How Food Combination Should Be Done?

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Food combining or scientifically called, Tropology, is the science of correct food combining, the art of knowing which foods go best with which others.

‘Food combining’ may also mean to the combination of foods which are compatible with each other in terms of digestive chemistry.

Food combining is a basic component of optimal nutrition because it allows the body to digest and utilize the nutrients in our foods to their full extent.

Most would agree that “Food combining is based on the theory that different food groups require different digestion times. Digestion is helped the most by using foods which have roughly the same digestion time.”

Thus, correct food combinations are important for proper digestion, utilization, and assimilation of the nutrients in our diet. The principles of food combining are dictated by digestive chemistry.

Different foods require different digestive enzymes to aid in the digestive process – some acid, some alkaline.

vegetables-food combination

Below is a list of foods and their digestion time.
  • Water  when stomach is empty, leaves immediately and goes into intestines,
  • Juices
  • Fruit vegetables, vegetable broth – 15 to 20 minutes
  • Semi-Liquid 
    • (blended salad, vegetables or fruits) – 20 to 30 minutes
  • Fruits
    • Watermelon – 20 minutes digestion time
      Other melons – Cantaloupes, Cranshaw, Honeydew etc. – digest in 30 minutes
      Oranges, grapefruit, grapes – digest in 30 minutes
      Apples, pears, peaches, cherries etc. – digest in 40 minute
    • Vegetables
      • Raw tossed salad vegetables – tomato, lettuces, cucumber, celery, red or green pepper, and other succulent vegetables – 30 to 40 minutes digestion
  • Steamed or Cooked Vegetables
    • Leafy vegetables – escarole, spinach, kale, collards etc. – 40 minutes – Zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, string beans, yellow squash, and corn on a cob – all have 45 minutes digestion time
      Root vegetables – carrots, beets, parsnips, and turnips etc. – 50 minutes digestion time
  • Semi-Concentrated Carbohydrates – Starches
    • Jerusalem artichokes & leafy, acorn & butternut squashes, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam, chestnuts – all have 60 minutes digestion
  • Concentrated Carbohydrates – Grains
    • Brown rice, millet, buckwheat, cornmeal, oats (first 3 vegetables are the best) – 90 minutes digestion time
  • Legumes & Beans – (Concentrated Carbohydrate & Protein)
    • Lentils, limas, chick peas, peas, pigeon peas, kidney beans, etc. – 90 minutes digestion time
      Soybeans -120 minutes digestion time
  • Seeds & Nuts
    • Seeds – Sunflower, pumpkin, pepita, sesame – Digestive time approx. 2 hours.
      Nuts – Almonds, filberts, peanuts (raw), cashews, brazil, walnuts, pecans etc. – 2 1/2 to 3 hours to digest
  • Dairy
    • Skim milk, cottage or low-fat pot cheese or ricotta – approximately, 90 minutes digestion time
      whole milk cottage cheese – 120 minutes digestion
      whole milk hard cheese – 4 to 5 hours digestion time
  • Animal Proteins
    • Egg yolk – 30 minutes digestion time
      Whole egg – 45 minutes digestion time
      Fish – cod, scrod, flounder, sole seafood – 30 minutes digestion time
      Fish – salmon, salmon trout, herring, (more fatty fish) – 45 minutes to 60 digestion time
      Chicken – 1½ to 2 hours digestion time (without skin)
      Turkey – 2 to 2 ¼ hours digestion time (without skin)
      Beef, lamb – 3 to 4 hours digestion time
      Pork – 4½ to 5 hours digestion time


Dr. Hay and Food Combining

“Any carbohydrate foods require alkaline conditions for their complete digestion, so must not be combined with acids of any kind, as sour fruits, because the acid will neutralize. Neither should these be combined with a protein of concentrated sort as these protein foods will excite too much hydrochloric acid during their stomach digestion.” – Dr. Hay, How to Always Be Well

According to a common story, when William Howard Hay (1866–1940) graduated from New York University Medical College in 1891, he practiced medicine and specialized in surgery.

That changed 16 years later when his own medical troubles led him to research the connection between diet and health.

Hay then weighed 225 pounds (102 kilograms) and had high blood pressure and Bright’s disease, a kidney condition. Hay discovered that his heart was dilated while running to catch a train.

The dilated heart caused by weakened heart muscles meant that his blood could not pump efficiently.

Hay knew from treating patients that his future did not “look overlong or very bright,” according to his 1929 book Health via Food. The title described Hay’s health theories, his condition, and treatment.

Hay diagnosed the causes of his conditions as the “very familiar trinity of troubles” that then ranked as the primary cause of death: the combination of high blood pressure, kidney disease, and dilated heart.

