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In Association with
Good and Bad Food Combinations


by Robert O. Young, Ph.D. and Shelley Redford Young

To ensure thorough and proper digestion, food combining is an important consideration. And there’s a lot out there designed to help you understand and implement various food-combining systems. While the idea is key, however, the vast majority of available programs are usually confusing, are often inaccurate, and tend to offer conflicting advice. And they are all too unnecessarily complicated. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. The thing to remember is that the human digestive system is not designed for complex meals. Different foods make different, specific demands on the digestive system. That we are capable of digesting many different kinds of foods doesn’t mean we can do so all at once. For example, protein digestion requires a highly acid environment and takes place in the stomach. In stark contrast, starch requires a mildly alkaline environment for digestion, which takes place in the mouth and small intestine. The same is true for vegetables. (Fats also require a mild alkaline environment and are digested in the small intestine.) It doesn’t take much to imagine that foods of these two types do not do well when eaten at the same time. One will interfere with digestion of the other, causing incomplete digestion of both. Whatever is not efficiently digested by you will be “digested” by harmful microforms. It’s another vicious circle: Compromised digestion paves the way for negative microforms, and negative microforms further disrupt digestion. Poor food combining is also a major cause of formation of sticky mucus.

Take a minute to stop and think of all the American “classics” that combine protein and starch—meat and potatoes, fish and chips, chicken and rice, a burger and fries, ham sandwich (any kind of sandwich), to name just a few—and you’ll begin to realize just how badly we’ve abused our digestive systems. Most of us don’t even know what it would be like to have proper digestion!

LUCY’S STORY: Because of my family history of sky-high cholesterol levels, and the terrible heart consequences, I’d always been careful about what I ate. As a home economist, homemaker, and mother of eight children, I was also careful about what I served my family. As my health deteriorated, with all kinds of symptoms bothering me, I experimented with different “healthy” ways of eating, constantly fine-tuning my approach.

I grew up eating well. My mother followed the FDA recommendations of the time, serving vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and fresh fruits daily. Through my own early years as a mother, I moved to less meat, chose fresh vegetables—and usually served them steamed—switched to brown rice, and started to use natural supplements. I ground whole wheat myself and made fresh bread weekly. I eliminated sodas, simple sugar, processed foods, and milk. My health improved some, but not completely.

My health really began spiraling down after the birth of my eighth child, which required an emergency C-section and two blood transfusions far from home. As more negative symptoms appeared, and I felt my energy and vitality slowly ebbing, I worked harder to unlock what good nutrition could offer me. Food combining was one of the first things I explored, but my early results were discouraging.

I’ve tried different strategies over the years. I began by using the four basic food groups. A typical dinner was baked chicken, pan-fried potatoes, frozen broccoli, a canned peach with cottage cheese, and oatmeal cake. I experienced a full feeling afterward and felt as if I would like to lie down for a nice nap. And I continued to have hypoglycemia, high cholesterol, and sinus infections, among many other things. Next, I added more whole grains and fresh vegetables and cut back on meat, as suggested in the current FDA “food pyramid.” A typical dinner was brown rice and chicken casserole, fresh steamed broccoli, a slice of homemade whole wheat bread with butter, and homemade applesauce. My blood sugar stabilized, but I continued to have cravings as well as a wide variety of other health issues.

Next, I tried eating nothing but fruits and fruit juices from dawn until noon. The rest of the day I would be careful to have only one “concentrated” food (protein or fat) at a meal—and no more fruit. I ate meat, but never with a starch. The large amounts of fruit kept me craving sweets, and I experienced low periods every afternoon. I never felt energetic after eating meat. And I didn’t find the food satisfying. So I went back to my previous diet—and gained more weight and added a host of health concerns.

And so it went until I learned about the Youngs’ program, and the proper way to combine foods. The day I started eating alkaline and drinking a gallon of water with pH drops and concentrated green powder every day, my life changed. I immediately noticed a rise in my energy levels. The most important changes I made, besides getting plenty of good water, were to eat something raw at each meal, focus mainly on green vegetables, and use the more alkaline grains.

