You Are What You Eat

By Dr B. FoogooaFormerly the supervisors of the Russian army used to remind their subordinates of their popular saying: ‘Finish your breakfast all alone, share your lunch with your friend and let your enemy have your dinner’. Our physiology teacher would open his lecture on the Digestive System with this dictum.

In those days, supper or taking supper at night meant having a light meal consisting of soup or ‘potage’ with a few slices of bread, nothing more.

I would be smitten with compunction were I not to share the following information, especially with those who are unaware. My late cousin Adit aged 73 years and late Bhai Rashid, an elderly of 80, both of Plaine Wilhems, passed away during their sleep.

Adit was a fairly healthy person, but he had an incisional hernia in his upper abdomen following the removal of his gall bladder.

On a fateful evening of February 2009 he had dined on an omelette, cooked in rather too much oil, after having drunk a few pegs of whisky.

As for Bhai Rashid, for dinner one night in 1983, he had had beef biryani, cucumber salad and a tumbler-full of soft drink.

Both of them had gone to bed barely a quarter of an hour after their heavy meal.

In fact these two food items must never be consumed at dinner. As far as the oil-laden omelette goes, it must never be accompanied by any alcoholic drink. Let us elaborate: our liver is a perfect laboratory. But with an ailing liver or with improper diet our body is devastated by a host of toxic substances. Moreover the liver is liable to damage by abuse of fats, spices, eggs and alcohol. On the other hand its functions are enhanced by the intake of freshly prepared vegetable or fruit juices, fruits in abundance, coconut water and bland diets.

Most unfortunately, the type of foods and drinks taken by these two persons for dinner made the emptying of their stomach more difficult.

The world over dietitians recommend a light dinner, ‘souper’, for simple reasons: firstly, because people go to bed shortly afterwards, thus changing their position from the vertical to the horizontal. Secondly, because the stomach is in the immediate neighbourhood of our most vital organs, the heart and the lungs. And thirdly because difficult emptying of the stomach by acid-producing foods and drinks makes the stomach bloat. This results in pressure on the heart and lungs, causing cardio-respiratory distress. Unfortunately, in many cases death ensues, even among healthy people.

The typical Anglo-Saxon breakfast comprising of egg and bacon, cornflakes soaked in milk plus tea or coffee with milk is one of the worst burdens placed on the liver and the human digestive system. The Englishman is one of the very rare Europeans still taking tea or coffee with milk, even after eating fish, fowl or flesh. It is known that the latter stay in the stomach for up to 4 to 6 hours. Therefore taking milk on top of that is simply adding insult to injury. Cow milk adds to the burden from the amount of harmful (LDL) cholesterol one is taking with such a breakfast.

Cow milk is one of the ‘heaviest’ beverages for our stomach and the digestive system. Human beings are the only mammals consuming milk until adulthood, whereas others are weaned off after 3 to 6 months. Moreover, our mother’s milk and cow milk are widely different as far as their constituents are concerned. Most importantly, the enzymes lactase and lipase, needed to digest dairy products and fats respectively, start dwindling in our system as from the age of three. Hence even kids above three years should not be given milk shortly after a meal because, I repeat, it is a hurdle to proper digestion.

In some European cuisines, banana and other fruits flambé, usually cooked in butter and caramel, are relished as deserts. Mr Harvey Diamond, one of the most famous dieticians of the USA, scoffs at such ill treatment of fruits, sarcastically saying that even apes know better how to eat fruits, that is without cooking. He further recommends, in a bid to eat the ideal way, the intake of 50% cooked and the remaining 50% uncooked (fruits and salad) foods. He emphasizes on the regimen all through in his famous book ‘Fit for Life’.

Russians, on the other hand, enjoy the Russian salad consisting of minced, boiled beef, boiled eggs, potato, beetroot and carrots seasoned with mayonnaise. It has a very high amount of harmful cholesterol and is hard to digest.

It is worth underlining the effects of LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) and HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) on our cardio-vascular system. LDL, especially found in egg yolks, animal fats (except fish) and dairy products tends to clog our blood vessels thus making their diameter narrower and the flow of blood through them more difficult.

HDL, found mostly in fish fats, olive oil, nuts and in lesser amounts in pulses makes the interior surface of the blood vessels smoother. Hence blood flows through the vessels quite easily.

The Japanese, who have the longest life span in the world are great fish lovers, especially of their delicacy ‘sushi’, raw seasoned fish.

So much for eating habits. If this piece has not bored you to death, next time, in part II, I will write about different cooking styles and some awful ways of eating of Mauritians.

* Published in print edition on 15 February 2013

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