But he could not accept the fact that his legs, which have swollen that time might be chopped off. So he looked for other reasons and so Hay looked at his eating habits.

Thus, he went into research and it was said that Hay’s research led to a diet based on the theory that health was affected by the chemical process of digestion.

The body uses an alkaline digestive process for carbohydrates, the group that Hay classified as consisting of starchy foods and sweet things. The digestion of proteins involved acid.

If carbohydrates and proteins were consumed at the same time, the alkaline process was interrupted by the acid process.

Combining incompatible foods caused acidosis, the accumulation of excess acid in body fluids. Hay linked the combination of foods to medical conditions like Bright’s disease and diabetes. The wrong combinations “drained vitality” and caused people to gain weight.

Hay maintained that the solution was to eat proteins at one meal and carbohydrates at another. He classified fruits with acids.

Hay labeled vegetables in the neutral category that could be consumed with either group. He also advocated the daily administration of an enema to cleanse the colon.

This was the starting point for the interest in the field by other doctors who would later have a classification of the food system.

Food Sources


The principal sources of protein are:

1. Meats of all kinds (the lean part), such as beef, veal, mutton, lean pork, chicken, turkey, duck, goose, game, both feathered and furred, in fact, all lean flesh from animals and birds.

2. Fish of all kinds, such as trout, salmon, herring, pickerel, pike, cod, halibut, mackerel, sturgeon, and shad. Also shellfish, like oysters (which are mostly water), clams, crabs and lobsters.

3. Legumes, the chief of which are all kinds of dried beans, dried peas, lentils, and peanuts. Also green peas, and both the green and the dried lima beans should be consumed.

4. Dairy products, including sweet milk, light milk, buttermilk, cottage cheese and all other kinds of cheese. Cream contains but little protein, and butter practically none.

5. Nuts, especially almonds, Brazil nuts, filberts, hickory nuts, pecans, English walnuts, butternuts, pistachios, and pignolias.

(Peanuts are legumes, not true nuts. Chestnuts contain much starch and only a little protein.)

Starchy or Carbohydrates

The chief sources of our starchy foods are:

1. Cereals, the most important being wheat of all kinds, Indian corn, rice, rye, barley, and oats. No matter in what form we eat them—in bread, toast, cakes, mushes, flaked or puffed cereals—they are starchy.

2. Tubers, the most important being Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, and Jerusalem artichoke. The dasheen is also a tuber, which resembles the white potato in consistency, and has an agreeable flavor.

3. Legumes, especially when they are ripe. The ripe limas, navy beans and other kinds of ripe beans, peas, lentils and peanuts are starchy. Green limas and young peas contain more starch than the other vegetables; usually classified as succulent.

4. Nuts, but only a few varieties. Acorns, dried chestnuts, and coconuts are rich in starch.

colon detox_2

Fats and Oils

The chief sources of our fats are:

1. Dairy products—cream, butter, and some rich cheeses.

2. Meat, especially pork, mutton, and beef, which have been fattened.

3. Fat fish, such as herring, shad, and salmon trout.

4. Legumes. Some kinds of peanuts are very oily, and so are soybeans.

5. Nuts of nearly every kind. Almonds, Brazil nuts, filberts, hickory nuts, pecans, English walnuts, butternuts, cocoanuts, pistachios, and acorns are rich in oil.

6. Cottonseed, olives, and corn furnish much edible oil.



Some of the most common juicy fruits are:

Apples, lemons, oranges, peaches, pears, strawberries, apricots, avocados, blackberries, cherries, cranberries, currants, gooseberries, grapes, huckleberries, blueberries, mulberries, nectarines, olives, pineapples, plums, raspberries and whortleberries.

The melons (watermelon, muskmelon, cantaloupe, casaba, honeydew, etc.), rhubarb stalk and tomatoes are so like fruit that for practical purposes we may call them so.

The most important sweet fruits are:

Ripe bananas, sweet prunes, sweet grapes, raisins, dried currants, figs, dates and persimmons.


Succulent and Salad Vegetables

The main succulent vegetables are:

Asparagus, beets, cabbage, carrots, turnips, parsnips, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, okra (gumbo), onions, radish, summer squash, tomatoes, spinach, kohlrabi, kale, Brussels sprouts, cone artichoke, chard, string beans, celery, turnip tops, lotus, endive, dandelion, oyster plant, rutabaga and garlic.

Though corn is really a cereal, corn in the milk, either on the cob or canned and green peas may also be classed with the succulent vegetables and also the pumpkin.

The main salad vegetables are:

Lettuce, celery, endive, romaine, chicory, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage, celery cabbage, parsley, field lettuce, and cress are suggested.