At first I wanted that feeling of having something stick to my ribs, but found that the high-water/low-sugar foods gave a sustained energy that I was not used to. Now dinner is typically a vegetable, soba noodle, and tofu stir fry, or occasionally, a small portion of grilled salmon, Jasmine rice with almonds, fresh steamed asparagus, and some raw pepper strips. For lunch I almost always have a fresh salad built from spinach, dark green lettuces, avocado, cucumber, celery, carrots, radishes, pumpkin seeds, sprouts, a little baked tofu, and a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, and spices. (For years I had cut out all fat/oil of any kind due to my cholesterol challenge. Nothing helped until I added liberal amounts of the good essential oils to my diet daily.) To that I add a vegetable and hummus wrap in a sprouted wheat tortilla, or a brown rice cake with almond butter. That follows a breakfast of steamed millet with avocado, tomatoes, and flax oil, or lightly steamed broccoli and buckwheat cereal. That usually keeps me going strong until well into the afternoon. I never feel low in the afternoon anymore.

Sometimes I snack on a handful of soaked almonds. Often I make a gently warmed vegetable soup with an organic vegetable broth, which I enjoy for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. These foods give me all the energy my body needs. The foods I crave now are healthy, alkaline foods that are high in water content and low in sugar.
I now understand that though we all have our genetic tendencies, we are not bound by them. The gene might be the bullet, but the trigger is our lifestyle. This lifestyle has proven successful for me and my family for over two years now, keeping us healthy, energetic, and satisfied. We find the food delicious and sustaining. I have enjoyed developing recipes that are as healthy and beautiful as they are tasty. I prepare alkaline meals for my family of five every day, and on Sundays, when the rest of our family and friends come to eat, I serve alkaline food for twenty or more. They’ve enjoyed it so much that my married children have adopted some of these principles for their own young families, and they’ve all enjoyed health benefits. I feel my quest for a truly healthy way of eating has finally paid off.

Combining sugar and starch, or sugar and protein, leads to the same kinds of problems. And just what is in the lunchboxes of the majority of kids today (I’d be willing to bet)? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! That manages to hit all the bases at once, guaranteeing digestion disaster.

Fortunately, the solution is simple: Mix no more than four foods, from no more than two types of food, at any given meal. For example, have steamed broccoli, and a mesclun and tomato salad with marinated tofu or soba noodles, but not both (three vegetables, and one protein, or three vegetables and one complex carb). Choosing fewer foods provides the simplest load on the digestive system. With that in mind, and following the general principles of this program, if you use only one protein per meal, and only one complex carbohydrate per meal, you are most of the way there.

Once you’re fully on an alkalizing diet, it gets simpler still. When you’re eating mainly foods that are high in water and low in sugar, you no longer need to worry about proper combining. You can’t help but combine them properly, since you are, for the most part, limiting or eliminating the problematic foods. The foods that have makeups most similar to that of our bodies (high water content, 70 percent or more; naturally occurring oils, 20 to 30 percent; low protein, 5 to 7 percent; and even lower sugar, 0.5 to 3 percent) all combine with each other with no problem.

When you are strong and symptom-free, you can indulge in more complex meals with no real harm. Still, at the beginning of the program, or if you are seriously ill, or if you just want to ensure you’re on an ideal regimen, paying strict attention to the rules that follow will serve you well.

All you’re trying to do is keep starch and animal protein separate, and keep sugars, including fruit, away from just about everything. That’s why, once you have fully made the transition to this program, avoiding animal proteins, sugars, and most fruits, combining is not an issue. In the meantime, here are the official rules:

1. Low-sugar/high-water vegetables (or fruits) combine with everything. Eat them with protein, starch, or cold-pressed oils—and with other vegetables!

2. Eat starches with vegetables or low-sugar fruits. Don’t eat starches (including starchy vegetables) with animal protein, acids, fruit, or oil. (For the purposes of food combining, “acid” is not necessarily the same as foods that make the body more acidic. The two most important examples of this exception are lemons and tomatoes, which are themselves acidic but which actually make the body more basic.) So, when you do choose a grain (including bread or pasta) or winter squash or potato, eat it alongside vegetables, and not with fish, for example.

3. Eat animal protein with vegetables or low-sugar fruits. Don’t eat animal protein with starch, acids, or oils. Vegetable proteins combine with all low-sugar, high-water-content vegetables and fruits, as well as with good oils. Here’s the flip side of the point above: When you’re having fish, serve it with vegetables but not a grain. Get over paella (fish with rice); try fish on a bed of steamed greens, or atop a crunchy salad.

