4 Ways to Make Your Food Easier to Digest
The first thing I tell all my patients is ‘your stomach is a cooking pot. Don’t put out the fire.’ Cooked food, whether that be soaked, steamed, stir fried or stewed is quite simply easier to digest. I hear it so often from those that eat raw vegetables or salads that they are bloated and feel tired after eating. There are many reasons why it is important to cook your food. While bacteria and contamination can be a factor, so too can less obvious culprits like lectins. One must also take into consideration how difficult it is to break down raw products and how important it is to pair your food.
1. Nutritional Value Increased
Some vegetables in fact have more of a nutritional value when they are cooked. Spinach for example is high in oxalates. The oxalates in spinach make the iron content within spinach difficult for the body to absorb. Heating the spinach will help this, although it is important to only wilt the spinach so as to maintain the vitamins and not lose any of the nutrient rich liquid. Furthermore, when carrots are heated the high carotenoid content, beta-carotene, is more readily absorbed and converted in the body to vitamin A. The anti-cancer, anti-oxidant properties of asparagus, particularly the ferulic acid, which also happens to be anti-aging, is increased when they are steamed. And finally the anti-oxidant lycopene in tomatoes is better absorbed when they are cooked. This antioxidant has a significant role in men’s health as studies have shown that lycopene has been proven to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Not failing to say of course when you cook vegetables a certain amount of vitamins are destroyed but there are also very significant benefits.
2. Reduce Lectins in your diet
Lectins are carbohydrate binding proteins that are found in most foods. They are sticky in nature and bind themselves to our intestinal lining making holes between the microvilli and causing a leaky gut. Preparing your foods that are high in lectins is very important. The biggest culprit are beans and legumes. They should be soaked overnight and cooked in a pressure cooker. Grains furthermore tend to be a lectin bomb. I recommend avoiding them altogether. Surprisingly white flour, as it is highly processed, contains less lectins. Important to note is the peel and seeds of fruits and vegetables are very high in lectins. Peel, de-seed, pressure cook or ferment them to make them more digestible.
3. Pair your food
When you are preparing your food you think of the combination perhaps in colour and taste but you should also think about pairing your foods so you get the most out of them. For example, if you are eating foods that contain the fat-soluble vitamins A, E and K. then you should pair them with a healthy fat. Fat soluble vitamins require dietary fat to help dissolve them and make them more readily available for absorption. You could pair these nutrient rich foods with nuts, avocado, olive or coconut oil.
• Good sources of Vitamin A: sweet potatoes, carrots, and winter squash, turnip greens and collards
• Good sources of Vitamin E: spinach, asparagus, butternut squash, broccoli
• Good sources of Vitamin K: kale, spinach, and broccoli, spring onions, Brussel sprouts, cabbage
The same can be said when you are wanting to absorb iron derived from a plant source. These should be paired with Vitamin C. Iron rich foods such as spinach and kale, soya beans and lentils go well with orange and lemon and chili peppers. Furthermore, iron and zinc rich foods are more easily absorbed if combined with sulfur.
• Iron rich: liver, beef, and turkey, clams, mussels
• Zinc rich: oysters, beef, and turkey, chicken
These foods are best combined with garlic, onion, and egg yolks, flax seeds, walnuts
4. Cooking kills bacteria
Cooking food at high temperatures will kill off harmful bacteria. Normally fruits and vegetables are not harmful raw, however they can be contaminated by bacteria. This may happen where either the soil or the water comes in contact with harmful bacteria. The same can be said if there is improper handling during harvest or storage. In particular raw meat, eggs and dairy often contain bacteria that can make you sick. Common bacteria are E.coli, salmonella, listeria and campylobacter. Cooking your food above 140° will normally kill these bacteria.
Eating should be a pleasure while at the same time your medicine. Keep your mind and body healthy. Absorb all you can by preparing your food in the most absorbable way.