The Time Factor of Food
“What you eat and when you eat it”, can make a big difference to your waist line. Usually when we put a mouthful of food into our bodies it’s a mix of carbohydrate, protein, fat, etc. In the digestive tract there is a five star kitchen like arrangement where the food gets separated into simple sugars, complex starch, protein and fats and there are specialized chefs called enzymes to digest them.
The first to be digested are glucose and fruit sugar fructose which are normally found together in all fruits and these are monosaccharide which get broken down to release energy into the blood in 20 minutes. So anytime you are feeling low, hungry, tired, faint don’t grab a pastry or fries but a fruit which will give you energy fast. Carry an apple out when you go on a shopping trip instead of ending up with a packet of chips from the street.
A teaspoon of sugar or a toffee gives us sucrose which is a disaccharide and this takes 45 minutes to be digested and give energy. Milk, coffee, tea, buttermilk, lassi, curds, contain lactose, another sugar, which is disaccharide and this too will be digested in 45 minutes. So if a fruit is not immediately available then one of the above is the next best choice.
Bread, rice, chapatti, pasta, biscuits and veggies give energy in 1-2 hours. Be careful not to overeat these as the feeling of energy coming into the blood takes some time. You must eat the correct quantity and wait. Don’t eat more and more thinking the energy will then come faster. These contain starch which is a polysaccharide and it takes many steps of digestion to get energy released from it.
Proteins are available in dhals/pulses, milk/curd, egg white and non-veg and it takes 3-4 hours to get digested. Protein therefore is the filler food in our diet. We need to make a conscious effort to ensure that there is one or 2 protein items in every meal. This ensures that we will not get hungry and snack in-between meals for at least 4 hours after each meal. E.g. If breakfast is only bread and jam, both carbohydrates, then we will be empty in 1-2 hours. But if there is a glass of milk or egg white in the breakfast we will be safe till lunch. If lunch is only roti, sabji or vegetable rice, etc., we will be hungry in 2 hours. If there is dhal and curd with lunch then we are safe till 5 or 6pm.Similarly if you have only a soup or salad at dinner, which is only carbohydrate then you will be searching for snacks by midnight. There must be protein in the dinner too. E.g. Roti with dhal or egg white and salad.
Last but not the least is fat. It takes 6-8 hours to be digested. So if you eat a rich pastry or a samosa at 6 pm the maida and sugar or maida and potato will give you energy in an hour or two. But the fat or oil will be digested only after 12 midnight and this will be completely stored as fat and the body will say – “she/he is sleeping so just store these calorie”. Be smart and wise this festive season and try to plan your eating, making wise choices so that you taste your chocolates and goodies as far as possible in the day time rather than at night. Make family outings at lunch rather than dinner. Eat good lunches and light dinners.