4. Eat high-sugar fruit on its own—if you eat it at all. (Don’t eat fruit with protein, starch, vegetables, or oil. In fact, don’t use fruit at all—with the exception of lemon, lime, raw tomato, avocado, red, yellow, green, and orange peppers, and nonsweet grapefruit—unless you are quite well, and then only in moderation and in season.)

5. Eat (healthy) oils with vegetables and low-sugar fruits (tomato, avocado, red, yellow, orange, and green bell peppers, lemon, and lime). They also combine with starches (which must be kept to 20 percent or less of your diet). Do not eat healthy oils with animal fats or proteins. Seeds, nuts, and avocado —all excellent sources of healthy fats—can be combined with plant or animal protein, starches, or even high-sugar fruits. Don’t douse your fish with oil or butter—use lemon juice, salsa, or herbs instead—and you’ll be all set.

Now, for the “whys” of those wherefores:

1. Most vegetables, and the few fruits we’ve mentioned, are your healthiest choices anyway, and the fact that they combine with any other healthy choice just makes them even more ideal as the focus of your diet.

2. Starch and animal proteins are a bad combination, as explained earlier. Acids block the action of ptyalin, a component of saliva that is necessary for proper starch digestion. Starches, such as potatoes, bread, or pasta (and even whole grains), break down into simple sugars in the body, so adding highsugar fruits just layers sugar on top of sugar—and acid on top of acid. The combination creates enough poisons that it can actually shut down the immune system for five hours—or even longer. Oil slows digestion of starch—though this won’t be a problem if the starch is no more than 20 percent of your otherwise alkalizing meal. Oil can neutralize acids, so you don’t want to have to avoid the healthy ones.

3. When animal protein is digested in the stomach, it creates acid.When combined with starches, the sugars in the starches make even more acid, leading to indigestion, heartburn, and gas—on top of all the other negative effects of a body that’s too acidic. The same thing happens when you add more acid (including the acids created from the digestion of high-sugar fruit). Oils slow the digestion of animal protein, causing constipation and eventually acid reflux, heartburn, and gas.

4. Fruit—at least, the vast majority of fruit—is high in sugar, and acid-forming, so it is problematic even on its own. Combined with protein it is a recipe for excess acid (as well as indigestion and gas). Starch and fruit is just double the sugar. In addition they have vastly different digestion times (fruit is digested extremely rapidly), opening the door to fermentation right in your digestive tract. Mixing fruit with oil can lead to constipation and poor absorption of nutrients. Finally, while fruits are cleansers, vegetables are builders. You unduly stress your body by asking it to do opposites simultaneously.

5. Oil slows the digestion of animal proteins and starch (though the latter will only be a problem if your starches are exceeding that 20 percent of your diet).


Avocado is actually a fruit, but because it is low in sugar and relatively high in protein, it can be combined with vegetables, even the starchy ones, as well as with grains. So, I enjoy an avocado sandwich on yeast-free spelt bread, or avocado and tomato slices with lemon juice on jasmine rice.

Tomato too is a fruit. And although it is acidic, it has an alkaline effect in the body because of its low sugar content. So, like the avocado, it can be combined as if it were a vegetable. problem if the starch is no more than 20 percent of your otherwise alkalizing meal. Oil can neutralize acids, so you don’t want to have to avoid the healthy ones.


Lemons and limes, or lemon and lime juice, are commonly thought of as acidic, but they actually have an alkaline effect in the body. So they do not fall under the warnings against combining with acids, and can be used together with starches, proteins, or oils.


One other combination that can be bad in terms of digestion is food and beverages, even water. Don’t wash down food with a drink. Cold drinks are particularly troublesome, as cold shuts down digestive activity as easily as it preserves food. Water (or other liquid) dilutes digestive chemicals, so it should be drunk at least half an hour before, or one hour after, a meal that includes animal protein. If you are eating a strictly vegetarian meal, feel free to drink along with it. We recommend eating juicier food items first, such as vegetables and salads, to pave the way for heavier items later in the meal. You may also find that a few sips of warm water after a meal aid digestion.

Excerpted from The pH Miracle: Balance Your Diet, Reclaim Your Health by Robert O. Young, Ph.D. and Shelley Redford Young. Copyright © 2002 Robert O. Young, Ph.D. Excerpted by arrangement with Warner Books, Inc., New York, NY. All rights reserved. $14.95. Available in local bookstores or click here.

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