September 3

Rethinking Food Combining Rules on the Raw Foods Diet

Filed under Raw Food Controversies by Frederic Patenaude

The other day I was eating a delicious salad made with the following ingredients:

– Crisp romaine lettuce
– Sweet and ripe raw corn
– Garden-ripen tomatoes
– Diced mango
– Small amount of avocado
– Fresh herbs picked from the garden
– Lemon juice

I can’t express how delicious this salad was. It was truly amazing! And part of the
reason why it was so good is because it was made with fresh and ripe ingredients.

But another reason was the combination of the sweetness in the mango and corn, the savory taste of the tomatoes and vegetables and herbs, and the creaminess of the avocado.

I was telling another raw-food friend about this salad, and her reaction was: “Yeah, but what about food combining rules! You say that we should never mix fat with sugar”.

Indeed, what about food combining rules?

The raw food diet is a pretty strict diet to begin with.

We don’t eat bread. We don’t eat meat. We don’t eat dairy products. We don’t eat eggs (at least most of us don’t!)… and we don’t eat most of what other people eat as well.

But on top of that, we have these rules about not being able to combine certain foods with each other, and how just eating one food at a time is best.

And I must say, for a long time I subscribed to all of these rules. But I also knew that not all food combining rules are valid.

For example, the original book “Food Combining Made Easy” by Dr. Shelton gave a lot of rules with no reasoning at all behind them.

Also, a lot of people have misinterpreted that book. Because Shelton said “eat melons on their own”, some people think they should never eat melons with other fruits (such as peaches), when in fact Shelton clearly stated you could do so.

Essentially, his rule was meant to avoid the common combination/abomination in those days of a big slice of watermelon after of rich meal of meat and pasta.

In my book the “Raw Secrets”, I simplified food combining rules in the raw diet to three essential rules:

–    Do not combine fat with sugar
–    Do not combine acids with starch
–    Do not combine different types of fatty foods within one meal

Today, I’m going to simplify these rules even more, and completely deconstruct the food combining theory!

How I Reconsidered These Rules

For many years, I followed food combining rules blindly without questioning them. Then I started simplifying them over the years, and realized that some of them weren’t necessary.

At this point, I have eliminated most of the “rules” I once thought were essential.

How did I get to this?

Over the years, I’ve watched some other raw-foodists eat who didn’t know these food combining rules.

She simply made combinations she liked that tasted good, without paying too much attention to the combinations like I did.

My big surprise was to realize that I could eat many combinations that I thought were “bad” without any negative effect whatsoever.

The main combination I’m talking about has to do with mixing fat and sugar together.

Why Certain Combinations Occur in Nature

The idea behind many food combining rules is to simplifying the process of digestion. So naturally, the “sandwich” is one of the worst combinations ever, because it combines many classes of food which are optimally digested in a completely different acidic or non-acidic environment in the stomach.

In the raw food diet, we naturally avoid most of these combinations, leaving mainly one: the combination of fat and sugar.

The idea behind this rule is that combining fat and sugar, such as dates and almonds together, will let the sugar ferment in the stomach.

The reason is simple: almonds and other fats take a lot more time to digest than simple sugars. If you eat them together, the sugar you eat will spend much more time in the stomach and intestines and start to ferment.

So far so good…

But even with that rule, the traditional rules of food combining allow for certain exceptions. For example, you can combine acid fruits with nuts together.

The idea is that because nuts digest well in an acidic environment, acid fruits don’t compromise that picture, and also contain less sugar than other fruits.

This line of reasoning always appeared a little suspicious, but I noticed that the effects of that combination were generally positive, as long as I ate very small amounts of fat.

But there’s one strange observation:

–    Many foods in nature contain the combination of fat and sugar in significant proportions!

For example, the durian, a beloved fruit of many raw-foodists, is very rich in sugar and quite rich in fat (20% on average).

Even avocados contain some sugar and carbohydrates, and so do nuts.

And surprisingly, all fruits and vegetables contain a certain percentage of fatty acids.

