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Food to nutrients: What happens to the food you eat?

Published: April 15, 2021

Split pea and ham soup and a wholegrain roll
Split pea and ham soup and a wholegrain roll

What did you have for lunch today? Maybe you ate a sandwich, salad, or soup, or a combination of several different foods.

You probably didn't give much thought to what happened to the food once you finished your meal other than perhaps the taste and smell of the food, and whether it was satisfying.
The chewing, tearing and grinding of food that occurs in your mouth is only the first stage of digestion which continues long after you have finished your meal.
If you have a snack 2 hours after your lunch your body will still be digesting components of your lunch, although by this time the contents of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract won't look much like the food you ate for lunch.
Will the food you eat for your snack or the combination of food you ate at lunch time affect how your body digests and absorbs food?
Perhaps you shouldn't have had that high carbohydrate bread roll with the protein packed split pea soup.
How do you know you are getting the nutrients you need? How does the food you eat get to be the nutrients that your body can absorb and utilise for the many metabolic processes that occur in your body?
And how do these nutrients get from your GI tract and into the tissues and cells of your body?
There are several articles on this website which consider the human digestive process, but this course will follow the digestive process of a simple meal so that you can relate food that you eat to the nutrients that your body needs for life.
You will learn about what happens to split pea and ham soup, a whole-wheat and flaxseed bread roll, and an apple from the time that you take your first mouthful, until the food that you consumed is digested and absorbed.
You will learn about the nutrients that are contained in this meal and how they are separated from the whole food into simple molecules which can be absorbed into your body.
You will also learn about what happens to the remnants of your meal that are not absorbed.
Many people believe that you should only eat certain foods together, but this is not the case as your body is well equipped to handle meals containing different types of food.
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Gropper, S.S., Smith, J.L. & Groff, J.L. (2005). Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism (4thEd.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
Whitney, E. & Rady Rolfes, S. (2005). Understanding Nutrition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth