Monday, January 11, 2010

Food Combination Diets- more nutrition quackery! Nutrition Bites #5

It has come to my attention that "Food Combination" diets are regaining popularity. Being a dietitian and nutrition expert who basis my practice off of scientific facts, I thought it was my duty to stop this nonsense...or at least try :)

No wonder it is so hard for people to get a clear idea of what is "right" and what is "wrong" when it comes to food and nutrition. There are so many nutrition quacks out there fogging up the system with their purely opinionated, wrongly stated information. For example:

Please get informed:
Here are some statements from my fellow, respected dietitians, regarding food combining.

"Food combining was popularized by the book Fit for Life by Harvey and
Marilyn Diamond. This book shows how a weight-loss program founded on
unscientific concepts can be a huge commercial success. The authors claim that when foods are combined improperly, they become “rotten” and cannot be absorbed from the intestinal tract. This “toxifies” the body and makes people

The Diamonds contend that people gain weight from eating protein-rich
foods and starchy foods at the same time. Our digestive tracts cannot
assimilate more than one of these “concentrated foods” at a time, since the enzymes that digest protein nullify the enzymes that digest carbohydrate, and vice versa. As a result, food cannot be digested properly, all the food’s
nutrients are destroyed, and toxic by-products are stored in fat tissue where
they cause a “bloated appearance.”
The authors believe the energy wasted on the incomplete digestion of these
foods reduces the body’s ability to eliminate the “toxic residues”
deposited in the fat tissues after previous meals. Their solution – eat only one “
concentrated” food per meal, with 70 percent of the diet composed of foods
with a high water content (e.g. fruits and vegetables). Foods high in
water “wash the toxic waste” from the inside of the body, instead of “clogging”
the body.

These theories totally disagree with our knowledge of physiology and

nutrition. The concepts of food combining originated at the turn of the century
when people knew little about basic physiology and nutrition.
Food combining frequently contradicts itself. If our food is not
completely digested, then the calories consumed would be lost in the stool -- not
stored as fat. Decreased absorption causes weight loss, not weight gain. The
notion that eating “concentrated” foods together results in a loss of
nutrients is also backwards. Combining animal and vegetable protein causes more efficient utilization of the vegetable protein. The non-heme iron in plant
foods is better absorbed when consumed with meat or another source of heme
iron. Furthermore, non-heme iron is better absorbed when consumed with
fruits or vegetables high in vitamin C.

People have lost weight using food combining because low-calorie fruits

and vegetables are emphasized. However, the program urges people to eliminate
major food groups.. Eating a variety of foods from MyPyramid is necessary
for adequate nutrition.

Food combining may create deficiencies in zinc, vitamin D, vitamin B12,

and protein, since the diet limits animal protein and eliminates dairy
products. The ban on dairy foods certainly jeopardizes calcium intake since dairy
products account for nearly 75 percent of the calcium in the American
diet." Ellen Coleman, MA, MPH, RD, CSSD

"There is no credible scientific evidence to support the theories on food combining. While the proponents often say it is based on physiology, they theory is actually based on a very limited view and misunderstanding of physiology. Even in one of the classic books on the topic "Food Combining Made Easy" the author, Dr Herbert Shelton said he knew of no physiological reason for most of his rules. I believe his many reason in putting them forth was to help people make improvements on the typical diet they were eating. This was in the early part of the century.

In addition, even one of the modern day advocates of it, "Harvey Diamond" who popularized the theory in his Fit For Life books, also said publicly at a national health conference that he may have over emphasized its importance in the books.

One of the reasons food combining seems to work is because when you follow the rules, you have simplified your diet and made a dramatic change in your diet for the better. You eat less junk, you eat more whole foods.

In regard to digestion, overeating and eating too much fat and eating while under great stress are three things that can impair digestion, regardless of the combination of foods...." Jeff Novick MS, RD, LD, LN

Thank you for taking the time to get educated so you too can help clear the air!

Until next time...
look good, feel good, do good


  1. Nice job on this, Sara!

    Heather K. Jones
    Registered Dietitian

  2. Thank you for sharing such sound, helpful insight!