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Issue Features
Discovery Magazine 2/1/1994


Thinking About Eatting

by  Brad Bromling, D.Min.

"Hi, have you eaten today?" That may seem like a strange way to greet someone, but it is a common greeting in China where people know what it is like to go hungry. In wealthy countries, people seldom go more than a few hours without food. If you think about it, eating is one of our most basic needs. Why do you eat the things you do? Obviously, you eat because food provides the energy your body needs. Without it you would die. But there is more to eating than staying alive and healthy.

Eating for Fun
We eat some foods (like desserts) simply because we like the way they taste. It is fun to eat cake and ice cream, but we don't need them to survive. Too much of these foods can make us feel sick. Other foods are fun and good for us. Fruit, for example, comes in many different shapes and flavors and is good for your body. Fruits contain vitamins (like C) which help our bodies in various ways. Pizza, hamburgers, and hot dogs are fun foods which, if eaten in the right amounts and with vegetables, can provide our bodies with the fuel we need.

Customs and Food
Why do we eat three meals a day? That is our custom. Some people eat only two, while others eat four meals a day. When people live in communities, they develop customs (special habits or ways of doing things). Our eating habits are often related to national customs. For example, people in the United States eat turkey at Thanksgiving. Turkey can be eaten throughout the year, but it is customary for Americans to eat it every year at Thanksgiving.
Customs also determine how food is eaten. Not everyone eats with forks, spoons, and knives. Some people eat with long slender sticks called "chop sticks." In other places (like Saudi Arabia), people set a pile of food in the middle of their table and use their hands to scoop out each bite. Whose way is right? The answer depends on what the people you live around think. What seems strange to you may be perfectly normal somewhere else.

Religion and Food
Religion has always influenced eating habits. God set limits on what could and could not be eaten. In the Old Testament, for example, people could not eat pork, certain kinds of fish (like catfish), and many other types of foods (see Leviticus 11). But in the New Testament, Christians are told that they can eat all kinds of foods except blood and meat from animals that have been strangled (Acts 15:29). Peter was the first person to learn this lesson, which God taught him by a special vision (see Acts 10:9-16). Because of confusion over what could and could not be eaten, Paul wrote several times about the subject (see Romans 14:1-23; 1 Corinthians 8:4-13).
Christians also eat a special "meal" on Sundays that is not intended to feed their bodies, nor is it for fun. The Lord's Supper is a ceremonial meal of unleavened bread (bread without yeast) and grape juice that Christians eat to remember Jesus' sacrifice on the cross (1 Corinthians 11:23-29). This meal reminds them that Jesus was raised from the grave, is now in heaven, and will return some day.
Jesus prayed before He ate, and Christians should follow His example (see Matthew 15:36; Matthew 6:11). In this way, we give God thanks and admit that we depend upon Him for our food.

DIGESTION
Digestion is the process by which you change food into simple substances that your body can absorb. This process begins the moment you put food into your mouth. While you are tasting the different flavors, your teeth are busy grinding the meal into a "mush" that you can swallow. As you chew, special glands secrete saliva which moistens, and begins to break down, the food. When you swallow, the food slides down your esophagus (eh-SOF-uh-gus) into your stomach. There it is broken down into a liquid by acids and enzymes. After your stomach does its job, it passes the liquid on to your small intestine. While in the small intestine, the food is broken down into basic nutrients which your body can absorb into your bloodstream. Blood carries those nutrients around your body and feeds your cells. The material that your body does not need moves on to your large intestine (your colon) and eventually passes out of your body. While in the large intestine, much of the water used in the digestion process is reabsorbed.
 



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