Food Combining for Health – The Hay System ExplainedDr. William Howard Hay introduced food combining in 1911.


His basic premise is that there is one underlying cause for health problems and that is the wrong chemical condition in the body.The wrong chemical condition is acidity which is caused by the manufacture and accumulation of acid from the products of digestion and metabolism in amounts greater than the body can eliminate.

This acid condition results in a lowering of the body’s vital alkaline reserve, the depletion of which causes toxaemia or autointoxication.

Dr. Hay classified foods into three types according to their chemical requirements for efficient digestion.


These three types are: –

  • Alkali forming foods such as fruits and vegetables. Alkali forming means the end products of such foods after digestion. Even acid tasting fruits such as lemons yield alkaline salts in the body.

  • Concentrated proteins such as meat, game, fish, eggs or cheese. These foods are acid forming in their final end products in the body.

  • Concentrated carbohydrates or starch foods, which are acid forming. These include grains, bread, and all foods containing flour, all sugars and foods containing sugars (sucrose), but not the naturally occurring sugars found in fruit.

Dr. Hay’s theory was that, although protein and starch foods are acid forming in their end products in the body, they need different conditions for digestion and should never be combined at the same meal.THE HAY RULES FOR HEALTH

Starches and sugars should not be eaten with proteins and acid fruits at the same meal.

Vegetables, salads and fruits (whether acid or sweet) if correctly combined should form the major part of the diet.

Proteins, starches and fats should be eaten in small quantities.

Only whole grains and unprocessed starches should be used and all refined and processed foods should be eliminated from the diet.

Not less than four hours between starch and protein meals.

Milk does not combine well with food and should be kept to a minimum.

Don’t mix foods that fight, see below chart.


List A List B List C
Proteins Neutral Foods Starches
All meat Most vegetables Biscuits
All poultry All salads Bread
Cheese Seeds Cakes
Eggs Nuts Crackers
Fish Herbs Oats
Soya Beans Cream Pasta
Yogurt Butter Potatoes
Olive Oil Rice

  • Mix anything from List A with List B

  • Mix anything from List C with List B

  • Never mix List A and C!

  • Mix vegetables or salads with pulses i.e. beans/lentils – make these and unprocessed foods the main part of your diet.


The Hay system consists of five important rules

1. Starches and sugars should not be eaten with proteins and acid fruits at the same meal.

2. Vegetables, salads, and fruits should form the major part of the diet.

3. Proteins, starches, and fats should be eaten in small quantities.

4. Only whole grain and unprocessed starches should be used, and all refined processed foods           should be taboo – in particular, white flour and sugar and all foods made with them, and highly

processed fats such as margarine.

5. An interval of at least four to four-and-a-half hours should elapse between meals of different


The cardinal rule of the Hay System – not mixing carbohydrates (i.e., starches and sugars) with proteins and acid fruits – is generally misunderstood, although based on sound physiological principles, long existing and long forgotten.

In order to understand this rule, it is necessary to understand the classification of carbohydrates and proteins in the context of compatible food combinations:

The proteins are concentrated (20% or more) animal proteins such as meat, fish, cheese, and poultry.

The carbohydrates are concentrated (20% or more) starches, such as grains, bread and cereals, potatoes, and sugars.

Alkali-forming foods comprise all vegetables (including potatoes, if cooked in their skins and the skins are eaten); all salads; all fresh fruits (except plums and cranberries); almonds; and milk.

Acid-forming foods comprise all animal proteins such a meat, fish, shellfish, eggs, cheese, and poultry; nuts (except almonds); all the starch foods such as grains, bread, flour, and other foods made form cereal starches; and sugars.

Compatible eating, it should be pointed out, can be as cheap – or as expensive – as the budget allows. And it is definitely more economical, as small correctly combined meals are better digested and thus more satisfying.

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