You’ve probably learned from experience that certain food combinations do not sit well with your stomach. Even after eating what you thought was a healthy meal, you may not feel quite right. Sure, this could have something to do with the individual components of your meal, but it could also have to do with which foods you ate together.
According to Healthline writer and registered dietitian Taylor Jones, food combining is "the idea that certain foods pair well together, while others do not." In Mind Body Green, registered dietitian nutritionist Molly Knudsen explained where food combining theories came from. She wrote, "The practice of food combining stems from Ayurveda, a traditional system of medicine originating from India."
So does it really work? And can certain food combinations really lead to negative impacts on your health or digestion? Well, Jones reported that while "the principles of most food-combining diets are not evidence-based, there are a few food combinations that have been scientifically shown to affect the digestion and absorption of nutrients." You should always check with your health care provider if something you are eating is making you feel unwell, but making some simple food-combining alterations could help you feel better, feel full for longer, and absorb nutrients better.
A muffin and orange juice provides you with way too much sugar
If you’re in a hurry, grabbing a glass of orange juice and a muffin might seem like a healthy breakfast option to hold you over until your next meal. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In fact, it might make you hungrier sooner (via Healthline).
Eat This, Not That reports that common breakfast foods like cereals and doughnuts are often packed with sugar. And muffins are particularly high in sugar. According to The Nutrition Source, a Harvard publication, the calories in a muffin "come from refined carbohydrates, primarily white flour and sugar." And when we eat refined carbs, our bodies digest them very quickly — meaning they don’t leave us feeling full for long.
When you combine a food like that with a sugary beverage, like orange juice, you’re starting off the day with a lot of sugar and not a lot of valuable, filling nutrients. Dr. Daryl Gioffre, celebrity nutritionist, said orange juice is "the worst" when speaking with The Active Times. Its 18 grams of fructose "destroys the enzyme that is responsible for digestion." Yes, it’s time to say goodbye to sugary breakfast drinks and foods, and start incorporating more lean proteins, healthy fats, and filling fibers.
You could lose the benefits of salad by using low-fat dressing
Low-fat dressing on a salad sounds like it would be healthy, but there are a few reasons why this food combination is actually not great. First off, registered dietitian nutritionist Lily Nichols explained on her website that low-fat dressings (and dips) are "full of crap." And if you look at the labels, she’s not wrong. She further explained, saying, "I trust real cream more than partially hydrogenated soy oil, monodiglycerides, carrageenan, xanthan gum, guar gum, and corn syrup."
Questionable ingredients aside, fats are actually important when it comes to getting the nutritional benefits from the vegetables in your salad. Mario Ferruzzi, an associate professor of food science at Purdue University, told The Atlantic, "In order to get more from eating fruits and vegetables, they need to be paired correctly with fat-based dressings. While a salad with fat-free dressing is lower in calories, the absence of fat causes the loss of some of the benefits of eating vegetables."
Nichols echoed this sentiment on her site: "Fat-soluble vitamins — A, D, E and K — require fat for absorption." Now’s a good time to ditch the low-fat dressing and swap it out for one with some healthy fats.
Bacon and eggs are hard for your body to digest when paired together
I know we’re going to break a lot of hearts with this one, but we have to say it: The classic breakfast food combination of bacon and eggs is not a great one. While eggs have a lot of nutritional benefits like vitamins and antioxidants, pairing them with bacon may make them harder to digest.
Registered dietitian Haley Hammer told Health Digest that combining protein with protein (like eggs and bacon) is generally not recommended. Hammer said, "It is too much protein for our bodies to digest at once, as protein is the hardest of the three macronutrients to break down." Hammer suggested replacing the bacon and eating the eggs with some complex carbs like whole grain toast or fruit. And if you must have the bacon as your protein instead of the eggs, try having it with some complex carbs, like avocado toast with tomato.
Grilled cheese and tomato soup is a combo packed with sodium
The classic combo of grilled cheese and tomato soup is a childhood staple many of us have brought into adulthood. Sadly, the pairing isn’t as good for our bodies as it is for our nostalgia.
Jennifer Christman, registered dietitian at Medifast, Inc. spoke to Woman’s Day concerning the multiple issues with this food combination. She explained, "Most canned tomato soups are surprisingly high in sugar, thanks to added high fructose corn syrup, and grilled cheese is high in fat and carbs, but offers little protein. And both cheese and tomato soup are high in sodium." According to The Nutrition Source, eating high-sodium foods like this regularly can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.
