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Eat Protein first for better digestion?

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  • Eat Protein first for better digestion?

    Something I have been thinking about for a while. I noticed the habit in North American restaurants etc of serving a 'salad' course first. why do you think this is? I have always thought that for better digestion it is better to eat protein first as the stomach acids need to be strong in order to break it down, the water content of salads and veggies would dilute the acids and enzymes. which is why its suggested not to drink liquids just before, during or just after eating. so why would you eat the watery food first?

    I wonder in part if this habit can be thrown in with generally unhealthy eating practices and contributes to leaky gut and the epidemic of constipation going by ads for digestive aids?

  • #2

    I once read a book called the Beverly Hills Diet or something, that suggested you eat proteins last since protein is the slowest digesting macronutrient. The theory was that when you eat protein first it causes carbohydrate and fat to "back up" in your system while it is waiting for the protein to digest. It sounded like a bunch of crap that was made up for the purpose of selling books to a desperate, overweight nation but if you are interested in macronutrient timing you might want to check it out. I think there was a very small amount of science that was referenced in the book.


    • #3

      There is a whole theory of proper food combining that is quite detailed, and makes quite a bit of sense (just google "food combining").

      Basically, you've got four groups:

      1. Protein and fat

      2. Carbs (grains & starches)

      3. Fruit

      4. Veggies

      You shouldn't mix things from the first 3 groups together at the same time. But veggies can be mixed just fine with any of the other 3.

      It's based on the idea of how you body digests the various groups. For example, the ideal environment for protein & fat digestion is very different from the ideal environment for carb digestion - so if you eat both at once, you get things like gas, heart burn, constipation, food passing into the intestines before the stomach is really done with it, etc.

      Fruit digests very quickly and so if eaten after protein or fat, it sits in the stomach fermenting.

      (Fruit is also divided into 3 groups. It gets kinda complicated...)

      Anyway, the theories all make sense to me. And I did actually notice a difference when I started paying attention to how I was combining food (like I did actually notice I had more "stomach issues" if I combined badly vs. if I followed the rules).

      The nice thing about eat primally, there are no carbs, so that doesn't matter. And fruit is eaten so sporadically. And for me, I tend to eat fruit by itself anyway, not with anything else.

      If you have fruit for dessert after a meal though, then maybe you'd have issues??? I do think that most berries are fine with being eaten with or right after other stuff. Maybe except for Strawberries.

      It seems to me that this combining thing is the kind of thing where you *think* the way you've been doing things all along is just fine, and if you start doing it, you *may* notice some differences, but then if you suddenly stop doing it, all of a sudden you'll notice a big difference. That's just speculation on my part though.


      • #4

        Another year, another fad. Grok didn't eat sequentially. Your body regulates the acid in the stomach and every other chemical it needs. If a salad dilutes it, it makes more.

        Maybe there are a few souls that have some problems that this helps, but I'll bet the science is close to zilch on it. IIRC, the "anti-estrogenic" diet does this.


        • #5

          I think the way any hunter-gatherer would naturally eat would just naturally follow most, if not all, of those rules.

          I think it's similar to saying that the Primal (or Paleo) diet isn't meant to be, or designed to be, "low-carb", it just IS, due to cutting out things Grok didn't eat.

          Without even knowing it, you'd be following those combining rules just by eating primally.


          • #6

            I think it's a cultural thing.

            The French prefer to eat salad after meat/protein, and fruit for dessert. I've been told by French people that it's mostly to cleanse the palate, but also for digestive reasons. I don't know if there's any science behind it.

            I've also heard that fruit should be eaten alone. This is what it said in Ayurveda (Indian) medicine.


            • #7

              Yeah, I have a friend from Switzerland that always eats her salads last. I thought she was strange.


              • #8

                I was in a steakhouse in the U.S recently and the waiter teased me for being very European for insisting my salad come with my to die for steak. Since I m Australian by birth this amused me.

                I imagine that our ancestors ate their protein and fat together of course, but I doubt the little woman stayed near camp and put together a lovely little salad to eat whilst the days kill was cooking. I imagine that they grabbed plant food on the fly.

                If we could 'just make more' stomach acids and digestive enzymes then a lot of the digestive issues out there wouldnt be a problem. There are alot of people that in fact have to take digestive enzymes and Betaine hydrochloride to strengthen their poor output.


                Actually OTB, that food combing thing has been around for years, so its hardly another fad. But obviously not what I was getting at.