Let’s bust the myth of “eating plain and white” during a flu or a severe stomachache. In such conditions, it is good to avoid heavy, high-fiber and industrial foods and drinks and prefer an easily digestible diet that is balanced in nutrients and rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals so as to provide the body with everything it needs to return to a healthy state.
Who has never been advised to eat “plain and white” food during a flu or a severe stomachache? But what exactly does it mean “to eat plain and white food”? We open the fridge, we scan all its corners looking for anything eatable in “white”, hoping not to fall back into the usual and tasteless plate of rice with a distant hint of oil (the lucky ones can hope for the addition of butter or cheese). Thus, in addition to feeling tormented by the disease, we would be mentally catapulted into a hospital aisle, a feeling that often makes even the bit of hunger we had disappear.
In reality, the myth of the “white diet” is … just a myth and not necessarily a healthy myth. It would be more appropriate to follow a “smart and light diet”. In fact, our goal must not be the color of the food but its quality, so as to consume a meal that is easily digestible while remaining balanced in its nutrients. Despite the lack of appetite, eating is very important to get all the energy and substances needed to recover, without worsening the intestinal symptoms of the disease.
Rice and pasta are foods that are well digested and an excellent source of energy. Unfortunately, a meal with just these nutrient sources surely leads to an imbalance towards carbohydrates at the expense of other macronutrients. It is therefore important to combine them with other food sources.
Considering dairy products, we immediately understand why talking about a “white” diet can deceive us. Dairy products are “white foods”. However, they should be avoided as they are easily fermentable in our intestine, causing excessive accumulation of gas. Among dairy products we find a good ally for our health: yogurt, a food rich in “beneficial” bacteria useful for restoring the normal physiology of our intestines. Its content of bacteria is much lower than that present in a food supplement, but regular consumption can overcome this deficiency.
Fruit is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, useful to the body in its fight against the disease. The downside of fruit is given by its high content of dietary fibers, whose consumption is strongly recommended in a state of good health, but which should be limited in the presence of intestinal disorders given their ability to increase intestinal peristalsis and the ease with which they ferment. Therefore, peeled and preferably cooked or squeezed fruit should be preferred, trying to avoid types of fruit with higher acidity, such as citrus fruits.
Even vegetables face the same problem as they are also rich in fibers. It would therefore be appropriate to consume them boiled or in the form of soups, limiting the seasoning. We should prefer pumpkin, zucchini, spinach, fennel and carrots, avoiding those with a higher fiber content such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.
Legumes can be difficult to digest, especially in individuals who make little use of them. However, they are not to be eliminated as they are an excellent source of carbohydrates and vegetable proteins. It is therefore necessary to prefer them peeled and consumed in the form of soups.
Red meat should be avoided, as it is rich in fat and more difficult to digest, replacing it with fish and white meat. It is important to cook it in a less elaborate way, using “light” cooking methods such as steam or the grill. Even eggs, despite widespread beliefs, are a good source of nutrition. Their digestibility is strongly linked to the cooking method; therefore, “green light” to boiled or poached eggs, while avoiding fried eggs. Let us remember that eggs represent one of the most complete foods that nature offers us.
It is fundamental to keep well-hydrated especially after a lot of sweating. We should therefore drink plenty of water away from meals, so as not to risk diluting the gastric juices too much, making digestion more difficult. Avoid strongly irritating drinks, such as sparkling drinks, alcohol and coffee, to be replaced with herbals and tea.
In conclusion, during a flu or stomach problems, we should pay close attention to the myth of “eating plain and white”. We should avoid heavy, high-fiber and industrial foods and beverages and prefer an easily digestible and varied diet (and therefore not necessarily “plain and white”).