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News and views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
Issue 10 Winter 2009
fruit and veg

How to eat

Physical health is basic to emotional and spiritual wellbeing. With this in mind, Alexander Luce offers simple ways of benefiting most from our food. A highly experienced nutritionist, Alexander qualified under Patrick Holford, founder of the Institute of Optimum Nutrition, London.

It may seem surprising, but the way we eat is almost as important as what we eat. We may have a good, wholesome diet, but if we do not eat correctly we will not digest the goodness properly and our health will never be at its optimum. There is a phrase, we are what we eat; I would argue that we are what we eat, digest and absorb. As a nutritionist, I believe that an efficient digestive system is probably the most important aspect of health, and there is a lot we can do for ourselves to ensure that our digestive tract is healthy.

The digestive tract, which includes the stomach and the small and large intestines, is extremely sensitive to all emotions anger, fear, excitement and even joy. Getting back to basics, to borrow a phrase from politics, is what we need to do. For that we need to learn from the pre fast food and pre tv dinner era of the 1950s and 1960s; this was a time when people would sit at the table to eat, as a family or with friends, to enjoy food and conversation together. We do not live in an ideal world, but if possible we need to eat at a table. Sitting on a sofa will inevitably result in slouching, whereas sitting at a table we are more likely to be upright, the best position for digesting food efficiently. We also need to come to the table in a relaxed, calm frame of mind, without the television or radio blaring out, but if they must be switched on, avoid watching the news or a tense film, which may elicit sadness or fear.

Aim to eat slowly, chewing each mouthful thoroughly, and swallowing each mouthful before taking in more food. This will prevent overeating; if we eat too quickly, it is easy to eat too much, leading to unnecessary weight gain and an uncomfortable gut. Eating less fast, and we can savour the tastes far more, making mealtime an enjoyable event once again.

Finally, it is preferable to drink fluids in between meals, not while eating. The reason for this is that water, although vital for our good health, can dilute the stomach juices and make digestion incomplete. Drink plenty of it, but well away from mealtimes.