April 18, 2022
You Are Where You Eat
By Ram Rao, Ph.D., Principal Research Scientist for Apollo Health
More and more research studies unequivocally show the close nexus between the brain and the gut. Optimal functioning of the digestive system is vital to prevent imbalances in the body and the brain. So, how does one improve diet, digestion, and brain function and thereby experience overall immunity? The easiest way is to inculcate good eating practices since you are ‘What’ you eat. Through our forum, we have provided several guidelines about what to eat by discussing extensively the benefits of our KetoFLEX 12/3 diet to optimize brain function. Furthermore, good eating practices also require that you be aware of the importance of meal timings since you are ‘When’ you eat. Today’s article will describe the concept that you are ‘Where’ you eat.
Eating is not in the car while driving, not in front of the TV or laptop, not while texting, not lying down, and certainly not while reclining on the bed. Since eating nourishes and sustains an individual, it is imperative that eating is the sole activity that you engage in, and this should not be accompanied by other tasks. Eating should not take place in a loud and noisy environment because mindful eating calls for 100 percent attention to your plate. And, if you have decided to chew your food thoroughly, you need to restrict all other activities and focus on chewing. Thus “where” you eat becomes very important since optimal digestion promotes optimal immunity.
When I first moved to this country, I was intrigued by the regular brown bag meetings at work. In my opinion, “working lunches” constitute poor eating practice, especially if it happens to be your main meal. Working lunch meetings involve several other activities simultaneously: talking, eating, debating, perhaps arguing, and planning. The noise can become an issue, too (e.g., packing and unpacking food, biting on fruits, blowing your nose, etc.). All of this can have a profound negative influence on the digestion and absorption of your food. If at all possible, stay away from such meetings, and if you absolutely must attend, refrain from eating during the meeting. Instead, eat before or after the “working lunch.”
Good eating practices and the importance of ‘where’ you eat begin in the kitchen. The kitchen décor should be such that the individual preparing the food maintains a high emotional, mental and physical state. One method to improve the décor is to bring nature into the kitchen by allowing sunlight to stream through, thereby facilitating a bright and well-lit atmosphere. Decorating the kitchen with potted plants serves as another natural and sustainable home décor that lifts the morale and purifies the air. If you have a garden, position it within view of a kitchen window. Watching these plants while preparing or consuming the food is refreshing, calming, and invigorating.
If your dining place is an extension of the kitchen, then both areas should also be free from dirt, trash, and clutter so that the eating area appears pleasing to the eye, and you will feel more relaxed as you sit to eat. A modern-day kitchen is a place of social activity, with people congregating in the kitchen. Furthermore, people tend to walk straight into the kitchen wearing their footwear, thereby giving the bacteria found on the footwear free access to the kitchen and food. Studies show that this type of bacteria can trigger intestinal and urinary tract infections, meningitis, and diarrheal disease. Considering the issues that come with modern living habits, it is important to begin holding the kitchen as a sacred room. Do what you can today to transform your kitchen into a place of nourishment.
Another aspect of ‘where you eat’ applies when you step out to eat in a restaurant. So many of us love to eat in restaurants, but we need to be wary of the people, mixed emotions, and noise that can impact our physical and mental status, affecting digestion. Furthermore, restaurant food is often prepared in bulk, and to increase profits, restaurant owners may choose to use cheap, low-quality foods. In addition, if the staff members are disgruntled, they are ‘feeding the food’ with their negative emotions. Several research studies found that eating at fast-food restaurants or full-service restaurants is worse than eating at home. Both types of establishments prepare foods that are high in calories, saturated fat, and sodium. Eating a home-cooked meal not only saves you time and money, it can cut your calorie budget in half, and you are also ensuring that you are eating healthy. (Note: If you are traveling, bringing your own food when possible or visiting a local organic grocery are other viable options to improve your culinary experience.)
Thus, if your primary reason for eating is to experience optimal health and wellness and use the food’s energy to strengthen the brain and thereby cognition, then it is imperative that you understand that ‘you are where you eat.’