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Updated August 1, 2017
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The Basics of Eating

June 12th, 2017

by Michael Reynolds (1995)

As children, many of us were probably told, "Eat your vegetables," "Chew your food before you swallow," or "Take those anchovies out of your peanut butter sandwich!" We may have been told what to do, but how many of us know why these things are necessary? We know that food is important to live, but does everyone really pay attention to what and how they eat? We hope this article provides you with some insight.

Everyone knows how to eat. It's simple. We just put the food in our mouth, chew a little, swallow, and it goes to our stomach. Many people may not know, or take the time to understand, that how we eat is just as important as what we eat.

At least 35% of carbohydrate digestion takes place in the mouth. Therefore, it is important to chew food thoroughly before swallowing. This will give your digestive tract a better chance to fully break down the food and utilize its nutrients. Swallowing food in large chunks makes the body work harder, which can cause some food to not fully digest. Many people drink liquids with their meals, probably to help get all those chunks of food down their throat. However, liquids dilute digestive enzymes, which can slow the breakdown and absorption of food. Fluids are better taken between meals, and pure water is the best choice.

In addition to chewing thoroughly, digestion is improved when you are relaxed and not rushed. How many times have you seen a person snarf down a big cheeseburger in about five bites? Eating on-the-go can rob the body of a better chance to properly digest the food. When stressed, the body shuts down non-vital areas in order to make the body ready for the "fight or flight" response. One area is the digestive system. Without proper digestion, nutrients cannot be adequately absorbed, which can result in nutritional deficiencies.

You can strengthen your digestion, in part, by improving your diet. Salads can help a lot, because raw vegetables contain enzymes, which the body uses to produce its own digestive enzymes. Raw vegetables also serve as roughage for the body, pushing other stuff out through the intestinal tract.

Whole grain food is also good for the body. The outer hull of grains contain most of the nutrients. Refined grain has been stripped of its outer hull, leaving only the less-nutritious inner part, becoming, for example, white flour or white rice. Most food manufacturers use refined ingredients because they are easier to cook. White flour, for example, rises quicker during baking, compared to whole grain flour. However, when white flour products are made, manufacturers normally "enrich" the flour, which means adding back some of the many nutrients lost by refining. The list of ingredients on the package will usually say "enriched wheat flour", but whole grain, or "whole wheat flour," is far more nutritious.

The body has trouble handling refined flour because it becomes gooey and sticky inside the body, like the paste used with paper-mâché. It is hard to assimilate and, without bulk to push it through, it starts sticking to things inside the body, possibly causing other food and waste to get stuck in the small intestines or colon.

Proper eating is essential to good health. Pay attention to what, and how, you eat, as well as how you feel as you eat. It can make a big difference in your body's overall performance.


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