Carbs and protein shouldn’t be eaten together
Popular nutritional myths exist about food combining – the theory that certain foods should not be eaten together, especially carbohydrates such as bread, potato and grains with proteins such as meat or fish. The theory also suggests that fruit should not be combined with anything.
‘There is no sound basis for these ideas,’ says nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton. ‘If food combining theories were true, the human race would not have survived to this point, as many basic foods contain a combination of proteins and carbohydrates in the one food. This applies to foods such as beans, grains, seeds, nuts and breast milk. The only possible advantage to a diet that promotes these theories is that it might encourage people to eat more fruit and possibly eat less overall. But there is no evidence to support the notion that some foods should be separated. Every major cuisine in the world combines protein and carbohydrates on the same plate, from the traditional meat and potatoes, to Asian stir fry chicken with rice, Middle Eastern couscous with lamb and the Mediterranean use of bread with all meals. It is also a total myth that fruit should be eaten on its own. Fruit is the perfect complement to every meal.’
When combining counts
Food combinations to avoid
- Some nutrients are absorbed better if they are combined with others. For example, the iron in breakfast cereals, bread and legumes such as dried beans or chick peas is absorbed much better if fruit or vegetables which contain vitamin C are eaten in the same meal.
– Rosemary Stanton’s latest book, Healthy Eating for Australian Families includes over 170 recipes (many deliciously combining protein and carbohydrate like Lamb Kibbeh or Pork with Pears and Juniper Berries). Suitable for people with diabetes and a handy reference for parents, it's available in Australia, USA and the UK from major bookstores and Amazon.
- There are some foods which do not combine well. Tea prevents iron absorption, so it is best to drink it between meals rather than with food, unless the tea is weak.
- Minerals such as calcium and iron compete for absorption, and the body does not properly absorb them when combined. If calcium or iron supplements are taken, iron tablets should be taken with meals and calcium should be taken just before going to bed. Nutrients are generally absorbed better from foods rather than supplements, and you'll find iron in meat or legumes plus seeds, grains and nuts. Calcium can be obtained from dairy products or calcium enriched soy beverages.