Anyone vaguely interested in Ayurveda will know that digestion is key to health. Modern medical practitioners are also now realising this, with a widening range of health issues being attributed to an faulty gut microbiome (which is a major player in digestion).  We know that it is not just what you eat but how you digest it. You can put lots of nutritious food in your stomach with the right food groups, tonnes of minerals and vitamins but if your digestive system cannot digest it properly, you won’t get the nutrition you think you’re getting. How food is digested is affected by a few key factors, one of which is food combination.

Incompatible food combinations[1] are a major contributor to āma (sticky toxin) formation, and the list of diseases attributed to them take in all systems and tissues, affecting our health on many levels. Specific problems that can arise are bloating, indigestion, diseases of the intestines, skin diseases and even infertility. The good news is there are not as many of these incompatible food combinations as you might think.  The ones that there are, though, are well worth noting as it makes a big difference to our digestion and thus our health.

My aim as an Ayurvedic practitioner is to only ever put forward Ayurvedic advice that I can substantiate with a reference from an ancient Ayurvedic text or that has been proved with a thorough research trial.  It is easy to accumulate urban-myth type information in any field and I put my hand up that I have occasionally fallen into this trap with Ayurveda. I decided to find the textual basis for many ‘incompatible foods’ which are mentioned in the popular press and the internet. Not finding any references for a lot of them, I have narrowed the list down considerably, sorting fact from fiction.

Here are the textually referenced[2] food combining rules that we would be wise to adhere to if we want to maintain good digestion.

Milk is the main troublemaker

Avoid milk with these foods:

Milk is incompatible with sour food, fish, meat, green leafy vegetables and others.

*Lemons, mangoes, and bananas get a special mention.  Bananas are classed as sour although they do not really seem it.

** This seems at odds with the many references to garlic boiled with milk to be taken medicinally.  The jury’s out on this one!

Fish and meat cause problems in combination with these foods

Fish and meat are incompatible with milk, yoghurt, honey, sugar, jaggery and others.

Banana and dairy are incompatible

Banana is incompatible with yoghurt, buttermilk and milk.

Don’t combine honey and ghee in equal quantities

Don't combine honey and ghee in equal amounts.

Plus, particularly important; don’t heat honey.  This also means you should not buy honey which has been heat processed or extracted.  There are only a few brands which use cold-extraction and do not heat their honey.  I have found one reasonably-priced brand commonly available in good supermarkets in the UK (Littleover Apiaries). 

Fruit.  The order of eating is important

Eat fruit before meals but not during or after.

This is especially important with sour fruit. 

Do your digestion a favour and avoid these food combinations.

Until next time, take care of yourselves.


Author: Kate Siraj, Ayurvedic Practitioner, BSc Ayurveda, MChem (Oxon), MAPA.
© The Ayurveda Practice

[1] Samyoga viruddhahara

[2] Astanga Samgraha Sutra Sthana 9, Astanga Hrdayam Sutra Sthana 7, Caraka Samhita Sutra Sthana 26, Sushruta Samhita Sutra Sthana 46

Categories: BlogDiet


Dr. Vecram Addithyen · March 25, 2021 at 03:33

Dear Friend, Wonderful way of presenting the knowledge that matters. Loved the diagrams. God bless. Dr. Vecram Addithyen

Mandy · May 1, 2021 at 22:17

I’ve googled this and can’t find an answer, can you help Kate? Where do non-dairy milks fit in with this? If you used oatmilk to make your porridge, for example, would stewed apple and cinnamon be ok with that, or even banana? And nut milks? I very much doubt they are referenced in the texts, but I’d be interested in your thoughts. Thanks.

    Kate · May 2, 2021 at 20:22

    Good question! Plant milk alternatives don’t need to be separated from the other things you need to be wary of with dairy milks. However, fruit should in general be eaten before other food or away from it so for that reason, avoid banana with your porridge. Cooked fruit generally tends be less problematic to mix in than raw fruit.

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