• Valerie

Don't take away my pizza!

A Critical Lens on Food Combining

Disclaimer: the following article neither attempts to debunk or prove the validity of food combining. Rather, it is meant to encourage each reader to do his due diligence, ask the appropriate questions, and continue the exploration of food combining and its potential benefits.

You may have heard of food combining. It's actually a rather controversial trending topic, and the whole idea is that avoiding certain food combinations and eating certain foods only at certain times helps regulate the digestive system and also helps avoid digestive upset such as bloating, gas, etc. If you Google "food combining," most of the articles that pop up are those that advocate for its efficacy based on personal experience, or that attempt to debunk the theories behind food combining, claiming that it is unscientific.

The idea of food combining and compatibility is not new. The Ayurvedic texts line out in detail what types of foods should not be eaten in combination, as well as a long list of other incompatibilities relating to the time food is ingested, how it is cooked, and much more. For example, it is well known in Ayurveda that honey should never be cooked, nor should it ever be eaten with ghee in equal amounts. Similar to more modern takes on food combining, it also advocates against the consumption of concentrated carbohydrates such as bread in combination with heavy-to-digest foods such as cheese or meat (good-bye sandwiches?).

I have great respect for both ancient wisdom and modern science. Overall, ancient wisdom is time-tested and often reflects a more harmonious way of living with nature and with the self. Modern science has made amazing advances and has really helped explain many of the mechanisms by which nature operates. However, adhering strictly to the philosophy of one over the other, whether one accepts blindly something as truth just because it is ancient or just because it was "proven" in a controlled scientific study, both point to a tendency towards dogmatism that lacks discernment and critical thinking.

The truth is never black and white. There is always some nuance, some exception to the rule. In Ayurveda, suffering from incompatible food combinations is more easily avoided when your agni (digestive fire) is adequately strong. For the sake of discussion, let's take a look at one of my favorite foods - pizza.

The combination of cheese, bread, and tomatoes (a nightshade) is generally considered incompatible because it considered heavy to digest. Moreover, cheese and bread are both fermented foods that have a sour rasa (taste), which in combination with tomatoes (another fruit with sour taste), leads to somewhat of an overload of the sour taste, which brings heating and heavy qualities to the body. If you don't eat pizza every day, and your digestive capacity is robust because you lead a healthy lifestyle and usually eat balanced meals, chances are when this acidic combination hits your stomach, your body is able to handle it because the gastric mucosa has not been comprom