There are many views concerning the ingestion and digestion of meat, especially red meat, on online forums, with varying and differing responses. From what I have learnt in the past 15 years studying nutrition, I have done some research over the past few months on this subject. It has been fascinating and often humorous. I will list a few of the opinions for your enrichment.
How long do we need to digest meat?
Meat and Livestock Australia website says: “Less than 4–6 hours to digest meat.” Meat is made up of protein and some fats, which are easily digested and generally leave the stomach within 2–3 hours. Meat is fully digested within 4–6 hours, compared to the dietary fibre found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which takes more than two days. The human digestive system is well designed to digest a variety of foods, including red meat, which contains essential nutrients, like Zinc, Vitamin B12 and long chain Omega-3s.
“About four days to digest meat and about a day and a half to digest vegetables, says Vistara Parham, RN (“What‘s wrong with eating meat?”).
It takes about 48 hours to digest meat. says Prerna Salla, author of ‘In Search of the Perfect Diet’.
“Meat takes about 72 hours to digest” according to WikiAnswers.com.
I have also heard this: “It takes years for a human to digest meat.” Response: Absolutely false. If it were true, the average person would have an extra 90 kilogrammes of red meat in their gut in just one year.
It takes 1–3 hours to digest meat, depending on how much you chew it and the other foods you take with it, says Expert Answerbag.com.
It takes a few hours to a day to digest meat, depending on the individual’s GI tract, says TeenHealthfx.com.
It takes about three months to fully digest a burger, says a popular Health Radio programme.
It takes 24 to 72 hours to fully digest meat, depending on the person’s digestive tract, state of health, medications taken, what is eaten with it, emotions and other factors. For example, a hamburger sandwich with all the trimmings will take about 24 to 72 hours. Why? On average, it takes that time for most people’s digestive tract to do its job. But, on the whole, 1–3 days will completely digest, or break apart, the food.
Scientists are actually able to measure this by ‘marking’ the meal with a type of dye that eventually colours the faeces (semi-solid waste matter after food has been digested and discharged from the bowels), so they can see when the residue of something actually exits the body.
Once the food is broken apart into its component parts (the macro-nutrients of protein, fat, carbohydrate, water, and micro-nutrients of vitamins and minerals), the broken-down products can then be absorbed into the body. Almost all of these actions occur by the time the materials reach the small intestine. So, the food that you eat for dinner tonight will be in the form of amino acids (protein), triglycerides and cholesterol (fats) and carbohydrates (mostly glucose), vitamins, minerals and water probably by tomorrow evening. Probably some, if not most, will also have been absorbed into your body and used in some way.
Digestibility refers to the proportion of a food that becomes available to the body as absorbed nutrients. Beef is highly digestible. In fact, 97 percent of beef is digestible, in comparison to 89 per cent of flour and 65 per cent of most vegetables.
However, many people equate digestibility with the length of time food remains in the stomach. Beef and other protein foods remain in the stomach longer than fruits and vegetables and, consequently, provide a feeling of fullness for a longer period of time.
The surface area of the small intestine (with thousands of villi and micro-villi or brush-like projections on the surface of intestines) is approximately 250 square metres. The contents of the stomach enter the small intestine at different rates – carbohydrates first, then proteins, and then fats. There are more nerve cells in the digestive system than in the peripheral nervous system.
Eating too much cooked or processed foods over time affects the pancreas and inhibits enzyme production. The lack of naturally-produced enzymes from the pancreas will affect the body’s ability to properly digest food. Cooked or processed foods form the majority of foods consumed by the average person. This includes so-called healthy diets. Eating such foods also causes an increase in WBC (white blood cell) production (protecting the body from what you have eaten) each time you eat. Over time, this reaction can impair your immune system and render it inadequate to effectively fight disease.
Incidentally, the best resource for getting good nutrition information and advice may not be the radio, TV, magazines or the internet. For nutrition questions, if possible, talk to a trained dietitian at your local hospital or health care clinic who has been trained in nutrition. A lot of folks think they are experts in nutrition, but you should look for one with either a R.D. (Registered Dietician) Certification or any advanced degrees (like M.S., M.P.H., or Ph.D.) in nutrition or a related subject from a college or university that offers professional training in nutrition, says Dian Dooley, Ph.D. in Nutrition and Anatomy.
Meat is Often Not the Real Culprit
Meat is not really the issue. It is the dietary habits of the person as a whole and the condition of the person’s health at the time that matter. Dietary history is important, as well as the quality of the meat, the amount per serving, and the frequency of eating meat. Also, it is the state of the nervous system that can help your digestive system function properly. Most people have a dietary history that impairs the digestive system to function optimally. So, if your nervous system is not functioning optimally, get a chiropractic adjustment to optimise your spinal health to reduce spinal and nervous system interference.
Your Trusted Chiropractor (Specialist in Zone Chiropractic) & Nutritionist
Dr. Nicholas Lim, D.C., ANutr, B.Sc. (Hons)
[Dr. of Chiropractic and Nutritionist &
Secretary of Chiropractic Association of Singapore]
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