I have done a lot of reading & studying over the past 5 months since starting my nutrition course, and a point that keeps coming up is – the importance of proper digestion.
Proper digestion ensures that you get the most (absorbing of all the vitamins & minerals) out of the food you eat. Without proper digestion your body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
There are a lot of factors that can affect digestion, and some of them are specific to the individual. However, there are a few digestion guidelines that are good to know in order to get the most nutrients out of your food, and feel good when you’re done eating.
1. Chew your food properly. Digestion begins in your mouth because saliva contains important enzymes that help break down starch and fat. You should chew one bite 15-20 times or until the food has become a paste in your mouth and starts to taste a bit sweet (the sweetness is the enzymes kicking in). Chewing your food properly will also help you eat slower, which will allow you to realize when you’re full (it takes about 20 minutes for the food to hit your stomach), which will dissuade you from getting a 2nd helping, which will help prevent overeating and gaining weight. Yeaa chewing!!
2. Eat enough raw, live foods that contain important enzymes. There are about 700 different enzymes, and each one performs a different role in our body – they are vital to health. The main food enzymes (lipase, protease & amylase) help us properly break down and use fat, protein & starch. You can only get enzymes from raw, live food. This is why you may feel sluggish, bloated & tired after a meal that is mainly cooked proteins & starches (aka Thanksgiving dinner). If food is cooked or not fresh it contains no enzymes, and our bodies have to work really hard to digest it. I’m not asking you to switch to a raw food diet, but make it a point to have a salad before dinner, and have fruit & raw veggies as daily snacks.
3. Avoid a diet that is high in red meat, dairy products, processed & refined foods, fast food and alcohol – all of these items are difficult to digest. Again, I’m not suggesting that you avoid these foods all together, but they shouldn’t make up the majority of your diet. Trust me; I love a good Cosmo on a Friday night!
4. Avoid drinking a lot of water during your meal. When you eat, your stomach produces hydrochloric acid to help break down your food. When you drink a lot of liquid while eating; the HCl can become diluted, and you may be left feeling gassy and bloated as a result of poor digestion. I would recommend drinking lemon water before a meal, and than just take small sips while eating. You can follow up your meal with drinking more water again.
5. Evaluate your diet. About 50 – 60% of your diet should be fresh fruits & vegetables, water, and high-fibre foods. The rest of your diet should include seeds, nuts, legumes, fish, hormone & antibiotic-free poultry, dairy and lean red meats.
6. Eat in a relaxed environment without distractions. Feeling stressed or rushed while eating can negatively affect digestion.
Keep in mind that these are just guidelines, and you may not be able to always follow them. But if you want to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your food or if you commonly don’t feel good after eating; try some of the suggestions above, and see what happens!