There are also other fruits in nature that contain this forbidden mixture of fat and sugar, such as the “Ackee fruit”, popular in Jamaica.

So it seems to me a little strange to completely ban this combination, when you can enjoy a ripe durian which contains a mixture of fat and sugar.

Raw-Foodists Eating Too Much Fat

After thinking about this a lot, I realized that most raw-foodists who benefit from these food combining rules have something in common: they eat too much fat!

I agree that the combination of a huge handful of almonds with a bag of dates is a nasty mixture that leads to a lot of fermentation and gas.

But try eating three dates and three almonds together. You’ll probably find that this combination goes down perfectly well.

The same goes for other fatty foods:

Eat a huge guacamole and then have all the figs you can eat, and you probably will experience some gas.

But dice up a third of an avocado in a salad that contains lettuce and mango, and you’ll probably be fine.

So my main observation with the rule of not combining fruit and fat together has to do with quantities.

When small quantities of fat are used in the diet, there is no reason to fear combining some fruit with some fatty foods once in a while.

So my new “rule” is: you can throw in some fruit in a salad containing some fat. Try to avoid fruits that are very concentrated in sugar such as dates or dried fruits or bananas, and instead use juicy fruits. Also, avoid large quantities of fat.

Eating Fruit is Better than Eating Fat (in spite of food combining rules)

Another problem with the food combining rules that have been presented before are the restrictions they pose on people.

Let’s say you have a salad that contains some avocado.

According to food combining, you should not eat anything for several hours after that, or only eat more of the same ingredients for optimal digestion.

So if you’re not satisfied after a meal of salad and avocado (and most people aren’t) because you didn’t eat enough fruit during the day or before the meal, then your only option is to wait several hours or eat more avocado.

What I recommend now is to eat fruit, whenever you feel like it or feel hungry, even if the combination is not perfect.

Eating some fruit after a salad containing avocado will be a LOT better than eating more avocado and more fat after that same meal.

The Spirit of Food Combining Rules

I still believe in the spirit of food combining rules, which is about keeping things simple and avoiding long lists of ingredients.

However, it’s probably not necessary to obsess about these rules, when you can enjoy some simple, tasty and low fat combinations that will taste great and digest well, even if they don’t follow the rules 100%.

I welcome your comments below…
Raw Health Starter Kit

36 Responses to “Rethinking Food Combining Rules on the Raw Foods Diet”

  1. […] Rethinking Food Combining Rules on the Raw Foods Diet […]

  2. Annalise says:

    It is a fact that digestion improves with fewer ingredients. But is this true for a veggie salad? I like to make salads that have lentil sprouts, tomatos, celery, bell pepper, and various veggies. Dressing if any would be dulse or ACV. So no overt oils at all. In my experience it digests fine, even though there are probably 10 ingredients. Any comments?

  3. Annalise says:

    p.s. Do you know the nutritional facts of lentil and mung bean sprouts? I use them a lot in my 80/10/10 diet, I don’t think they have the same macronutrients (proteins, etc.) as the legume before sprouting, so I generally consider them a vegetable. Nevertheless, sprouts are INVALUABLE to me, psychologically, so I can eat what appears to be a “dinner meal,” which isn’t fruit (given that I’ve already consumed plentiful calories of sweet fruit earlier in the day). This is so valuable to me that I wonder why more low-fat raw-vegans aren’t promoting sprout salads for additional nutrients and alkalinity, as well as that psychological factor. It could help so many more people transition.

  4. Pauline d'Entremont says:

    M Patinaude,
    I did not eat fruit for many years because of yeast and digestive issues. After reading your book and the 80 10 10 diet book I switched to eating no fat and lots of fruits and vegeis.Thing were great (in fact amazing) until I started adding slight amouts of fat every other day and only at one meal per day. My symptoms came back and I have had no overt fats for about 5 months. As soon as I even try one day of fats I do not feel well. Can I be healthy with no overt fats?
    I loved your DVDs especially the no fat one
    Thanks, Pauline d’Entremont, Nova Scotia

  5. Mildred Jones says:

    Hi Frederic,

    I tell you, this is really becoming confusing but I do agree with you not to obsess about these things but rather find what works for you because one person may be able to tolerate one thing and then another may not.

