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Oct 21, 2006 07:15 PM

Digesting food (esp. Italian)

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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  1. 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

      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

        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

          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. To the OP: your traveling companion's notions are about 60 years out of date.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. 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.

        1. 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.

          1. 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

              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.