I have been debating whether to drink water with my meals, or only in between.
I heard that in Asia andEurope, it is believed that drinking water with meals can dilute your digestive acids.
Is this true? -- Jane (last name withheld)
Waltham , MA This is a nutrition issue that often gets misunderstood. Although I can’t say I am familiar with traditional eating habits from around the world, I know that in several European and Asian countries people do drink water with their meals. In any case, the suggestion that mixing food with water dilutes hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes is grossly exaggerated. For those of you who do not know what hydrocholoric acid does, one of its functions is to assist in digestion by breaking down protein into amino acids. With that in mind, you would need to drink gallons upon gallons of water along with your meal in order to dilute stomach acids and digestive enzymes to the point of rendering them ineffective. Remember that the foods we eat contain water – whole wheat bread is 35% water, broccoli comes in at 91%, cheese delivers 37%, grilled chicken is made up of 71%, and pasta clocks in at 72%. Very few foods – for example, peanut butter – have very low water contents. Think of eating a peanut butter sandwich without any liquids in between bites. Can you say “torture”? The bottom line is that even if you do not take a single sip of liquid during a meal, you are still taking in water, making a "no water" rule rather silly.
The one thing I will say about having fluids with meals is the following. If someone is underweight and has difficulty eating sufficient amounts of food in one sitting, I would recommend they not drink liquids until after their meal in order to leave “room” for actual food. Other than that, there is no valid reason to have “dry” meals.