    I like your approach and I’m happy that you always share your findings and this takes people on a journey along with you.

    I appreciate a more simple approach as I try to live by food combining rules but most of the time do not follow them and find myself in trouble with a stomach ache so I am working to eat more simplistic.

    Thanks again for your knowledge and support.


  6. Karmyn says:


    I love you! I was just thinking the same thing about the “Food Combining Rules.”

    I even had a discussion (er debate) with Roger about this.

    Thank you for writing this. This will help so many people enjoy their raw food more without obsessing about it.



  7. Jyoti Hawley says:

    You article answered my question very cleary…I agree with your remarks.
    I am impressed you really use your common sense along with zillions of your long time research & knowledge. That’s why I always trust your word!!! THANK YOU! J.H.

  8. Malu says:

    wonderful this article! Congratulations frederic!
    In my journey in this wonderful life style, I come simply discovering and undoing many “rules”… for, as you said, simplifying my diet. And it´s being fantastic these discoveries! Free of impositions… only allowing my body to say me what it really wants and as how IT functions works perfectly…
    Very grateful!

  9. Evelyn says:


    I’ve always had a few questions about the food combining rules, because sometimes I have broken the rules and haven’t had any problems. I’m learning to listen to my body, which makes the difference.

  10. Kara says:

    Thank you! This goes perfectly with my philosophy! I don’t take anything to seriously…it causes stress and too much over-thinking everything. I have a special-needs daughter and i have learned that too many rules and things to think about will cause guilt over not reaching an unattainable goal. Maybe some are able to be 100% Raw but I bet they don’t have a picky family of 5. LOL
    This should be key in every book you write!

  11. Annalise says:

    I am also eating raw for a special-needs child (Aspergers–and raw food makes ALL the difference). I would love to talk further with you. Check out my blog, you can comment and give me your e-mail perhaps?

  12. Heather says:

    Sounds good to me! Thanks for another great article!! I can’t find you on facebook. Is your account for a search private? Mine is, so I can’t be found in a search, but I would like to add you…

  13. Sue says:

    Dear Fred,

    Thank you so much for covering this issue. I’ve just returned from California where my son and his wife eat very small meals of every combination you can think of, and I felt just great. At home, I eat way more and have to be careful that I combine properly. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is often the vast quantities of food that people eat that get them into trouble rather than the combination of different foods. Sue

  14. Swayze says:

    Great article, Frederic!

    I find that I have much more leeway with avocado than I do with nuts. For instance, I can often consume avocado soon after a fruit meal without much problem. Nuts, on the other hand, always give me trouble.

    I believe this is mostly because the nuts I eat are dehydrated and not truly raw nor fresh. Maybe if I had fresh, water-rich nuts and seeds I would have a different experience…

    You are right, though. The key is definitely how MUCH fat you consume.

  15. Hi Frederic,
    Thanks for a great article. As a long time Raw Foodist(over 24 years) and health practitioner, I have come to similar conclusions. There are some people that are sensitive to even small quantities of fruit and fat combined, but these are few and far between. In my experience most people do well with avocado and mango for example…and it’s such a yummy combination. It’s true that the raw vegan diet is restrictive enough for most people. Add the food combining “Rules” and it makes many people jump ship and go back the SAD diet.

    I decided many years ago to drop the food combining “rules” and simply follow what worked for me. I coach my patients and students to do the same.

    Thanks for such expressing it so well. I plan to post a link to your article in my blog ( I hope that’s ok with you. I get so many questions about food combining and you said it so well, that it’s easier to reference your article than to write one of my own.

    I enjoyed hanging out with you at the Vibrant Living Expo in Fort Bragg. Keep up the good work.

    Thanks again

    Dr. Ritamarie

  16. Heather says:

    What about a fruit only salad with just Bananas and Blueberries and/or other berries? Do bananas combine well with berries after eaten?

