In all likelihood, you think a lot more about eating foods than digesting them. But that’s an oversight that can affect your overall nutrition and health, according to nutritionist Ashley Koff, R.D.N. Your diet may be full of berries, spinach, quinoa, and salmon, Koff says, but unless your body is efficiently breaking down and effectively absorbing those foods, you’re not getting their full benefits.
The digestive process is complex. It starts with enzymes in your saliva that break down the starches in your food as you chew. Acids in your stomach activate different enzymes that dismantle proteins. Next, the food travels to the small intestine, which breaks down fats and absorbs most nutrients, which are ferried into your bloodstream, says Julia Greer, M.D., a professor and course director of digestion and nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
But along the way, problems arise: stress, dietary issues, food sensitivities, and even your workout can disrupt this process, preventing you from getting everything your food has to offer. That’s why it pays to be proactive about improving your digestion, experts say. Making a few tweaks to how you eat can add up to other key health benefits as well, including gaining energy, losing weight, feeling less bloated, and regulating your bathroom trips. These tips will maximize your healthy eating efforts.
If you’re usually the firs