We are all aware that what we eat and how we eat are critical factors in maintaining our health. Knowing what foods are more nutrient-dense and what food combinations to make to achieve high satiety with all the nutrients but fewer calories are critical for weight loss.
Furthermore, combining foods during meals is a simple practice that can have health benefits, allowing you to live a healthier lifestyle.
Some religions, like Judaism, and some holistic medicine approaches, such as Ayurvedic practice, have very strict rules about which foods can and cannot be eaten together.
However, these are not the only practices; many other variations are much more adaptable and simple to implement.
Understanding the fundamentals of food pairing, or food combinations, for weight loss is critical for creating nutrient-dense, balanced, and flavorful meals that will keep you fuller for longer while consuming fewer calories.
This allows you to eat a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods while sticking to a healthy diet and helping you in your weight loss journey.
Before jumping to the best foods combination you can make for your everyday meals, it’s good to have a bit of background on the three main macronutrients: carbs, proteins, and fats.
Fats and protein
These two macronutrients usually take longer to digest, so make sure to include them in every meal, if possible, so you won’t get hungry shortly after eating.
We all know that animal products like milk, meat, fish, cheese, and eggs are high in protein, but plant-based proteins like pulses, nuts, and seeds are also good options.
Furthermore, nuts and seeds are high in fiber and healthy fats. Avocados, olives, vegetable oils, and fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and trout are also excellent sources of healthy fats.
Carbs are frequently portrayed as villains because some of them, known as simple carbs, are rapidly digested, causing a blood sugar spike immediately after eating.
But not all carbs are the same, some high-carb foods are also rich in fiber, a type of complex carbs. Fiber can slow down the absorption of nutrients, making you feel fuller for longer, so you won’t feel hungry shortly after eating fiber, and it can also reduce how many calories our bodies absorb from the food we eat (1).
When it comes to carbs, grains like rice, wheat, rye, oatmeal, quinoa, and buckwheat are the best sources of complex carbs rich in fiber. Fruits and vegetables, particularly leafy greens, are also nutrient-dense sources of fiber, high in vitamins and minerals, and low in calories.
Best food combinations
No matter whether you follow a vegan, keto, paleo, or gluten-free diet, there are plenty of food combinations that you can make to have a satisfying plate full of nutrients, which will keep you feeling full while helping you eat fewer calories and lose weight.
There is no “one size fits them all” rule of what to eat, however, combining high-fiber carbs, such as a grain or a piece of fruit, with a protein source food, or even better, a protein and healthy fat source food, are great ways to ensure you’re getting enough proteins, fats, and carbs while also promoting feelings of fullness, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and supporting long-term weight loss if that’s one’s target.
It is also important to note that weight loss is affected not only by what you eat but also by how much you eat. While certain food combinations may be better for weight loss than others, it is also important to watch your portion sizes.
Fruits with protein and fats
Fruits can be a great healthy snack; however, despite being a good source of fiber, you may feel hungry shortly after eating them due to a lack of proteins and fat.
But there’s a simple solution to this: combining fruits with protein, or with protein and fats is the best option for a midday snack.
For example, one of the best combinations possible, not only because it provides plenty of satiety and nutrients, but also because it tastes great is combining fruit and nut butter.
What’s more, polyunsaturated fats found in nut butter such as peanut or almond butter can improve insulin metabolism while decreasing insulin resistance (6).
Simply spread 1 tablespoon of your favorite nut butter, preferably one with no added sugar, salt, or oils, on some apple slices or a banana, and you’ll have all the benefits of a nutrient-dense snack ready in seconds, knowing that it can help you stay slim and healthy at the same time.
Another great combo that will give you plenty of satiety and nutrients, while keeping you slim is to pair fruit with Greek yogurt, as it has a higher protein content than plain yogurt. Keep in mind that it should be low in fat and without added sugar, to reach your weight loss goals faster.
Protein with complex carbs
We already know that protein is a key nutrient for weight loss, and studies show that it is best to spread out our protein intake throughout the day, by eating a small portion of protein-rich foods with every meal (7).
In addition to protein, for a meal to be healthy, balanced, and aligned with your weight loss goals, the dish must have complex carbs and fiber, like plenty of veggies and whole grains, that further contributes to the feeling of fullness (8).
If you choose an animal-based protein, keep in mind that the best choices are lean cuts of meat, pork, and poultry that are low in saturated fats.
For beef or pork go for the one that’s at least 90 % lean, for poultry, the best option is to remove the skin before cooking since it is high in saturated fats. The leanest poultry choices are chicken breasts and turkey cutlets. When it comes to fish, a healthy choice is to include fatty fish 2 or 3 times per week, as they provide us with essential omega-3 fatty acids, which promote healthy hearts and brains (9, 10).
Want plant-based options? Go for beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and seeds.
These plant-based foods are not only great sources of protein but are also rich in phytonutrients, antioxidants, healthy unsaturated fats, potassium, and fiber, have zero cholesterol, and are naturally low in sodium. They’re the perfect combination for keeping your heart healthy and your body slim (11, 12).
Here are some classic and easy food combinations: salad and grilled chicken; turkey with green beans, and broccoli; whole grain bagel with egg, tomato, and avocado; beef stir-fry with peppers and onions; sandwich with turkey, spinach, tomatoes, and cheese; baked salmon with asparagus and quinoa; veggie chili with squash; black bean burger with avocado; falafel with carrots and cucumbers; oatmeal with milk, nuts, and fruits.
Health benefits of food combining
Although no specific studies support it, several food combinations can be beneficial.
Losing weight is not the only benefit you can get from the right food combination, it can also help you to improve digestion, prevent bloating and discomfort, enhance nutrient absorption, and prevent acid reflux.
Simply knowing which foods are high in different macronutrients and learning the fundamentals, a proper food combination can give you all of these benefits.
Reduces your appetite levels
Following a high-protein diet has been promoted as a successful strategy for preventing or treating obesity by improving body weight management. Studies show that a high protein intake can decrease the levels of the hunger hormone called ghrelin levels, therefore lowering the appetite and promoting satiety (2, 3, 13).
Fats are also great for reducing your appetite levels. The presence of fat in the small intestine stimulates the release of many gastrointestinal hormones that helps suppress appetite and energy intake (5).
Keeps you full for longer
Although it may sound counterintuitive, eating foods rich in healthy fats can help with weight loss. Why? Because fat delays gastric emptying, which means that food stays longer in the stomach and takes longer to complete digestion throughout the digestive system, promoting feelings of fullness between meals (4).
Helps manage blood sugar levels
Combining foods rich in protein and healthy fats with foods rich in complex carbohydrates can slow the absorption of nutrients. This prevents drastic spikes and drops in blood sugar levels after a meal (14, 15).
These sudden drops in blood sugar are known as hypoglycemia and can lead to uncontrolled hunger, dizziness, and nausea (16)
A proper food combination can help us stay full on fewer calories, promote weight loss, and provide the proper nutrient balance.
While there are no specific scientific studies on specific combinations, there is enough information on the health benefits of combining complex carbs with healthy fats and proteins.
Furthermore, it is critical to remember that, in addition to a healthy and balanced diet, regular physical activity is required for long-term sustainable weight loss.