  17. Kristi says:


    Thank you, thank you SO very much for this article. WOW! It’s exactly what i’ve needed to hear. I find that i choose fats (even though i don’t want to) because i am not yet full from a meal and enough hours havn’t passed that it would be ideal for me to eat fruit. And yet NOW i am free to eat fruit! It makes perfect sense and i feel free knowing this new information. I feel so much better and my stomach looks flat when i stick to mainly fruit and leafy greens, more than 1 small serving of fat in a day and i have what i call perma-bloat. So these tips you just shared bring me much joy.

    p.s. – I just bought RawSecrets and finished reading it in 3 days. Amazing book! Thank you for having what i feel is the ‘ideal perspective’ on the raw food diet.

    Winnipeg, Canada

  18. Sarma Ilgenfritz says:

    Thank you, Fred, for again giving us information in your common sense – thorough – fashion. I have nicknamed you “Common Sense Fred” so that when I share information with my meat&potatoes husband, he immediately can hear what I’m saying in a different way – he’s the one who actually said your whole way of thinking is so grounded in common sense it’s easy and natural to understand. He has started to like meals with meat and greens or veggies (sans potatoes) – that’s a huge accomplishment. I fix his meals and eat my veggie stews or salads – it’s very easy! My 15 month old grandson loves green smoothies AND veggie stews! I can’t wait to try mango & avocado together – yummy! Thanks again! Sarma

  19. Andy - Melbourne, Australia says:

    Fred your wisdom is greatly appreciated. I diligently practiced food combining for a number of years prior to going raw and I am pleased to say that I have been on a raw vegan diet for 3 years without any deviation. From experience, I agree with you logical conclusion regarding small quantities of fat-sugar combination. (Moderation is the key).

    I like to share a couple of my favourite salad dressings:

    – blend half an avocado, 1 orange or grapefruit with a large spoonful of dried dill

    – blend 1 grapefruit with 1 or 2 tablespoons of unhulled tahini.

  20. Patrina says:

    I would like to see the issue of “glycation” and “glycation end products” addressed by raw food mentors. This relates to the combination of sugars with fats and sugars with proteins. In the following wiki article, the Endogenous section relates to raw foodies.

  21. Armena says:

    Dear Fred,
    I’ve been paying attention to food separating / food combining since 1973, noticing effects, doing little experiments. I know what a peaceful stomach feels like from 36 years of fruit monomeals for breakfast + after. Sometimes, after a poor combination (I’m always aware of the compatability predictions of what I eat), I’ve felt a pain from the poor combination many hours later, even 12 hours later, even though the food “went down easily”. We can swallow all kinds of things. It takes time for the effects to show. If we get pain, gas, it may be long after. Many people don’t realize the pain source is from a bad combo from even the day before. We can live with bits of gas pain here + there. The main trouble is that gas means the food’s sugar or other elements didn’t get to nourish our bodies. Instead some of the food nutrients became just a waste and a burden on our bodies instead of giving us all its possible energy + vitality. I agree with you that fat is the most troubling element, to be careful of, have little. Also dried fruit is troublesome as it’s concentrated. Still Herbert Shelton’s rules are good guidelines to keep in mind even while we test them out everyday. Yet one avocado can be very juicy watery, while another is more densely fatty. One mango can be very sweet and thick + even fatty feeling while another can be acidic + watery. One tomato can be so watery -juicy and subacid/semi-sweet that it could be enjoyed with a melon. Still, my tummy feels best when I eat melon alone. And I like my tummy to feel peaceful. So it’s good to know the suggested rules so we can interpret any ill-effects we may notice. And keep in mind the ill-effects could come way later. Or maybe noticed only later as a tiredness, or some other symptom. I do like my fruits best as mono-meals because when they are delicious, i just want to keep eating that one fruit + keep the taste. If however i don’t have enough of the ripe fruit I’m eating, then I might combine another into the meal, carefully noting the combo of sweet with sweet (and not with acidic or fatty). Subacid fruit like mango is borderline middle ground sometimes almost acidfruit category and so might be OK with avocado in small amount as you said. The higher the watercontent of the foods, maybe the more easily they combine, some say. Still, if I’m eating a non-grape fruit meal and feel good in the tummy, then eat just one grape, I immediately feel a tension, a change in the tummy. The body is not so relaxed when given a more complex task. So for ultimate peace in the pipes i like fruit monomeals. Veggie salads are a different matter. I think it feels OK to have mixed salads of leaves, tomatoes, cucumbers. Maybe a few berries could fit. Or mango. I liked what you said about filling up when needed on just more fruit instead of more fat, even if the food separating guidelines would make you feel you shouldn’t put fruit after fat, but I’d pay attention to the effects hours later. We can observe our bodies over 24 hrs or more, also as food can be in there from yesterday interacting with what we eat today. The guidelines are there to help us understand effects we feel. I am grateful for know these rules, + have helped man many people understand why they get stomach pains, and how to have better digestion, thanks to knowing food separating guidelines, + food combining better choices.

