Sometimes it can get confusing when it comes to food combinations - What to pair with what, and will it be healthy for the gut? Let’s take a look at how Ayurveda approaches food combining. We also take a look at common incompatible food combinations.
There are three factors that make up the properties of food. First is its taste, or rasa. There are three tastes in Ayurveda and foods can have one or more of these tastes.
In order to determine healthy food combination, we first need to know if a food has heating or cooling energies - known as virya. One can check if the energies are matching with their dosha and if it is good to eat in the season. These aspects are necessary to determine so that the personal dosha is balanced.
Further, we need to consider the effect food will have on the body after it is digested – or vipaka. In the western diet, very often foods are served together with different tastes, energies, and post-digestive effects.
The problem with this is our agni, the digestive fire, can get overloaded trying to do too many things at the same time.
This results in the production of toxins in the body. So it is important for us to pay attention to the foods that we consume in combinations to make sure that our digestion stays strong.
There are many foods that, when eaten separately, stimulate agni and are digested easily. But some of those same foods, when eaten together, slow down agni and cause digestive distress.
Basic Rules For Food Combining
Here are a few Ayurveda-inspired guidelines for food combining.
Eat fruit on its own, preferably two hours before or after you have eaten something else. Fruit should never be combined with any dairy product, like milk or yogurt.
Yet we see this happening all the time! Yogurt with fruit and granola is considered a healthy breakfast – but it is one of the worst things you can eat, it can wreak havoc on digestion.
While the fruit and milk process in the stomach, the fruit can curdle the milk causing excess acid.
Having a banana smoothie, where banana is blended with milk and/or yogurt, can change the bacterial mix in the intestines, and may even cause sinus congestion or allergies.
Despite being of the same constitution (sweet & cool), milk & banana have very different effects when digested. Bananas tend to be sour while milk is sweet.
Such confusion in the stomach can reduce the digestive fire (agni), lead to the production of toxins (ama).
Milk and melon together are particularly to be avoided because milk has laxative properties, and melon is a diuretic. Melon combined with carbohydrates or starchy foods is also bad for digestion.
Melon is digested very quickly, and carbs tend to take more time. So the fructose in the melon ends up not getting digested properly.
Fruit and cheese are also often served together as an appetizer or a dessert bad idea! Cheese is a dairy product and will have the same effect on digestion as milk does in combo with fruit.
Cheese is difficult to digest and can cause constipation, so cheese, in general, is to be avoided. Fruit, even on its own, is not good for dessert. Better to eat fruit before a meal, waiting a bit to digest, or as a snack in between meals.
Ice cream is not great for you anyway, it’s cold and hard to digest. But add fruit to it and it’s even worse. Also, for dessert, it’s downright awful. Ice cream will totally put out that digestive fire that is so needed to help digest your meal.
If you’d like to learn more about Ayurveda and how it can help you with your health and wellbeing, check out Lissa Coffey’s course below.
Meat and dairy should never be eaten together. Well, there go the cheeseburgers! Meat is heating and milk is cooling so this is a bad combo.
They contradict one another, upsetting agni and producing toxins, or Ama. Fish counts as meat – and it is not good to eat with dairy products.
Think of all those cream sauces that are served over fish and tartar sauce is dairy-based – we see this served alongside fish and chips all the time. Avoid this combination!
Uncooked honey, or raw honey, can be beneficial in Ayurveda for many conditions. But cook it, and you get the opposite effect.
When cooked, honey digests very slowly and it becomes this sticky gunk that clings to membranes and clogs channels, producing toxins.
Yuck. So don’t put honey in your hot tea, or have a hot drink while you’re eating something with honey on it.
Ghee and honey are a delicious combo – but they should not be served in equal proportions. Ghee is cooling and honey is heating – so pick which one you want more of.
Water during a meal. Water should be served warm or at room temperature. Small sips can help with digestion. Iced water, as is often served in restaurants, puts that digestive fire right out.
I usually ask for water, no ice, with lemon. Sometimes I’ll ask for hot water with lemon.
When food is fresh, it has a certain intelligence, it knows where to go and what to do in the body. The longer food sits, the more it loses that intelligence or vital energy.
Plus it gets cold in the refrigerator, then you end up heating it up in the microwave, and it’s a pale shadow of what it was when you started out.
So avoid eating leftovers if you can. If you must eat leftovers, heat them up on the stove and add in some ghee and spices.
The following are deemed to be incompatible food combinations as per Ayurveda.
Dairy products combined with fruit, meat (including fish), starchy foods, and yeasty bread,
Eggs combined with dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt), meat (including fish), melons, bananas, and starches.
Corn combined with bananas, dates, and raisins.
Lemon combined with cucumbers, tomatoes, and dairy products.
Nightshades (tomato, potato, eggplant, chilies) combined with dairy products, melons, and cucumbers.
This Ayurvedic food combining guide includes suggestions only. If you would like to learn more about what food combinations are compatible with your body type, consult a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner.
This article is sourced with excerpts from Lissa Coffey’s course on The Ayurveda Experience. Content reproduced with permission.
Sabnis, Mukund. “Viruddha Ahara: A Critical View.” Ayu, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, July 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3665091/.