almost all of the time.

On another note, Casey and I are starting up our next group of The Juicy Life, in only 11 days! We already have a great group ready to go, and we are excited for more people to sign up! I have to say here, (in the spirit of good digestion), that there is no better digestive health tune-up than regular cleansing and fasting, whether that is a juice fast, or a juice and blended foods fast with some salads, too (it’s all included and a part of “The Juicy Life”…we do not discriminate!). Casey and I hope you’ll join us and we will be so happy to guide and support you!

It is gorgeous outside today in the Lancaster area. Even if you are super busy inside an office, take five minutes, get outside, and breathe!

*It’s crucial to get the highest quality animal foods when you want to consume them: organic, free-range eggs from a trusted source (visit your local farmers market and find someone who cares about the food they’re providing the public), wild fish, organic free-range chickens and organic meats in general. While I do not recommend eating animal flesh on a regular basis for anyone, I do feel that it can be included in a relatively healthy diet if it is of high quality, and it is much better than eating processed soy burgers and other soy meat substitutes. This is why I mention them here.


  1. Hey Marlena. Quesh! My understanding is that the stomach maintains an acidity of 1.5-3.5 at all times, which would negate this particular part of food combining theory. Is that in contradiction with your understanding?

  2. Marlena Torres, C.N. says:

    Hi Gena, Which particular part of the theory are you talking about? Do you mean the part where I explained how starches need an alkaline medium and proteins need an acidic enzyme to break down the food? If so, my personal experience and that of my clients (both nutritional and those who come in for colonic treatments), has showed me that combining starch and protein in the stomach at the same time is detrimental to the digestive system, causing much gas, bloat, and constipation. I've tried it myself to test it out despite what I've read in different books, and I simply feel awful. It's not as bad when I have miscombined avocado with tahini or sweet potato with coconut as it would be if I were to have salmon with rice, but both leave me (and those that I've worked with) feeling tired, cranky, bloated, and constipated, and that is where my understanding comes from.
    I do believe that some people have an easier time digesting miscombined foods, that is very obvious to me. While these posts are for everyone, they are mainly directed at the emails I get from people who are suffering from severe IBS, and colitis.
    Thanks SO much for reading!!!

  3. No prob! I've had mucho fun reading your posts from this week! I try to catch up more frequently, but lately my blog reading comes in giant batches when I can make it happen :)

    I mean that the fact that our stomach's are highly acidic would seem to negate the notion that enzymes themselves are either acidic or alkaline in the stomach (or that they need either environment within the stomach). It's not something I personally believe — I think food combining works either as a placebo or because eating simply tends to not aggravate indigestion for reasons that are separate from enzyme function — but I was curious to hear a food combining proponent's take on it! Thanks for responding to me.


  4. Marlena Torres, C.N. says:

    Aw thank you! I always have fun reading your posts, too!
    I see what you're saying about the enzymes, I'll have to look into that more, but I agree with you that eating simply (and in moderate portions) is the best way to go! I find that small miscombos (such as sweet potato followed by a macaroon or two), doesn't bother me too much, but if I were to have 2 sweet potatoes with 6 macaroons, I'd be in trouble.
    I also had an experience early in my cleansing days where I mixed salmon and brown rice in a meal, and I felt completely ill afterward. Never did it again! Ew!

    Thanks again for commenting/questioning! I love hearing from everyone!!! XO

  5. Hi Marlena, Love your blog.

    I'm new to food combining but not new to healthy food. I've been eating right for years but just not in the right combination!

    I'm excited about this new venture and have been gathering information from many sources. I've got the basics down, but there are several areas where many sources conflict. I'd like to hear your take on them:

    1) Some books say it's alright to combine fats with proteins. Some online sources say never to combine fats with proteins.

    2) How about fats with fats? Can I toast pumpkins seeds in Sesame oil? Olive oil?

    3) How about fats with starches? Some say to put butter on toast, others say never to put butter on toast.

    4) Are NON-FAT milk/cream cheese/cottage cheese classified differently than their WHOLE counterparts? I've read it was so.

    5) Can I use goat milk on cereal, or is that still a protein with a starch? I love goat milk!

    6) Since tomatoes have that acid/alkaline anomaly, many sources say never to eat them with protein OR starch (no tomato with meat, no tomato with pasta) and only with salads. Other sources don't mention it at all.

    7) Is nutritional yeast neutral and can I sprinkle it on everything?

    8) Are nuts really neutral and can I still add them to my oatmeal? I always thought they were a concentrated protein.

    I'd like to be as strict as possible with this, because it sounds like fun, so I appreciate any input you can give. Thanks for all the information you provide here, and for your beautiful swirly graphics!

    Carol Christopher

  6. Marlena Torres, C.N. says:

    Thanks Carol!

    There are a lot of differing opinions out there regarding food combining. My opinion is that the whole idea is that we are eating simply, resulting in the most efficient digestion possible.

    Please refer to my previous blog post of food combining as well (where I go into more detail) here: http://www.sunshinecenterblog.com/2009/05/food-combining-and-digestion-basics.html

    - I do not recommend doubling up on fats…it's just too much work for the liver. From a purely digestive standpoint it's ok, but keep in mind that if the liver is overworked, the whole system is overworked. I also don't recommend cooking oils as cooked fats become rancid are particularly damaging to the body.

