Thursday, April 19, 2012

Watch what you mix

I am going to stick with the digestion theme for a few posts.

We all like to mix all sorts of flavours into our meals. Nothing wrong with that, is there, as long as we cover all of the food groups? Wrong.

The North American breakfast of a stack of pancakes with syrup and eggs and bacon and sausage and ham and whatever else can be layered into the stack is really not a healthy way to eat. Yes, it contains cereal, protein, carbs etc but you really should not be eating all of that stuff in one sitting.

So, what is the problem with it? The problem is that protein is hard to digest and goes through your digestive system slowly. Sugar, at the other extreme, is easy to digest and and goes through your system very quickly. If you mix the two together in your stomach then the sugars are trapped in amongst the protein and cannot move through quickly. They start to ferment inside your intestine, which is not a way to promote proper digestion of the sugar. The fermented sugar is more likely to turn into surplus fat on your midriff and also to cause problems with your immune system.

OK, so you don't eat stacks of pancakes with all of those tasty things layered into them. Are you in the habit of eating a sweet desert or some fruit after a meal? It is a nice way to round off a nice dinner but it queues up the sugars behind the proteins in your digestive system. The sugar cannot take a fast lane to bypass the protein blockage, it has to stay in the queue and wait its turn. You will be better off health-wise to have a piece of fruit an hour before a meal, as a snack. Get it through your system before you have a heavy meal, to remove the problem. If it is a big family gathering with a roast or barbecue, have the main meal and play games or socialise for a few hours, then have the desert course when everyone will be less full and might enjoy it more anyway.

It is a habit of most people to drink a soda with a meal, particularly if you eat often at fast food chains. The sugar (lots of it) in the soda is mixed in with the protein of your burger and gives the same problem. It cannot rush through your system as it should, so it ferments, adds inches to your girth in the form of fat and it messes up your digestive processes. Don't replace the soda with an iced tea either, unless you take the unsweetened variety. There is as much sugar in sweet tea as in soda.

You will be far better off drinking a glass of water with your meal but don't overdo that either. Too much water will dilute your digestive juices and you will not digest your food properly. Incomplete digestion makes excess fat and promotes immune problems.

Do you think that following these simple rules takes away the fun of eating? Then think about the hassles of out-of-control psoriasis, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other not-such-fun medical conditions. Eat the tasty things but do keep them in the right order, with sugars an hour or so before a big protein binge. The other things can be mixed but, for the sake of your own health, keep those two apart so that they can't fight inside you.