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Digesting food (esp. Italian)

sequins Oct 21, 2006 07:15 PM

On my return flight from Italy this summer, an aging yet limber Italian man in the seat next to me gave me a lecture on how unhealthy Italian food is. I had already begun missing the flavorful, voluminous meals I'd had in his homeland, but he assured me that had I gone on eating like that, a heart attack would be imminent. The combinations are all wrong, he said. You can't eat meat with starches, or meat with fruit (e.g., prosciutto and melon will kill you), and so on. I took all this with a grain of salt, of course. But it's certainly true that Italian meals -- even eaten in modest portions -- are rather taxing for the digestive system. (For me, personally, more so than, say, meals I've eaten in Chinese / Thai / French, etc. restaurants.)

My question, though, is more general: are there particular things you as part of a meal to digest better? (I don't mean things like antacids or any other drugstore finds, but things incorported into your meal.) Ginger tea? Peppermint tea? Eating veggies first?

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    cooknKate RE: sequins Oct 21, 2006 07:52 PM

    I eat a lot of probiotics and it always helps with digestion. Most every night I have a small bowl of natural yogurt that is loaded with 6 or more cultures; and we keep Kefir on hand for flare-ups. We rarely have digestive issues if we keep up with this.

    3 Replies
    1. re: cooknKate
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      Bite Me RE: cooknKate Mar 4, 2007 07:42 PM

      What is a "probiotic"? I've seen that word at Whole Foods where they keep refridgerated acidopilus, but not sure what it means.

      1. re: Bite Me
        ElsieDee RE: Bite Me Mar 4, 2007 08:02 PM

        A probiotic is basically the opposite of an antibiotic - an antibiotic kills off bacteria, but a probiotic adds beneficial yeasts and/or bacteria. Basically, the gut needs certain bacteria to help with the digestive process and taking probiotics can help keep the right balance, thereby making it easier to digest or process foods.

        1. re: ElsieDee
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          Bite Me RE: ElsieDee Mar 9, 2007 04:45 PM

          Thanks for the info. I like the sound of probiotics. I've seen them in a refridgerated section at Whole Foods, but until know didn't realize what that meant.

    2. Will Owen RE: sequins Oct 21, 2006 09:40 PM

      To the OP: your traveling companion's notions are about 60 years out of date. I doubt that there's ANYTHING edible that would cause you to suffer if you ate it with any other food; I remember being informed by a man, whose wisdom I trusted in most things, that my having grapefruit juice and milk at the same meal was a recipe for gastric disaster (we were sitting near each other at breakfast in a diner). I pointed out that I'd been drinking that combination for most of my years (I think around 16 at the time), and that the juice was considerably less acid than what was in my stomach already.

      The best things you can incorporate into any meal to aid in your digestion of it are time and moderation. We did eat a few huge meals in France and Italy both, but they were consumed in a leisurely, course-by-course fashion - in fact, on my first trip to Italy, my mom and I got into the habit of ordering our courses one at a time, and sipping lightly at some wine while we waited for the next one to appear. Kinda hard to do if the bus is waiting or whatever, but it sure makes for some lovely meals.

      1. Morton the Mousse RE: sequins Oct 21, 2006 10:21 PM

        Meat and starch is the backbone of just about every culinary tradition.
        Personally, I've found that Italian food is easier on my digestion than just about any other cuisine.

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          torty RE: sequins Oct 21, 2006 11:45 PM

          Sounds like he was espousing that food combining nutrition plan that Suzanne Somers (yes Chrissy from 3's Company)took to great marketing heights. The French Dr. who popularized it was called Montignac if you want to google for more info.

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            PrincessBakesALot RE: sequins Oct 21, 2006 11:57 PM

            Maybe it's the vinegar, but I always feel better after a bigger Italian meal at home when we eat the salad after the main course.
            That's how my mom always served it, but you don't see it that way very often. She always said it was to help you digest your meal.

            1 Reply
            1. re: PrincessBakesALot
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              JudiAU RE: PrincessBakesALot Oct 23, 2006 05:15 AM

              I do too but I've always assumed that I eat less of a main course when expecting a salad as a second course. I've seen lots of people do this at dinner parties too.

            2. cord RE: sequins Oct 22, 2006 02:04 AM

              I like to have lemon in water before I eat, it helps get the digestive juices flowing, and I find my meal digests better. Also after a large meal I will chew a papaya enzyme pill.

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                fara RE: sequins Oct 22, 2006 05:08 PM

                Many things come to mind:

                Perhaps you are eating too much in Italian restaurants?

                As you were eating in Italy and not pseudo Italian in the U.S., we can elimnate the processed mozzarella cheese (that gives me indigestions) and fettucine alfredo from a jar.

                I agree with the other posters that the idea of not eating certain foods together is outdated. However, it makes sense to eat something acidic with something that will absorb it, like coffee and bread. Your stomach produces a very strong acid to digest proteins, adding more acid by itself simply makes the environment more acidic. Usually bread is called for with all of Italian food except pasta, in order to absorb the acid in say tomatoes, vinegar,e tc.
                Also, lettuce is very high in fiber, I hope you were eating greens either with or at the end of the meal, the way they would be served in restaurants there.

                1. silverbear RE: sequins Oct 22, 2006 05:21 PM

                  Airplane seats are great places to get trapped in conversations with crackpots who espouse their own bizarre theories without regard for the facts. I'd suggest enjoying your Italian meals, not worrying about digestion unless you experience any troubling symptoms, and slipping on some headphones immediately upon reaching cruising altitude so as to avoid lectures like the one inflicted on you.

                  1. sequins RE: sequins Feb 28, 2007 06:53 PM

                    Belated thanks for these responses! I think I took this random person's diatribe way too seriously.

                    1. SanseiDesigns RE: sequins Feb 28, 2007 07:55 PM

                      I spent three weeks with a family in the Tuscany region and learned first hand why they are so healthy. Everything we had was prepared fresh, and portions were modest (realistic to healthful consumption). Breakfast was a simple bread, fruit juice or fresh fruit, and coffee. Dinner typically started with a soup course or crudite, followed by a pasta course (not always with a sauce), and a simple protein or vegetable entree. Dessert was normally fresh fruit. A glass of wine was also enjoyed with the meal.

                      The catch - while the husband drove to work, he cycled everywhere else, including into town to church or to run errands. Child was walked to school by mother, and grandmother walked everywhere. Everyone walked - a lot! It was fabulous. My running regime fit right in, and I loved the walks. Even though we dined out a bit, I left Italy a few pounds lighter.

                      The lifestyle was quite healthy.

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                        FAL RE: sequins Mar 2, 2007 02:14 AM

                        YES IT IS A HEALTY LIFE STYLE, MOST OF THE FOOD THEY EAT IS UNPROCESSED, OLIVE OIL , CHEESE , BREAD, FRUIT AND VEGETABLES EVEN THE PASTA.. THE PROTIONS ARE SMALLER , MEAT IS LESS THAN 8 OUNCES A SERVING. THEY NAP DURING DAY . LUNCH IS THE BIGGEST MEAL MOST OF THE TIME . THEY WALK EVERY WHERE. bTW ESPRESSO HAS LESS CAFFINE THEY A REGULAR CUP OF JOE DUE TO THE ROASTING PROCESS.

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                          mojoeater RE: sequins Mar 4, 2007 08:21 PM

                          I think the lesson is just to keep portions under control (unlike a lot of American chains) and eat a good variety of meat, carbs, veggies and fruit. If you eat in a balanced way, your tummy will balance itself out.

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