With Chinese New Year just glimpses away, everyone is in the mood to celebrate. We rejoice without restraints, bask in the glorious festivity with all the goodies, and eat like the sun will never set. And as with all other festivals, people get fat and/or fall ill after celebrations. While having fun is vital and eating is one of the best ways to socialize, we have to remain responsible for our health.
Efficient digestion is so essential for good health. Here is a simple guide on how to aid digestion, and while you are savouring your pineapple tarts and bak kwa, please stay healthy for yourself and for your loved ones.
1. Embrace Grapefruits
Begin each morning with a glass of grapefruit juice – you have no idea how this wonder fruit has enormous benefits for you. Apart from its high Vitamin C content, grapefruits are high in fibre and low in calories. Worshiped by many weight loss practitioners, grapefruits is a catalyst for digestion by increasing your metabolism, lowering your insulin level and improving the flow of digestive juices. The pulp of the wonder fruit supplies healthy bulk to our body, and this aids bowel action.
On a separate note, grapefruits combats various diseases such as fatigue, fever, diabetes and urinary problems.
2. Chew and chew and chew your Food.
Take smaller bites, or put your fork down in between bites. Your digestive system begins working even before you eat, and your system will be kept busy for the next few hours (or sometimes even days – depending on what you eat) after you are done with your meal. When your food is being chewed up, it becomes a mushed-up form called bolus, and bolus is then pushed down from your throat to the opening of your esophagus – the second part of digestion, of which I won’t elaborate. Chewing your food into smaller pieces will aid this process, but if your food is still chunky while being swallowed, bolus will go down your windpipe instead – that is when you feel choked, bloated and uncomfortable.
So, take your time to eat. Do not be in a hurry to gobble all the food on your plate! Besides, eating slowly helps you feel full faster, hence moderates your food intake.
3. Go easy on the sugars
I know this is tough, because we all love sugars to death. But despite being such an advocate for desserts and sweet pleasures in life, we have to face up to reality that refined sugars destroys the mineral balance in our body. Sugars are sweet carbohydrates, and they have zero nutrients. And they make us fat. And they attribute to diarrhea and cramping.
If you have a sweet tooth, make a conscious effort to pick raw fruits and vegetables instead. They contain fructose – a simple monosaccharide that is absorbed directly into the bloodstream during digestion. This does not mean you have to sacrifice your needs for sweet stuff. Instead of reaching out for that can of fizzy soda that is conveniently on the table, make a trip to the kitchen and have yourself a glass of honey water. Fructose can be found in pure honey; mix a spoonful or two with water and you get a satisfying, sweet drink all the same!
4. Pile on the Fibre
Surely you would have heard this a million times. And yes, this method stays on for a few more millenniums. A high-fibre diet is a vital attribution to digestion. Fibre, particularly insoluble fibre, aids in constipation-prevention by bulking up and softens stool, and keeps food moving through the digestive tract. It also helps in maintaining bowel health, lowering cholesterol levels and controlling blood sugar levels.
Fibre can be commonly attained from eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Sure, fibre cannot be found in almost any of those jars of goodies, but we can most definitely still have our regular greens over lunch and dinner. Proportionate your dishes such that the ratio of vegetables to meat is 2:1.
5. Wise Supper Choices
We stay up later than usual on the first few days – to gamble, to catch up with relatives, and to simply merry-make. And it is only natural that while being active, we get hungry a few hours after dinner. Suppers are the ultimate killer – they bust any plans to slim down, and they disrupts your digestion system. But do not torture yourself on CNY, because if any, we should only let loose and indulge in festivities as such.
There are countless rules and restrictions about not eating after 8pm so as to prevent weight gain and indigestion, but the truth is, as long as you consume food, they are calories all the same. It is what you eat – not when you eat – that makes the difference. Opt for lighter options if you need your supper fix. Pick healthy zero-calorie food over that bag of chips, e.g. apples, citrus fruits, strawberries, mushrooms (sauté them), summer squash and green tea.
Simple and conscious effort go a long way. I hope this fool-proof guide helps, and may you have a very prosperous Chinese New year!
Words by Melody Yap, photographs by ladyironchef