Thankfully, we don’t have to give up this combo entirely. You can create a healthier spin on the classic by using a low-sodium tomato soup (or, better yet, making your own soup) and replacing the white bread with whole grain.
Should you really combine meat and potatoes?
It doesn’t get any more basic than meat and potatoes, but the combination of these two foods may have the potential to wreak havoc on your digestive tract. Dr. Elson Haas, a physician and integrated medicine pioneer, told the San Francisco Chronicle that mixing protein with starches can upset the stomach of a person with digestive issues.
That said, it’s not the end of the world if you combine these two foods. According to Healthline writer and register dietitian Taylor Jones, our bodies have evolved enough to be able to handle and digest different macronutrients at once. Jones said, "There’s no need to worry that your body will have to choose between digesting protein and fat or starches and proteins." But if you frequently struggle with gas problems after eating proteins and carbs at the same time, you can try swapping out the potatoes for some less starchy vegetables, like asparagus or broccoli, to see if it helps.
Yogurt with granola might not be as healthy as it sounds
If you’re trying to eat healthier meals, yogurt with granola sounds like it could be a balanced breakfast. However, there’s often a lot of hidden sugar in there. Registered dietitian Haley Hammer told Health Digest this seemingly healthy combo is not as healthy as it seems. She continued, saying, "Flavored yogurts and many brands of granola tend to be loaded with added sugar. Excess added sugar consumption can lead to serious health problems like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes."
Plus, this snack is all too easy to overeat. "Granola tends to be on the denser side, so if you’re not careful it’s easy to mindlessly eat more than one portion," Amy Gorin, a registered dietitian based in the New York City area, told Eat This, Not That.
In the case of both yogurt and granola, it’s all about reading the nutrition labels and making sure you’re not starting your day off by packing on the sugar. Otherwise, you’ll be left feeling unsatisfied and hungry again soon (via Healthline). Instead of a sugary yogurt and granola, Hammer suggests trying a high-protein greek yogurt with some complex carbs like fruit.
Pepperoni pizza could increase your risk of heart disease
As delicious as pizza topped with pepperoni may be, this meal is one of the more unhealthy food combinations out there. Allison Stowell, consulting registered dietitian for nutrition system Guiding Stars, told Woman’s Day that adding a meat topping, like pepperoni, to pizza increases its already high calorie, sodium, and saturated fat levels. She added that eating these kinds of foods regularly increase your risk for heart disease.
Stowell continued, "A diet high in this ‘sometimes’ food likely means you aren’t consuming enough better-for-you options such as lean protein and heart-healthy fats." So instead of topping your pizza with pepperoni, she suggests swapping it for some healthier toppings like vegetables, which are loaded with nutrients. She also added that having a side salad with your pizza could help fill you up more and make it less likely that you grab another extra slice. Good tip!
Combining bananas and milk could worsen congestion
Bananas and milk are often paired together in smoothies or in cereal bowls, but they might not be the perfect match. According to Healthline writer and registered dietitian Rachael Link, there are quite a few reasons why these two foods might actually be an unhealthy combo. First, Link explained, "Consuming bananas and milk is … anecdotally claimed to contribute to sinus congestion and increase the production of toxins in your body." So if you’re currently fighting a cold or flu or struggle with chronic sinus issues, it might make sense to avoid this food combination — at least for the time being.
While bananas and milk are okay in moderation, Link noted that "enjoying multiple servings of bananas and milk each day can cause your calorie intake to start stacking up quickly." In turn, you could start to put on weight.
Despite some drawbacks, both bananas and milk are rich in several important nutrients. So if you do enjoy combining these two foods, it’s probably best just to do so occasionally, and avoid it altogether when you’re feeling under the weather. There are also plenty of milk alternatives out there to enjoy in your creamy banana smoothies!
Beans and cheese can lead to gas and bloating
Beans and cheese are a classic food combination especially in Mexican cuisine (ahem, burritos). While these two foods taste like they’re a match made in heaven, they can actually cause some major issues with digestion. Celebrity nutritionist Daryl Gioffre told The Active Times that while beans and cheese are a popular combo, they can lead to bloating and gas when eaten together.
