Counseling Sheet

Absorption and Handling of Food

Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Preventive Medicine

Each meal should contain some raw fruit or vegetable. This will ensure an adequate intake of vitamin C. While vitamin C may not have as many benefits as some have indicated that it has, there is no doubt that it is valuable on many counts. The antioxidant property of vitamin C helps to protect us from high blood cholesterol, increased aging, cancer, and from certain diseases. Perhaps the common cold is in this category. It is preferable that vitamin C be obtained from foods and not from pills. Every element of nutrition that we need both to maintain health and to recover from disease can be found in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Therefore, it should not be necessary for healthy people to take pills to supplement the diet. In the very rare case where there is some kind of malabsorption, that problem should be dealt with on an individual basis.

Each item of plant food has its particular bouquet of flavors and its complement of phytochemicals. The more foods that one adds to individual dishes, the more likely it is that a chemical warfare will occur in the stomach or bloodstream. Chemicals interact with each other and with the chemicals that comprise the digestive juices, the blood, and the very cells of the body. These interactions often cause a loss of valuable nutrients, or they may produce toxic substances that injure the body. I have one patient who can always expect to get a headache if he eats an apple after a vegetable meal. Apparently, the combination of chemicals from the different classes of foods causes a reaction for him that brings on a toxic headache. Generally, fruits should be eaten at one meal and vegetables at another for the best results. The more complex the food, the more difficult it is for the stomach to digest and for the bloodstream and liver to handle the various nutrients in the meal. Do not forget that what is on your plate one minute is beginning to go into your blood the next. Use only the best quality of nutrients possible to nourish your body.

It is desirable to make our foods as beautiful as possible in serving; both the sight and the aroma will stimulate the digestive process. Garnishing and decorating the table and the food itself is useful, but food itself is beautiful. A single, large, ripe tomato, with perhaps a little mint sprig properly placed on a little salad plate with a sharp knife can make a very tempting dish.

In planning the meal, it is not necessary to balance all of the nutrients with each meal. As long as the foods present in the meals taken over a period of a week or so contain a wide variety of nutrients, the nourishment will be adequate. Studies show that we secrete into the bowel from the body stores a full complement of amino acids for the balanced absorption of the protein foods. By the day and by the week, one should eat a wide variety. The body stores all of the food elements sufficiently long that if a source of vitamin C is included in the daily menu and other nutrients are supplied by the week, one can be adequately nourished.

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Seale, Alabama 36875