It isn’t often I venture into McDonald’s –
But I do occasionally give in to the kids’ pressure and bow to the inevitable. No self-respecting nutritionist worth their lentils likes to be seen dead in a fast-food joint, so I sneak in, incognito, baseball cap and frames firmly in place.
McDonald’s are totally upfront about the ingredients in their food. All sorts of leaflets are on display, listing the ingredients for each particular item, giving the customer the responsibility for their own health. It’s wonderful to be given the option between the sodium polyphosphates or the benzoic acid. On the other hand one might be adventurous and try the dimethylpolysiloxane instead. It is important these days to choose ingredients with care, just in case they clash…
As I sit munching my synthetic food perfectly in time to the beat of the synthetic music pulsing from the loudspeakers, I suddenly realise that I am meant to eat fast food fast. I am not here to converse or take time over my food but get on with it and make room for the next customer. Which, after rather lengthy introduction, leads me to this week’s topic: chewing your food properly, just like your mother always told you to. Most fast food is soft food and encourages us to be lazy about chewing habits. As a result, we tend to overeat and dentists have noticed that modern man’s jaw is shrinking.
Apart from the mechanical process of grinding food into smaller bits, chewing has other important effects. If we take time over our food and enjoy it, our sense of taste is enhanced. Did you know that you start digesting your food in your mouth? Each of us produces one and a half litres of saliva per day. Saliva contains an enzyme called amylase which acts on starchy food such as bread or potatoes and helps to break these down into smaller units. At the same time, signals are sent down to the stomach to produce the right concentration of gastric juices, depending on what is in your mouth.
Proper digestion is vital for your overall health – remember the old saying: “You are what you eat”? Whoever said it, got it wrong. It is not just important what you eat, but what you manage to digest and absorb from your food. Imagine that your body is a sophisticated recycling plant: we chew and chomp and grind our food (hopefully), add digestive juices and process it into tiny particles which can then be reassembled into new parts by the body or excreted as waste.
Imagine something going wrong in your factory – let’s say your food hasn’t been ground up properly or not enough digestive enzymes have been produced. Consequently, less nutrients are absorbed because large, undigested food particles have an abrasive effect on your gut and damage the machinery responsible for nutrient uptake. All the more reason to chew, chew, chew …
When the feast is over and the vast array of plastic, cardboard and paper thrown into huge containers, I am reminded that my body is a rubbish dump – or should it be a temple?
© 2011 Martina Watts MSc Nut Med, First Published Brighton Argus August 2002