In our great digital age, you can learn at any time about the nuances of a healthy diet, including which foods might be unhealthy or even dangerous to eat together.
We have probably all run across information that indicates certain food combos can cause a host of dangerous conditions like diabetes, cancer, or arthritis. As an intelligent person who craves the best information possible to guide your dietary choices, the internet is a real life-saver.
However, there is sometimes too much info out there, and not all of it is accurate. If you actually tried to follow every piece of dietary advice you came across you’d probably drive yourself crazy designing even one meal. But despite the dire warnings you might read about foods that will nearly kill you if eaten together, most of that stuff is based on superstition rather than science.
Sometimes there is a grain of truth to food combination warnings, but it is rarely reason enough to swear off of them entirely. Stick with us to discover the facts and the fiction surrounding 7 food combinations that the internet says will ruin your health.
1. Cold Water With A Meal
The story: The theory goes that drinking cold water directly before, during, or after a meal will cause the food to congeal or solidify in your stomach. After all, fats do congeal when exposed to cool temperatures outside of your body. Some people also suggest that drinking water with food dilutes stomach acid and thus reduces the acid’s ability to digest a meal.
The reality: What this idea fails to consider is that our bodies are warm inside. Cold water doesn’t stay cold for long after being consumed; it quickly warms up to body temperature. And while cold water can help prevent overheating when you’ve been out in the sun too long, it’s not enough to solidify fat and keep it that way throughout digestion.
Drinking water of any temperature during a meal actually aids digestion. Water can be pretty good at breaking things down all by itself, and in your digestive system, it works in tandem with stomach acid, not against it.
2. Cucumbers And Tomatoes
The story: Because cucumbers and tomatoes have vastly different digestion times, eating them together is likely to cause nausea, gas, bloating, or even (gasp) death. Cucumbers also contain an enzyme that destroys the vitamin C in tomatoes. That salad you thought was healthy is really making you sick.
The reality: It’s actually true that cumbers contain an enzyme that destroys vitamin C, but as long as you eat a generally balanced diet, you will get plenty of daily vitamin C from other sources. And, adding a little vinegar to the combo negates the effect. Since salad dressings often contain vinegar, you rarely need to worry about this part of the rumor.
As to the other issue, tomatoes and cucumbers have only slightly different digestion times. It’s not enough to cause tummy trouble that you’ll distinctly notice, unless you happen to be sensitive to either of these foods individually.
3. Beer And Nuts
The story: Both beer and salty foods like nuts can cause dehydration, so consuming them together will critically deplete the water in your body. You may get so thirsty that you end up drinking way too much beer in an effort to hydrate.
The reality: There is absolutely a grain of truth to this. Bar owners typically serve salty food with beer because they know it will make you drink more. Salt also tends to blunt the bitterness of beer somewhat, making it easier to drink. Beer conversely improves our experience of salty foods, which is why we tend to crave salty stuff when we’re drinking it.
However, beer is a diuretic, and as such actually causes your body to excrete more sodium in your urine. It’s not likely that the salty snacks will contribute to critical dehydration. The alcohol alone can, though. Unless you want a massive hangover, try to drink at least as many glasses of water as you do alcohol.
4. Meat And Pasta
The story: Proteins and carbohydrates are digested differently and your system can’t handle that. A carbohydrate begins to be broken down by saliva and the process continues in your stomach and intestines, while protein doesn’t really start to get digested until it hits your stomach. So goodbye, spaghetti and meatballs. Adios, chicken fettucine.
The reality: While different foods are digested a bit differently, most bodies are totally able to handle this. Humans evolved eating a variety of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, so in reality we are built specifically to eat this way. Unless you actually experience digestive distress, don’t worry about this one.
5. Fruit With Or After A Meal
The story: Another twist on the theme of “different digestion times” suggests that eating fruit with or after a meal is dangerous because fruit is so easily digested that it ferments in your stomach while hanging around waiting for other food to digest.
The reality: The sugars in fruit do digest pretty quickly, but fruit also has fiber that acts to slow absorption of that sugar into your blood. It’s actually a helpful failsafe that prevents a dangerous spike in blood sugar.
In no case does fruit stay in your stomach long enough to ferment. In fact, the stomach is so acidic that fermentation isn’t really feasible.
6. Milk And Sour Fruit
The story: There have been various twists on this theme that single out pineapple, lemon, or orange as dangerous to consume with milk. When acidic fruit juice is added to warm milk, it curdles the milk and spoils it. When curdling happens in your stomach, you get ill.
The reality: It’s true that the acid in fruit can curdle milk, especially warm milk. But when acid is added to cold milk, the curdling process happens so slowly that you won’t even notice it. That’s how we can enjoy orange creamsicles, lemon cream pie, and pineapple yogurt smoothies.
Plus, curdled milk isn’t necessarily bad for you. If milk has curdled as a result of spoilage, it’s not safe to drink. But milk is often curdled on purpose for products like cheese and yogurt. And you might not want to think about it, but milk always curdles once it hits your stomach.
7. Hot Dogs And French Fries
The story: Hot dogs are processed meats that are full of cancer-causing preservatives and a lot of sodium. The refined white flour in the bun is nutritionally void and will spike your blood sugar dangerously.
Meanwhile, frying potatoes to a high temperature creates the carcinogen acrylamide and the cooking oils are artery-clogging trans fats. The massive amount of salt on French fries also causes a host of physical problems.
The reality: This is all true. Regularly pairing two unhealthy foods together, like fast food restaurants do when they serve fries on the side of everything, sends your lifetime risk of illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease through the roof. In the short term, you are likely to experience upset stomach, diarrhea, or constipation as well as higher blood pressure and a cranky or depressed mood.
The upshot of all of this diverse dietary advice is simply to trust your body. You are wonderfully designed to digest all sorts of foods in combination with each other. However, everybody is different, and certain combinations may bother you more than they do others. Just avoid bingeing on junk food and respect your body’s signals, but don’t worry that any particular food combo will ruin your health.