Humans are heterotrophs, which means we can’t produce our own food within our body, instead we have to consume food. We eat in order to meet our energy and nutritional requirements. If we are hungry, frustrated and over-loaded with work, we often feel that “my brain is not working” and we rush for quick snack which is often considered processed. Do we snack on processed food only if we are hungry? Or have we made it a habit to eat processed food for main meals since these types of foods are a source of comfort.
Lifestyle changes: Chemical dumping
Being too busy has limited the time to prepare our own home-made meals and prepare our own vegetables and other fresh foods. Instead, we often depend on instant noodles, snack bars, extruded starch products (produced by utilizing high pressure and temperature) and many other processed foods that are likely to invite many health complications. At face value, processed foods make life easy since they’re ready to eat. However, the consequences are not great.
Processed foods are a source of empty energy and are usually low in fibre. Most processed foods contain high amounts of sugar in order to make them taste good. Also, some processed foods, such as chips, fried foods and sweets have trans-fats. Trans-fats are a result of hydrogenation or “hardening” of vegetable oils during production of these foods. Processed foods can also look more attractive/colourful and have a longer shelf life. These properties are due to added preservatives, artificial colours and texturants. These chemical substances are noxious to our body. So, let’s explore what happen to these artificial colours and preservatives after ingestion?
The liver is our body’s natural detoxifier. Of the many important functions that the liver performs, fat metabolism and toxin/chemical removal are two major actions. Low calorie processed food and snacks as meal replacement options are popular for weight-loss. However, in the long-term, they are seldom effective. Low-cal processed foods are enriched with chemical substances that wreak havoc in the longer term. If we overload our liver with too much artificial substances and fats, it is unable to perform the detoxification and metabolism at its usual pace. Overload can impede usual liver functions such as fat metabolism and the removal of waste the body. Therefore, low-energy ‘weight-loss’ foods with added artificial substances can actually contribute to long-term weight gain.
Choose the correct food
There are a few key things we can do to support the health of your gut and liver. A high fibre diet, plenty of water, spices and herbs will be an optimum remedy for the health of the gut and liver. For a start, drinking adequate amount of water will help your liver to flush excess chemicals. Secondly, incorporating spices and herbs such as turmeric, pepper and cumin in the diet will help to mitigate inflammation since they are proven to contain many anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which help combat inflammation and aid in the maintenance of gut and liver health. Finally, increasing the amount of fibre in the diet also has many health benefits. Dietary fibre is made up of cell walls of plant foods that the human body itself is unable to digest – without the help of gut bugs that is. So, the cell wall component (fibre) of the plant food remain intact in the stomach and become available for many other important physiological functions further down the digestive tract. What are these functions? Fibre has the potential to trap fat, cholesterol particles and toxins, thereby potentially reducing the amount of these components entering the liver from gut. A high fibre diet is also good for our gut, as it provides a food source for our gut bugs. Most of the fibre passed to the colon is fermented by the gut bacteria to produce short chain fatty acids, which have been associated with reduced inflammation and are a known energy source for cells in the colon. It is recommended that at least 25-30g of fibre per day should be included in diet. This can be achieved by increasing the amount of raw fruits, vegetables, oats, barley, whole grain bread, nuts, seed and wheat bran in diet.
Food keeps us going, physically and mentally. But fuelling our body with the wrong food, for instance, foods that are highly processed, high in artificial sweeteners and colouring can have harmful effects. These effects may not be immediately apparent, but with time can contribute to chronic disease – even brain function! Research into the gut-brain link has shown that when the gut and liver are not optimally functioning, the brain, cognition and mood can all be affected. Being physically unwell gets in the way of participating fully in life, which in turn can make it tricky to be happy. So, to give yourself the best chance at happiness, don’t forget the importance of your gut!