Gioffree explained that beans can already be difficult for the body to digest, so combining them with cheese only makes it more difficult. Gioffre went on, saying, "Cheese is among the most inflammatory foods you can put in your body."
At the end of the day, beans and dairy products do both have nutritional benefits, so it’s not necessary to cut them out completely. But if you already digestive issues, it’s probably best to lay off this food combo.
Eating two hamburgers could be better than eating a burger and fries
A hamburger and french fries go together like, well, a hamburger and french fries. There aren’t many food combinations as popular as this one. But as beloved as the classic burger and french fries are together, it’s not the best combo for your health. Registered dietitian and nutritionist Emily Field told Insider that having fries alongside a burger just adds to your carb count without adding any fueling protein. It can also spike your blood sugar.
Field encourages people to find more balance between fat, carbohydrates, and proteins in their meals — so actually, eating another burger in place of fries could be a better choice. Typical hamburgers include the meat, bun, and sometimes even some veggies like lettuce. By adding another burger, you won’t save any calories, but you’ll be eating a better balance of macronutrients. "Try it out and see how you feel," Field told the publication. Double burgers it is!
Having a soda with your pizza will likely leave you feeling unsatisfied
When eating some pizza, there’s nothing more refreshing than washing it down with a cold glass of soda, right? Unfortunately, though, having these two foods together could be extremely detrimental for your health. That is, if it’s something you order frequently.
According to Healthline, added sugar "is one of the worst ingredients in the modern diet." And you can guess what soda is filled with: added sugar. Additionally, most pizzas are made with "unhealthy ingredients, including highly refined dough and heavily processed meat." The combo of the two is not only unhealthy, but will likely leave you feeling unsatisfied due to the empty calories it contains (via Medical News Today).
Instead of having traditional sugary soda and high-calorie pizza, Healthline suggests trading the soda for a soda water with a slice of lemon. And as for the pizza, try making a homemade version with wholesome ingredients rather than opting for take out.
Pasta with tomato sauce and cheese could make you tired
While pasta with tomato sauce and cheese is a classic Italian dish, it isn’t the perfect food combination that it seems to be. "Eating refined carbohydrates like pasta can cause a rise in blood sugar, followed by a plunge in insulin levels, which can cause fatigue and weakness," physician Pamela Peeke told HuffPost. Add tomato sauce and cheese, and you can compound this issue.
Celebrity nutritionist Daryl Gioffre spoke to The Active Times about this combo and revealed it could actually be a recipe for digestive problems, like leaky gut. In an article for Harvard Health Blog, physician Marcelo Campos described the condition as "an unhealthy gut lining that may have large cracks or holes, allowing partially digested food, toxins, and bugs to penetrate the tissues beneath it." So the next time you’re craving some pasta, try having it with some pesto or roasted veggies instead of packing on the tomato sauce and cheese.
Eating nuts while drinking beer could make your hangover worse
If you’ve ever been to a bar, you know that bartenders frequently put out some salty nuts for their patrons to eat while they drink their beer. Unfortunately, the alcohol and salt combo could actually be making you feel worse the day after drinking. Jessica Cording, registered dietitian, told Aaptiv, "You likely get that hangover headache the day after drinking due to dehydration. Eating high-sodium foods can make the effect even worse."
Cording explained further, saying, "Salty foods can make you more thirsty, causing you to drink more [alcohol]. This can also make you more bloated." She also added that alcohol can worsen symptoms of conditions like acid reflux, so keeping your food light while drinking could help ease stomach discomfort. Instead of reaching for the salty nuts, Cording suggests ordering a vegetable plate so your body gets some needed nutrients while drinking.
Drinking a diet soda while eating french fries can mess with your metabolism
If you’re treating yourself with french fries, you might think you’re making a healthy choice by pairing it with a diet soda rather than a sugary one. But according to a study at Yale University led by researcher Dana Small, consuming artificial sweeteners and carbs together can mess with brain function and be detrimental for your metabolism. Small spoke to Inverse about how this combo can make it hard for both your body and brain to respond to sugar in the right way. In turn, this can result in weight gain or even diabetes.
The next time you’re heading to the drive-thru, remember Small’s suggestion: "If you’re going to have a diet drink, don’t have it with French fries. Have the diet drink by itself and if you’re going to have a diet drink, give an hour on either side and it should be fine, at least in small quantities."