What is split meals?

The theory of separate nutrition claims that special digestive juices are needed to break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and the use of foods containing several different nutrients at once provokes rotting in the stomach and metabolic disorders.

According to this theory, following a separate diet not only makes you feel better, but also leads to weight loss – without giving up your favorite foods and counting calories. FitSeven will try to figure out where the split eating theory came from, and whether it is correct.

Separate food history

The origins of the separate nutrition theory lie in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian doctrine of healthy living. According to Ayurveda (and more modern teachings), there are three types of metabolism and temperament in humans. Each type requires a different diet, but some food combinations are bad for everyone.

The popularization of the philosophy of alternative medicine in the Western world began in the 1920s with the publication of the book “The Right Food Combination” by William Shelton. In the 1970s, the split diet came into vogue again thanks to nutritionist Gary Martin.

Shelton’s theory

According to Shelton’s theory of separate nutrition, proteins require an acidic environment for digestion, while fats and carbohydrates require an alkaline environment. At the same time, these substances cannot be digested and begin to rot. Product compatibility tables help to avoid dangerous combinations.

An example from Shelton’s book: “Put the food you eat and drink during the day in a saucepan, heat it to 37 degrees and keep it warm. In a few hours, the processes of fermentation and decay will begin. Imagine a similar thing happening in your stomach. “

Product Compatibility Tables

Separate nutrition divides foods into three main categories – rich in protein (over 15% of the mass), rich in carbohydrates (over 20% of the mass), sour citrus fruits – and a number of additional ones. Products from the main categories should never be consumed together.(2)

Complex combinations of different types of protein (for example, meat and beans) and different types of carbohydrates (starchy foods with sugar) are prohibited. Watermelon, melon and milk cannot be combined with any other food. Fats are allowed with carbohydrates, but not proteins.

Criticism of separate nutrition

Scientists talk about two critical disadvantages of Shelton’s split-feeding theory. Firstly, food is not digested in the stomach, but in a special part of the intestine (duodenum), where enzymes for the breakdown of various nutrients act simultaneously.

Secondly, the stomach has an aggressive acidic environment that kills microorganisms. There are bacteria in the saucepan on the stove, but not in the stomach. It takes a serious illness for food to rot in the human body, not just a bad combination of foods.

Is it possible to lose weight on a split diet?

Numerous clinical studies do not support the ability of the split diet to reduce body weight – it is impossible to lose weight by adjusting only the combination of essential macronutrients, and not the amount of food in the diet and or the daily calorie intake.

However, despite the fact that science has refuted the theoretical basis of a split diet, in practice, people successfully lose weight on a split diet. The reason lies rather in the fact that the diet requires control of the amount of food eaten and excludes the typical convenience foods.

Should you follow a split diet?

On the one hand, scientific studies of the split diet have unequivocally shown its ineffectiveness for weight loss (six-week test on 54 people(four)). On the other hand, no one has denied the possible benefits of the philosophy of separate nutrition for overall health.

Practicing meditation and observing the dietary rules of ancient Indian Ayurveda can definitely heal the body and relieve pain. At the same time, it is important to remember that Ayurveda requires not just knowledge of the product compatibility table, but lifestyle changes.


From a scientific point of view, separate meals cannot lead to weight loss without reducing the calorie intake of the diet. However, behind the table of compatibility of products lies the centuries-old philosophy of Ayurveda, which is really capable of influencing the body and spirit.

Scientific sources:

  1. Hay Diet, source
  2. How to Combine Foods for Optimal Health, source
  3. Debunking the Myth of Food Combining, source
  4. Similar weight loss with low-energy food combining or balanced diets, source

Date of the last update of the material – November 26, 2016

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