Eat with an edge

Marginal gains

By making small changes to how you cook and eat, you can make improvements to your digestive efficiency. The more efficient your digestion, the better your wellbeing. Here are four tips to help your digestion. 

How we digest our food and even the food sensitivities we have is linked with our mood, behaviour, energy, weight, food cravings, hormone balance, immunity, and overall wellness.

Fats vs. Cooking oils

When heated, vegetable oils become toxic faster than ghee (clarified butter) or butter or coconut oil. Only saturated fats (like butter, ghee or coconut oil) can be heated as they retain their original nature during this process. 

Unlike saturated fats, polyunsaturated or even monounsaturated fats (like vegetable oils, seed or nut oils including olive oil) turn into ‘trans fats’ when heated and become deformed to such an extent that they confuse our metabolism and precipitate many detrimental processes in the body.  

Water with meals

We need a suitably strong ‘digestive fire’ to digest our food so a glass of liquid immediately before or after a meal will dampen it, which, for most of us will weaken our digestion. 

This is especially important for anyone with compromised or temporarily weakened digestion – be it by stress, a history of food poisoning, antibiotic overuse or any food sensitivity or allergy. The only exception to this rule is people who naturally have particularly strong digestion (e.g. Red body types) and even then, it’s not recommended as best practice.

Modern theories on what’s best continue to change and, according to research, the jury is still out on consuming liquids with meals. While liquified foods seem to trigger an earlier release of pancreatic and liver secretions, they dilute the output of stomach acid (our ‘digestive fire’). Although liquids do pass through the digestive system more quickly than solids, they have no effect on the digestion speed of solid food, unless they are of a stimulatory nature.

All things considered, your best bet is few sips of water with your meal if you feel you need it, instead of drinking a whole glass before or after. 

Digestion aids

Spices and fermented foods with meals help digestion. Eating live probiotic foods, especially those contained in fermented foods, has been found to cause significant positive improvements in balancing intestinal absorption and immunity. 

Similarly, spices have been shown to have a stimulating effect on the liver to secrete bile rich in bile acids, both of which are vital for fat digestion and absorption, and that of enzyme activities that are responsible for digestion. 

Also, eating vegetable fibres (also called ‘pre-biotics’) encourages the growth of desirable bacterial flora and microbial balance so critical for the body. 

Processed, frozen and reheated foods

Fresh foods are easier to digest and are more nourishing. Processed foods are devoid of macro- and micro-nutrients and have been linked to several degenerative diseases. 

Frozen foods vary in terms of their nutrient content in comparison to their fresh equivalents but are a reasonable alternative for those who are short of time to source the best, fresh produce. None of the vegetables or fruit dishes retain their nutrient values when reheated. 

However, reheated grains and starches are the best way forward! They are higher in something called ‘resistant starch’ which not only doesn’t impact the glycaemic index and glycaemic load of the meal but can even help lower the glucose response in those sensitive to carbohydrates.

This is an important consideration in view of the findings linking high GL-eating patterns to the development of diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases.

Toxic aldehyde generation in and food uptake from culinary oils during frying practices
Different gastric, pancreatic, and biliary responses to meals
One Health, Fermented Foods, and Gut Microbiota

To find out more, read our ‘Rethink your wellbeing’ guide