When we eat foods, how our body processes them is an important factor in determining how well they work for us. Certain nutrients require specific timing to be properly absorbed and used by your body.
Some of these nutrients are vitamins or minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, etc. Others are more complex molecules called macronutrients that include carbs, protein, and fat.
Carbs are the most common nutrient people get confused about because there are different types of carbohydrates. Some are considered “simple” while others aren’t.
Many people confuse dietary fats with unhealthy oils like olive oil or butter. Both contain some amount of calories but not much else besides vitamin A. Dietary fats also play a major role in hormone function so it’s very important to have enough to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Dietary protein comes from food sources such as meat, fish, nuts, and vegetables. Just like fats, the right amount of protein is essential for health.
By now you’ve probably noticed that this article series isn’t just about fruits and veggies! We’re talking about all three of the main nutritional groups-carbs, proteins, and fats.
So what do we mean when we say a meal is high in any one of these? That would be having too many carbs, too many fats, or even too much protein.
Enzymes in the small intestine break down macronutrients
While there are some foods that contain only calories, the term “food” is a little bit misleading. You see, not all of the components of food are actually consumed by your body.
Most people know that protein can be ingested and absorbed into your blood stream as amino acids, but what many don’t realize is that glucose (or sugar) is also an important component of most diets.
After eating a meal containing carbohydrates, your stomach releases a fluid called gastric juice which contains enzymes such as pepsin to help break down the food you have just eaten.
By this time, most of the nutrients in the food have been partially digested and scattered throughout the digestive system. It’s these leftover nutrients that are then absorbed and used by your body. This process is how essential vitamins and minerals are supplied to your body.
However, if too much of the gastric content remains undigested, it may negatively affect our health.
Hydrogen ions break down macronutrients into their elements
The way your body processes protein, carbs, and fat is by breaking them down into their individual components. These are called amino acids, glucose, and fatty acid residues, respectively.
Amino acids are the main component of proteins. They contain hydrogen atoms which become incorporated into the protein structure when it is consumed. This changes how tightly the protein clings to other molecules in the body and why you may want to have more or less protein depending on what you eat.
Glucose is the most common carbohydrate found in foods. It’s made up of one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms, so it also contains hydrogen ions. When these carbohydrates are broken down in the gut, the hydrogen ions react with water to form either glucose from digestion of starch or galactose and lactate from dairy products.
Fatty acids are composed of hydrogen and carbon atoms and occur naturally in food. As we’ve discussed before, fats are needed for healthy cell function. However, too much can be harmful. That’s why it is important to understand how different types of fats affect us.
The small intestine is the first place digestion takes place
After food enters your mouth, it travels down your throat, into your stomach, and then out of your digestive system via your intestines.
The second area in which digestion happens is in your gut! Yours comes with having at least two billion bacteria that live within you. These microorganisms break down certain nutrients in our diet to use them as energy sources.
They also secrete molecules called hormones that help regulate blood glucose levels. Glucose is the most common form of carbohydrate found in foods and helps provide fuel for cells.
By understanding how different macronutrients are broken down in the body, we can learn about their effects on health.
Digestion begins in the mouth
After we eat our foods, another key part of your digestive system comes into play – digestion! This process actually starts in your mouth as you break down food molecules by chewing.
Your saliva contains enzymes that help begin this food breakdown. As you chew more quickly, she’ll also swallow less slowly to ensure all of her oral muscles have time to work while eating.
Once you’ve swallowed the last bit, your stomach acid works to break down other nutrients in the leftover parts of your meal.
These are sometimes called gut juices because they aid in nutrient absorption from the rest of your body.
By adding some extra acid during digestion, your body can better extract needed vitamins and minerals from your meals.
That’s why it’s important to be sure to drink enough water before, during, and after your meals. It helps keep your digestive system working optimally.
Digestion continues in the stomach
After food enters your mouth, you have the job of breaking it down into its component parts. This process happens in your digestive system — your stomach!
Your gut contains many cells that play a big role in how well you feel and perform. Your gut lining is one of the most important ones.
It functions as a barrier to protect yourself by limiting what types of particles you intake. If there’s not enough healthy gut tissue, then unneeded nutrients are reabsorbed from the gut, which doesn’t help anyone.
When there’s not enough gut tissue, some people may suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD can be either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
Both diseases affect the same part of the body but use different symptoms and treatments. Having an unhealthy gut can also increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies and poor health overall.
So, eating right and keeping an eye on your gut health really matters. And though most studies focus only on dietary protein, carbohydrate, and fat, research shows that fiber too may do something special for gut health.
Here’s what we know about nutrition and your gut.
Digestion continues in the small intestine
After food enters your mouth, you have the task of chewing it down into smaller pieces and then swallowing it. Yours is not a job that happens quickly!
As we mentioned before, digestion begins in your stomach. Food goes in, but it does not remain there long enough for most of its components to be broken down and absorbed.
After eating, your digestive system moves onto the next stage, which is breaking down foods in the gut. The small intestines are where this takes place.
Here, enzymes work to break down some of the nutrients in the meal. These enzymes come from your liver and small intestinal cells.
The by-products of enzyme action are sometimes referred to as “exogenous” or “exterior” matter because they can enter other parts of your body and help them function.
You may know some of these products like glucose or lactose, which are both simple sugars. As with any sugar, too much of these can lead to weight gain due to their effect on blood insulin levels.
Digestion concludes in the large intestine
After food enters your stomach, digestion begins! Your digestive system breaks down foods into its chemical components so that you can use them to receive energy and thrive.
The first step of digestion is breaking down complex carbohydrates (such as fruits, vegetables and grains) into simple sugars (glucose and fructose). This happens through an enzyme called α-amylase, which works by reacting with starch, until all the starch has been broken down.
Next, fat must be absorbed into your blood stream. There are two types of lipids — saturated and unsaturated fats – but only unsaturated fats can be incorporated into cell membranes, which increase membrane fluidity and help regulate brain function and hormone production
Finally, protein requires special enzymes to break it down into amino acids that can then be used to make new proteins. These enzymes are consumed along with the protein you’re eating.
So how do these different nutrients get stored or disposed of? The liver gets rid of most of the leftover glucose and ketone bodies in the body after meals.
Some of the fatty acid residues remain in the gut for later removal, but the rest are either exhaled or passed off in urine.
Overall, nutritionists agree that carbs, protein, and fat are essential parts of every day dieting. They say it is important to understand how each one is metabolized and controlled to aid in weight loss and health.
The small intestine is also the place where absorption occurs
More than half of your body’s water and nutrients are absorbed in the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and other organs. These don’t taste good to most people, so they usually get left behind.
When you eat food, certain parts of it go through different processes that depend on what kind of food you’re eating.
Stomach content: Some foods are broken down into their components in the stomach, like protein and carbohydrates. This happens when digestive enzymes in the gut break down the food.
Small intestinal digestion: Nutrient-rich fluids enter the first part of the small intestine, which contains lots of blood vessels. Here, more specific digestive enzymes begin breaking down molecules of glucose and lipids (fatty substances).
Largeintestinal digestion: Food that hasn’t been completely processed yet moves onto the next stage, the small intestine. By this time, some of the fluid has been reabsorbed, and now there’s an increased amount of liquid in the intestines.
Other organs: Certain important chemicals needed for health can be picked up by glands in the mouth, throat, or skin during digestion.