What are the most efficient foods for the body to process?
October 22, 2009 10:04 PM   Subscribe

What are the most efficient foods for the body to process?

By efficient, I mean foods that, when eaten, produce the least waste.

Are these foods the same as the most nutritive foods?

Anonymous because this is essentially a question about excrement.
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Pure cane sugar? Vegetable oil?
posted by killdevil at 10:10 PM on October 22, 2009

Low residue diet.
posted by 517 at 10:11 PM on October 22, 2009 [3 favorites]

I wouldn't limit the amount of fiber you get. The North American diet is lacking that. Its good for you and you will have less digestive health problems in the long run.

If you are trying to avoid bloating and what not then look at the various types of fibers - you may want to avoid beans for example. If you like beans, check out beano and use that before you eat.

What does it matter if you have more output?

Remember meats and fish have very little fiber even though they are healthy.

But the fiber in fruits, oats, etc are really good for you in many ways, including your heart.

Can you explain more what you are trying to achieve.
posted by simpleton at 10:52 PM on October 22, 2009

Perhaps it is just a thought experiment with no particular thing to achieve, simpleton.

The simplest thing to digest is probably glucose, as that's what tends to end up in your bloodstream. When you're in the hospital, you often end up with a glucose drip, which keeps you from being hungry and does not produce wastes which produce bowel movements, but also does not provide much of anything in terms of actual nutritive value. No vitamins or minerals in sugar.

Another thing to look at is the pre-colonoscopy diet. It's made specifically to help clean out the intestines, and although it includes some things to clear you out, it also involves food-like substances made to reduce excrement. Jell-o and clear juices (apple) and clear sodas.

In general, clear liquidy things will be the easiest for the body to deal with because there's not much that needs to be broken down to get the nutrients out. However, these things are also not generally particularly nutrient-heavy.
posted by that girl at 11:16 PM on October 22, 2009

Breastmilk. Have you ever seen the poop of an exclusively breastfed baby? There's barely any of it, and it barely even smells bad. I mean, it doesn't smell GREAT, but it certainly doesn't smell like poop.
posted by KathrynT at 11:49 PM on October 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have Crohn's and I really really love that low-residue diet. Plus you can pretend you're in astronaut training!
posted by roygbv at 3:57 AM on October 23, 2009

Breastmilk. Have you ever seen the poop of an exclusively breastfed baby? There's barely any of it,

Oh, hahahahaha. My baby begs to differ. When she was three to six months old, she pooped all over three outfits a day. (Not including my outfits.) Although, now that she's on a mainly breastmilk, chicken, spaghetti and egg diet, there's not a whole lot, but, yes, it's much stinkier. There is way more poop on the days when she eats vegetables or fruit as opposed to throwing them on the floor.
posted by artychoke at 6:33 AM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Are these foods the same as the most nutritive foods?

It's the exact opposite. The foods which are most nutritive (e.g. vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes) tend to also have the most fiber. That's a good thing, because fiber slows down digestion and regulates blood sugar. Slow digestion is a feature not a bug. It allows for more complete absorption of nutrients in the bowel, and makes you feel satiated for longer. The polar opposite would be pure glucose which is probably fully absorbed in about 20 minutes or less -- resulting in a massive spike in blood sugar levels, with triggers a flood of insulin which is not good for you since it leads to a blood sugar crash soon after; do this habitually and welcome to the type II diabetes club. Fiber helps reduce this roller coaster. And there are zero vitamins and minerals in sugar of course.
posted by Rhomboid at 7:23 AM on October 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your body is really good at absorbing 6 categories of things: sugars, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water. The first three provide energy and building blocks for cells, and the remaining three are necessary to support all the chemical reactions going on in your body. (This is super over-simplified, but you get the point.) You need all of these nutrients in a proper balance to stay healthy.

The main thing you eat that your body doesn't absorb is fiber, which primarily comes from plant foods. Unfortunately it's mostly impossible to get all the vitamins and minerals you need without eating plant food, because there aren't enough of those nutrients in meat (or even in refined grains, which have the fiber removed).

So the basic answers to your questions are: The diet that produces the least excrement would involve the least fiber. Meats and juices and refined carbohydrates (think wonder bread and saltines) are the likely candidates. But this would be almost the exact opposite of the most nutritive diet, because all the good vitamins and minerals your body wants are missing from these foods.

All that said, I think "waste" is a misleading term in your question. Excrement is obviously composed of the food your body couldn't absorb, but that's not the only thing in there. A kind of ridiculous percentage is made up of dead bacteria, so if your goal is to reduce excrement you might have to look into eating foods that limit bacterial growth, too. There's also bile, bilirubin from broken-down red blood cells, and other stuff in there as well.

In addition, the excrement that comes out of your body serves a useful purpose on its way out, by keeping your intestinal muscles strong. It gives them something to push against, so they stay good at keeping things moving through. If you ate no fiber, they would get weak from lack of exercise (like when you stop going to the gym and your arms get flabby), and then they would have trouble pushing through whatever it is that you're still eating. That could lead to bloating, constipation, and a bunch of other uncomfortable/gross stuff. So excrement isn't just "waste", it's like a set of free-weights for your intestinal muscles.
posted by vytae at 8:16 AM on October 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

Your body will produce some waste whether you eat or not, because some of it is not derived (directly) from the food you eat, but from the breakdown of your own tissues. For example, part of the waste you excrete comes from the degradation products of erythrocytes (red blood cells), which have a high turn-over in the body. Metabolites of heme from red blood cells are what gives excrement its inimitable color.

As far as nutritive value go, that depends on your definition. Speaking solely in terms of energy-density, fats are the most nutritive. Simple carbohydrates, such as glucose, are going to be the easiest (and fastest) foods your body can utilize. In theory, the only waste from metabolizing glucose should be CO2. But, obviously, energy-density and energy-utilization-efficiency are not equivalent to nutritive value in the sense of health. Your body requires many other things beside energy to function, including essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. And while fiber isn't nutritionally necessary per se, it is important for good digestion.
posted by dephlogisticated at 8:40 AM on October 23, 2009

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