Truth and benefits of food combining


Anyone who is interested in new fad diets, or has an instagram account following other health and nutrition accounts, may have heard of the brand new eating philosophy called food combining. 

Over the past four months, the “diet” has spread like wildfire, appearing all over health instagram accounts and blogs with thousands of viewers and followers. Although the diet is widely popular, many people are confused about what exactly it is, because, quite frankly, there is a lot to be confused about. According to Healthline, this way of eating is bound by rules of what foods a devotee can pair together in meals: meaning that eating specific food groups together is healthier for an individual than eating foods that are “uncombined.” While rules like these might seem unnecessary and irregular, the main purpose is to optimize digestion and obtain what has been described as “proper health.” 

This basis of food combining first originated in ayurvedic medicine–an ancient way to heal the body through holistic health–and overtime has developed into various versions which have spread through influencers and athletes, such as Tom Brady, Melissa Wood and Kenzie Burke.

Most food combining diets split up food into five groups: carbs and starches, fruits, vegetables, protein and fats. The diet defines which groups can be eaten together or can be “combined.” The rules of the food combining diet vary between each source, but typically include rules from only eating fruit on an empty stomach to not eating proteins and starches together, along with multiple other rules that can be applied. 

Although food combining has been around for hundreds of years, the recent popularity of food combining is mainly due to influencers and public figures. 

One of these public figures is Kenzie Burke, a twenty three year old woman who left her life in Wisconsin behind to move to Los Angeles and find what she was truly passionate about. After months of soul searching, she realized that she was passionate about health and wellness, and so her journey with food combining and living a holistic lifestyle began.

One scroll through the twenty year olds instagram–with ninety thousand followers and counting–opens up a window to countless recipes that follow food combing, inspirational quotes and success stories of other people who have tried this method of eating and wellness. In one particular instagram post, posted on February 23rd, 2019, Burke explained her own experience with food combining, writing “I was a girl who was working out daily and thinking I ate right …. but most importantly, a girl who didn’t know her power, her worth or feel empowered in her own body…. Discovering and educating myself on food combining and focusing on eating plants all of the sudden made me no longer go to bed bloated and lean out in ways I didn’t know were possible …. I watched my body and my mind change before my eyes. Nothing is more empowering than that!!!…”

Burke is one of the many people who has had positive effects from following food combining. Burke has posted countless testimonials and transformations on her instagram, each time writing excited captions about how amazing these women looked. Her personal transformation, which she specifies as “more of a mental transformation,” along with the transformations of other women, seem like nothing but positive. They claim to have more energy and just feeling better and happier, not only because of their leaned out bodies, but also because of their uplifted minds. 

However, around two weeks ago, a dietitian named Abbey Sharp released a youtube video that basically debunked Burke’s entire food combining philosophy. This resulted in hundreds of negative comments on Burke’s instagram posts and overall doubt of her methods. 

Surprised by the instant backlash this woman was facing for promoting what seemed to be, simply put, a clean and holistic approach to eating, and more importantly appalled the surge of unnecessary hate people so easily unloaded on her, I searched for answers. Instead of throwing food coming to the wind, I wanted to know if it was healthy and if it scientifically made sense.

As it turns out, there is no scientific proof for this method and there has not even been more than a couple of studies done on it’s effects. A study was done at University Hospital Geneva in Switzerland on whether or not food combining offered weight or fat loss benefits in comparison to a well balanced healthy diet. The conclusion was that, in fact, at the end of the experiment, participants from both the balanced diet and the food combining diet had similar weight loss and food combining did not prove to be more beneficial. 

In light of this evidence and digestive science, it is easy to determine that food combining scientifically doesn’t make sense. Although this may be true, there is nothing that says the food combining diet is unhealthy, which circles back to the negative comments on her instagram. Many people have commented that this way of eating prompts eating disorders and is making young women feel worse about their bodies. As much as food combining is grounded in alternative science practices and not digestive science, these claims are as well. There are countless research papers and articles clearly stating that food can change our emotions and mood, which is half of what Kenzie Burke is all about. If one were to look at food combining not as a science or a diet and just look at the meals that someone would eat while on this diet, they are healthy and full of nutritious foods. 

So yes, food combining is subjective to the individual who is doing it and might not work the same “magic” for everyone, but there is no reason for the negativity or criticism.  Burke’s version is a healthy, well balanced diet with a unique set of rules that may have the potential to change someone’s life, but that does not mean it will change every single participants body or life. I personally believe that the foods one eats should just be about what makes them feel good and healthy. If food combining can do that for someone, than that is more than great. It doesn’t matter what it’s called, or who is following it, a healthy diet is one that fits an individual life and works for that individual. Food combining is not grounded in science and Kenzie Burke is not a scientist, but her message is not bad or wrong, and neither is food combining.