  22. Armena says:

    Dear Fred,
    I find when we “want something more”, cucumbers work well, as they are fruit = veggie fruit = nonsweet, not fatty, so we can fill up if we need more + have a good combination with most anything that’s already in us, plus they are good for chewing! Cucumbers are one of my main all around safe chewing foods, satisfying, fun, filling, high-water-content and easy to carry around (with a peeler). Good for travel. One of my cats demands cucumbers as soon as he smells it from my chewing. Dr.Herbert Shelton said when we want more in the evening, a few leaves of romaine lettuce should do the trick. I find cucumbers do the trick often. That way we don’t add more fat or more sweet (which together can bother each other + us!).
    Armena in Ann Arbor

  23. Marisa says:

    Fred, my problem with this post is that you’re drawing conclusions from some exceptions in nature-ie the durian as if this exception was the rule. The truth is that high fat fruits or high fat combined with high sugar fruits are only exceptions to the rule that almost all fruits low fat and protein, specifically 90% carbs 5% protein 5% fat on average.

    I’ve noticed that my digestion and my health is negatively affected by durian, if I’m not careful with it-but it is very difficult to be careful with it precisely because of its unusual combination. The high fat content prevents the brain from receiving the proper satiation messages so it is extremely easy to overeat it. For me it is a slippery slope, as I add more fat or more combinations, I keep slipping up. I’d rather be building health than accumulating deficits and problems.

    What about eating more salad after eating high fat instead of eating fruit? Or better yet, eat lots of fruit before the salad and skip the high fat altogether?

  24. Richard S says:

    Frederic, thank you for writing AND posting this article. Over the few years of studying and eating a mostly raw vegan diet, I have since eased up on the rigidity of orthodox food combining rules espoused by Dr. Shelton and others for a few reasons, the main one being impracticality. I and-I’m certain-many others value your willing to reevalute the fundamental tenets of the raw food movement, in an effort to refine it…at least I hope that’s intent. Nevertheless, please continue to evolve in your journey in healthly living and live foods.

  25. Richard S says:

    Hi Heather,

    As a fellow health/raw food sojourner, I can assure you, based on (my) research and my personal experience with that particular mixture (bananas and blueberries), that it’s perfectly to fine to combine them. As a matter a fact, bananas and berries are one of my most common and favorite combinations to make a smoothie, pudding, etc. According to the traditionally espoused food combining rules, the most agreeable fruit combinations are BETWEEN fruit types and not ACROSS fruit types, i.e. sweet fruits (bananas, dates, figs) with sub-acid fruits (apples, plums, peaches, pears, most berries) or sub-acid fruits with acid fruits (kiwi, strawberry, all citrus) but not sweet fruits with acid fruits. HOWEVER, like Frederic just explained in the article, these rules are generally null and void as long as you eat the so-called “ill-advised” combinations in moderation and within the a plant-based dietary context, it shouldn’t cause any complications. So, go ahead and help yourself to a banana-strawberry-orange juice smoothie/soup if you’re the urge. Take care

  26. Some of the food combining restrictions I have heard are that you shouldn’t mix fruits and vegetables. You also shouldn’t drink with your meal.