    - Butter on toast is fine (preferably organic butter on sprouted grain toast, remember that high quality foods are necessary for good digestion). Animal flesh, nuts, and seeds are fats that I would not combine with starches. Butter and oils (along with all other condiments) I consider nuetral for my purposes (and with my clients)

    - Non/Low far counterparts to dairy products etc, as far as I'm concerned are not classified any differently than whole fat. At the same time, the only kinds of dairy I recommend are goat and sheep dairy, preferably raw.

    - Goat milk can combine with a starchy cereal. I wouldn't do this every day though. I would also choose almond milk (such as Pacific brand) over regular goat milk.

    - Tomatoes are alkaline and combine with everything other than fresh fruit.

    - Nutritional yeast is nuetral like all other condoments and can be sprinkled on anythings.

    - Nuts are not nuetral! They combine only with seeds, coconut, dried fruits, and raw vegetables.

    I hope this helps. Food combining does have its quirks, but I recommend keeping it simple…focus on simple meals based around beautiful raw vegetable salads, and if you double up on a far here and there, or eat an avocado salad followed by some nuts or seeds, it is not the end of the world, provided it's not a daily thing.

  7. Thank you for info, I did not know that raw sweet potato combine as neutral food how greta it is. I am doing much more better with food combining. What is your opinion on paleo diet but only with fish?

  8. Marlena Torres (@MarlenaTorres) says:

    Hi Sam,

    The paleo diet is a pretty healthy diet but I don’t think we need very much protein and especially not proteins heavier than fish. I think that fish and eggs and raw goat/sheep dairy are all wonderful foods that can be included on a diet that is healthy and cleansing.

  9. So do you think starches like millet quinoa sweet potato is better for body than lets say lamb?

    Thanks a lot

    • Marlena Torres says:

      That’s a good question. I personally prefer quinoa, millet, and sweet potato over land animal flesh because these plant based options are much less dense than the flesh options. Fish is very different though, as fish is a much less dense flesh. This all depends on who you’re speaking to. If I were talking to a woman who wants to lose weight, I’d encourage her to have fish instead of the starch options, but I would never suggest land animals over quinoa, millet, and yams. I also never advise eating non organic meats or animal foods.
      I hope that answers your question. It’s not always a simple yes/no. Sorry :)

  10. Yes I know it is not simple aways:-)
    I was vegan but know I eat fish and eggs and raw dairy products. I have some animals sources everyday.Can you write me from what vegan can take nutrition like B12, dha epa, vitamin A and vitamin K2 other then supplements. I have read many research that we are note able to convert dha epa from flax also k2 from leaffy greans or Vitamin A from from carrots. So I do not think anymore that vegan diet is heathy. I do juice daily (32-64oz) but incorporate animals protein in the evening.But you are right with flesh I do not eat it only lamb once a moth may be cause I feel to heavy after it. Have you read book from Weston Price? Or Perfect health diet or Vitamin K2 and calcium paradox? They are so great highly reccomend to read .

    • Marlena Torres says:

      I think a vegan diet is definitely healthy but that colon cleansing and other measures need to be taken into account with it for most people. If you are concerned about nutritional deficiencies with a vegan diet, I would get bloodwork done and see the results, and then take high quality supplements if you need to.

      I find that those who do colonics and enemas with a vegan diet rarely have any deficiencies (although depending on where you live, vitamin D is a pretty common deficiency), and I don’t feel that eating animal foods helps to fix the deficiency. I am somewhat familiar with Weston Price but do not agree with his idea that we need a lot of saturated fat and proteins for energy, as my clients and I always feel our most energetic when eating water containing foods with smaller amounts of saturated fats.

  11. Hi

    I have read your food combining and just want to ask if it is ok to mix mature coconut and avocado in some food (like avocado spinach pudding top with shredded coconut) I have read somewhere that it supposed to be ok just want to be sure Thanks

    • Marlena Torres says:

      Hi Misa,

      Technically you do not want to mix mature coconut and avocado. Generally, I find that it’s ok to mix small amounts of mature coconut with avocado, but I find that if you use a lot of coconut (like, more than 1 or 2 tbsp), it often is very heavy feeling because it is just too much fat in one meal, especially for your average woman (but certainly not all woman!)

  12. Thanks a lot

  13. I have a question about combining starches. Sometimes for dinner I have millet or quinoa mixed with sweet potato, and a Tbl. of coconut oil. Sometimes I also bake onions or carrots with the sweet potato and combine them all with the millet. I take a digestive enzyme before I eat it, but I was just wondering if this is a poor combination. I have read that fats mix with starches, and it is OK to combine starches with starches, but I just wanted your opinion. I probably have it once a week or less, but it tastes so good!!! Thanks!

    • Marlena Torres says:

      That’s totally fine!!! The biggest issue I’ve found with fats and food combining is just combining too many types of fat (such as avocado with cheese, or olive oil with nuts) or having too much fat in one meal in general.


  1. [...] at- my roommate has been using it as a guide during the Rose Cleanse. Marlena Torres also has a wonderful post that would be worth reading. For the purposes of the cleanse, “starches” and [...]

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