All leaves that are relished may be used for salad purposes.

granola-food combination

The Nine Rules

Food combining cannot be done without any rules. And it is dilated by the digestive system and the digestive process.

This is as dictated as the different food types require different digestion length and process.

It is then important that when doing food combining, do not just combine just because you think it is right. You must know the basics and what food goes well with another.

Dr. Herbert Shelton in his book “Combining Food Made Easy”, gave some easy and simple combinations so as not to confuse a beginner or someone interested in the diet.


The 9 Basic Rules of Proper Food Combining:

1. Eat acids and starchy foods at separate meals. Acids neutralize the alkaline medium    required for starch digestion and the result is fermentation and indigestion. 

2. Eat food containing protein and carbohydrate at separate meals. Protein foods require an acid medium for digestion.

3. Eat only one kind of protein food at a meal.

4. Proteins and acid foods must be eaten at separate meals. The acids of acid foods inhibit the secretion of the digestive acids required for protein digestion. Undigested protein putrefies in bacterial decomposition and produces some potent poisons.

5. Fatty foods and proteins should be eaten at separate meals. Some foods, especially nuts, are over 50% fat and require hours for digestion.

6. Fruits contain natural sugar and proteins should be eaten at separate meals.

7. Eat sugars (fruits) and starchy foods at separate meals. Fruits undergo no digestion in the stomach and are held up if eaten with foods that require digestion in the stomach. 

8. Eat melons alone. They do not combine with any other type of foods.

9. Desserts should be eaten separately without combining with any other type of foods. Eaten on top of meals they lie heavy on the stomach, requiring no digestion there, and ferment. Bacteria turn them into alcohols and vinegar, and acetic acids.


Food Combination Table

When having meals, it is better to take note that the smaller the number of courses, the better it will be.

Food combining is not about the bulk or the quantity of food you eat but the quality and the combination observed in the meal.

What is important is that the meals should be favorable to the wellbeing and health of someone rather than the complexity of its preparation.

Proteins, fats, and carbohydrates remain in our stomach for as long as seven hours until all the stomach contents empty.

Depending on how they are paired with, carbohydrates pretty much have a short stay in the stomach when eaten alone without protein.

Even shorter are the fruit meals while proteins have the longest stay in the stomach. So it is ideal that the three be eaten at different meals.

Like for breakfast, you could opt for just a fruit meal or a protein meal with say like salad and vegetables when it comes to dinner.

The choices are many as long as you know how to combine them. The rules are there to guide you.

Even more, the food combinations will be greatly aided by this chart.


Food Combining Chart

Food Groups Proteins Fats Starches Vegetables Sweet Fruits Sub-acid Fruits Acid Fruits
Proteins Good Poor Poor Good Poor Fair Good
Fats Poor Good Fair Good Fair Fair Fair
Starches Poor   Good Good Fair Fair Poor
Vegetables Good Good Good Good Poor Poor Poor
Sweet Fruits Poor   Fair Poor Good Good Poor
Sub-acid Fruits Fair   Fair Poor Good Good Good
Acid Fruits Good   Poor Poor Poor Good Good


Here, those with asterisks (*) are not good for good nutrition.

  • Proteins: Nuts, seeds, soya beans, cheese, eggs, poultry* meat*, fish*, yogurt.
  • Fats: Oils, olive, butter, margarine.
  • Starches: Whole cereals, peas, beans, lentils.
  • Vegetables: Leafy green vegetables, sprouted seeds, cabbage cauliflower, broccoli, green peas, celery, tomatoes, onions.
  • Sweet Fruits: Bananas, figs, custard apples, all dried fruits, dates.
  • Sub-acid-fruits: Grapes, pears, apples, peaches, apricots, plums, fruits guavas, raspberries.
  • Acid fruits: Grapefruit, lemons, oranges, limes, pineapple, strawberries.


  • Food combining or scientifically called Tropology, is the science of correct food-combining, the art of knowing which foods go best with which others.
  • Food combining is based on the theory that different food groups require different digestion time.
  • Different foods require different digestive enzymes to aid in the digestive process – some acid, some alkaline.

Dr. Hay and Food Combining

  • If carbohydrates and proteins were consumed at the same time, the alkaline process was interrupted by the acid process.
  • Combining incompatible foods caused acidosis, the accumulation of excess acid in body fluids.
  • The wrong combinations “drained vitality” and caused people to gain weight.
  • Hay maintained that the solution was to eat proteins at one meal and carbohydrates at another.


– Are you aware of the basics of food combination?

– Do you practice the basic concepts of food combination?

– Have you tried separating food groups in your meal?




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