Food Combining: Fact or Fad?
I've been reading a lot about food combining (i.e. not eating carbohydrates with proteins in the same meal). Is this a worthwhile method of eating in order to maintain good health?
The idea that you can somehow magically combine certain foods for either weight loss or good health has been around for years and surfaces periodically in fad diets. The gimmick in the recent best-selling "Fit for Life" diet, by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond, was never to eat protein and carbohydrates at the same time. In "The Zone" diet, Barry Sears said that you must never eat carbohydrates without eating protein at the same time, but specified which carbohydrates you could eat. "Bad" ones included bananas, cranberries, orange juice, bagels, and pasta. Now, actress Suzanne Somers has a diet book, "Eat Great, Lose Weight," in which she advocates eliminating sugar and white flour; eating fruits alone on an empty stomach; consuming proteins and fats with vegetables, but not with carbohydrates; and eating carbohydrates with vegetables, but not with fat. If that is how Ms. Somers manages to maintain her svelte 116 pounds, more power to her, but I suspect that the real secret to her success is calorie control and exercise.
The truth is that no magical combination of foods can speed up your metabolism so that you burn calories faster and lose weight. The only ways I know to ratchet up your metabolism are with caffeine, cocaine, amphetamines, nicotine, or other stimulants (and obviously, I do NOT recommend ANY of these methods), or with exercise that burns calories and builds muscle.
The notion that certain combinations of foods can help you maintain good health simply has no scientific foundation. The fact is that humans are omnivores. Our bodies are designed not only to survive, but to thrive on an astonishingly wide range of foods. Behind most fad diets is a most unhealthy assumption: that our bodies are inefficient and unresourceful, easily upset unless we consume exactly the right foods or combinations of foods. By buying into this kind of silliness, you underestimate your body's natural resilience and capacity for adaptation.
My recommendation has always been to eat a varied diet. In this way, you ensure that you get all the nutrients you need (which you won't get if you eat the same foods day after day). A varied diet is also the best way to avoid eating too much of anything that isn't good for you. Eat fresh foods -- lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you want to lose weight, eat less and exercise more. That's the only formula I know that is guaranteed to work.