It’s one of those rules that everyone knows from childhood: Don’t drink while eating. But what’s the point?
Have a drink at the dinner table – yes or no? This is a question that concerns parents of small children in particular. Because they have often learned from their own parents: They only drink after eating.
The fear behind this: The liquid dilutes the stomach acid, digestion no longer works as well. Is that correct?
“There is a grain of truth there,” says Prof. Johannes Georg Wechsler, an internist in Munich. However, he does not consider it advisable to completely abstain from drinking during a meal.
But first things first: The human organism produces up to four liters of gastric juice per day. This hydrochloric acid breaks down the food into its component parts, which the body then uses.
We also ingest germs with our food. Some of them are killed by the saliva. For the germs that still make it into the stomach, this is usually the end of the line: they do not survive contact with the stomach acid.
Avoid drinking altogether – but it doesn’t have to be. Rita Rausch from the Rhineland-Palatinate consumer center says: “A glass of water while eating does not harm – on the contrary.” According to the nutritionist, the chyme that has been mixed with saliva in the mouth slides better in the direction of the stomach and intestines.
However, Rita Rausch can understand why in some families there is a rule that drinks are only drunk after the meal. “This is often popular when children don’t enjoy eating so much,” says the nutritionist.
Parents are probably worried that the drink will distract their offspring from food – with the result that the child eats little and is therefore not supplied with enough nutrients.
“In such cases, there is a compromise,” says Rausch. Drinking while eating is then allowed for the little ones. But only one glass, the contents of which the child eats well distributed over the meal.
The question arises: If a drink is allowed at the table – which one is best? “Water,” says Johannes Georg Wechsler, “to really taste the food.” It doesn’t matter whether it’s still or sparkling water or tap water. Although many adults also drink wine or beer while eating, “but ultimately that spoils the taste of the food.” And on top of that, alcohol is a calorie bomb.
This also applies to lemonades, cola or fruit juices, according to nutritionist Rita Rausch. If you don’t like a glass of water while eating, unsweetened fruit tea might be an alternative.
By the way, if you like, you can also pay attention to the temperature of the drink. “It’s best when the water is lukewarm,” says Wechsler. Because lukewarm water with a temperature of around 36 degrees stimulates the metabolism and thus digestion. That’s good after a feast.
Which, by the way, also helps digestion – at least for adults: “Drink an espresso after eating,” says Wechsler. The bitter substances contained in the espresso also help to get the digestion going. Quite apart from the fact that such a strong coffee shot after a meal is a pleasure for many.