    I have tried to do these with some success, but wondering if it’s really necessary.

  27. Heather says:

    Hi Richard,
    Thank you so much for writing that and answering my question! 🙂 I really appreciate it and that information was interesting and really helpful! Thanks! I am also thinking of making a green salad with mixed leafs, spinach and then adding berries and sliced bananas. I just recently had the idea to add bananas… Have you ever tried that combo? And for a salad dressing, I want one that is completely natural and healthy. I’ve tried citrus juice before but it was not thick enough, so I recently had the idea to smash up some bananas, and then squeeze in some oranges and a little lemon and mix it in the salad. I haven’t tried it yet… Does that sound weird? haha I will have to see how it taste… Have you had a lot of success with eating raw?

  28. […] original post here:  Rethinking Food Combining Rules on the Raw Foods Diet Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and […]

  29. Sarah says:

    Your salad sounded delicious. Isn’t corn a starch? Was surprised to hear it combined with tomato. I’ve been eating a lot of raw corn lately, following a salad blended with greens, herbs and grapefruit. I wait about 1/2 hour after the salad. Is it okay to eat 4 cobs of (organic) corn at a meal?

  30. Chris says:

    Fred, your observations are as usual, a breath of fresh air amidst much “forced dogma” that exists in raw food myth and legend! Personally I have fount that a salad of only fresh ripe orange mango, avocado and romaine is one of the best bodybuilding meals ever. No digestive problems whatsoever. After being raw for ten years I have forgotten what a fart is!

  31. andrius says:

    I found interesting study which says that high fat diet reduces energy and mental performance: ‘Rats fed a high-fat diet show a stark reduction in their physical endurance and a decline in their cognitive ability after just nine days, a study by Oxford University researchers has shown’

  32. Lissa says:

    thanks a lot for another great article. I had to smile because I make that very same mango-third of avocado-tomato-salat almost every day and it is one of my favourites. So far I never experienced any bad effects. I agree that food combining rules can make the raw fruity life more complicated than it has to be and I simply enjoy this salad so much to stick to monomeals 24/7, at least right now!

  33. Guylaine says:

    Hi Frederic,
    Superb photo of the group in Fort Bragg. I agree that the food combining needs to be reconsidered. I had the same experience that when combining small quantities of one group of foods then it digest well. Well done, thanks,

  34. Fred,

    Many thanks for setting the record straight….there are many great combo’s that I use in my shakes that go along with your comments. My favorite shake is based on coconut water, with frozen cranberries, a banana, chopped up kale and parsley and celery. It is very invigorating and I feel great afterwards.
    You are the best at looking at the whole picture of health and not getting stuck into a set stance.
    I did miss the veggie stews, tho’. What’s with that?

  35. […] of my absolute favorite raw food blogs is Frederic Patenaude Talks.  Frederic has been in the low fat raw food field for over ten years now.  His vast knowledge […]

  36. Bonnie says:

    Hi Fred,

    Before I ever heard of eating entirely raw I was food combining after reading “Fit For Life” by the Diamonds, and it worked. But, I believe it did because you don’t eat raw fruit with cooked food. And you never combine fruit (raw or cooked) with cooked protein…etc.

    When I discovered Raw Foodism it made sense to me, except the food combining. I can’t imagine Adam and Eve eating by that theory in the Garden of Eden! Nor can I imagine them putting oil on their raw fruits and vegetables. I tend to agree with you in that we use entirely too much fat…especially liquid fats. I think if we eat an enormous amount of fatty raw foods, no matter the combination, we’re going to feel less than our best because of overeating and overeating on something our bodies don’t require such a large amount of at one time. After all, not only are we eating for enjoyment and to satisfy our appetite, but to give our body the nutrients it requires to take care of itself.

    I tend to agree with Gabriel Cousens, that if it’s raw (vegan) we can eat it together.

    Fred, I so appreciate all the research and thought you put into your theories. Now I don’t feel “guilty” combining, or not combining, the way I do. Thank you.


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