Because America is a young nation and a mixing bowl, it lacks a long-standing, time-tested food culture.
Our cuisine is birthed through creativity rather than reasoning or tradition, and we combine all manners of food to please our tongues over our bellies: turduckens, kale/banana/milk smoothies, and Hawaiian pizzas, for example.
But do cheese and pineapple really go together?
Should cantaloupe really be wrapped in cured meat?
Ayurveda warns us that no, some foods simply aren’t meant to be combined.
According to Ayurveda, when foods with different tastes, energies, and post-digestive effects are mixed, they can disturb the agni (digestive fire) and imbalance the doshas (energy principles); leading to gas, fermentation, putrefaction, toxins, and indigestion.
Could our unprecedented culinary experiments be the reason that even health food stores are full of antacids, antidiarrheals, and laxatives?
And one has to wonder why food allergies are such an issue in America. Together with overeating and irregular food habits, our strange food combining habits could be the culprit.
The ancient wisdom of Ayurveda can enlighten our naivete.
This time-tested knowledge isn’t reserved for Indian food. Ayurveda’s guidelines for incompatible food combining can be applied to all cuisines; American food included.
Before you get overwhelmed with the following guidelines, know that this list isn’t meant to take away the joy in eating; it’s meant to increase it. After all, there’s not much joy in eating if indigestion follows. And even if you do indulge is some of these food combinations, you might not notice any problems. You may have been blessed with strong digestion or your body may have become habituated to a particular combination over time.
Nonetheless, Ayurveda’s ancient wisdom should not be discredited, and it will really help those with weaker digestion and existing tummy troubles.
While mixing wrong foods once in a blue moon might not produce any ill effects, long term or frequent incompatible food combining can cause digestive and other issues.
These are some of the foods that Ayurveda deems incompatible:
Milk with bananas, sour fruits, yogurt, fish, meat, yeasted breads or starches. Banana milkshakes and cereal with sliced banana are best avoided, as are fish and meat dishes with dairy-based sauces.
Yogurt with sour fruits, melons, mangoes, bananas or milk. Mango lassis are a particularly bad idea, as are yogurt parfaits with berries and bananas.
Melons with anything else. Melons should be eaten on their own. Prosciutto-wrapped melons are definitely not advised.
Fruit with anything else. If fruits are eaten along with other foods, they can cause fermentation in the digestive tract. There are some exceptions. For example, dates with milk.
Lemons with yogurt, cucumber or tomatoes.
Nightshades with dairy products or cucumber. Nightshades include potatoes, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes. Cheesy lasagna and baked potatoes with cheese and sour cream, for example, are advised against.
Honey with heat. Honey should never be cooked or heated, as it can clog the subtle channels and result in toxins. Allow your tea or hot drink to cool before adding honey, and watch out for cereals baked with honey.
Beans with milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt, meat and fish. Although these combinations are common in some Latin American cuisines, it’s possible that their eaters’ bodies have become accustomed or adapted to these combinations. Nonetheless it’s not a reason to continue, and the unhabituated might experience digestive troubles.
If all these rules sound too strict or like too much to take on, simply start with fruits. Try eating them on their own; at least an hour after meals.
Gradually incorporate other guidelines into your diet, welcoming their good effects as motivation to continue.
Lad, Vasant. The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies. New York: Harmony Books, 1998.
Bonus! How & Why to Eat Ayurvedically:
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Apprentice Editor: Carrie Marzo / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Lukas Liesis / Pixoto