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Airplane Cuisine, Deconstructed

By Chris Brown

Airplane food doesn't just notoriously taste bad, it is actually bad for your health. Believe it or not, there was a time in the 1940s and early 1950s, when airlines competed on the elegance of their dining. As the daily flights increased over the years, though, airlines have sought increased profits by cutting the quality, and health content, of meals offered on flights. Natural taste changes that occur while in flight allow airlines to play with food content right under passengers' less sensitive noses. Realizing just how unhealthy it is to eat airline food may help suppress the temptation to order that second airline muffin on your next cross-country flight.

It's Designed for Shelf-Life and Easy Preparation

Airline food is designed for optimum shelf life, not nutrition, and the environment makes it more palatable. The dry air of an airplane cabin suppresses our sense of smell and taste, which makes it difficult to determine food quality. That is why you may find yourself enjoying drinks that you never normally consider ordering (such as tomato juice or ginger ale) on ground level. Because of this, airlines are able to get away with serving less-tasty, lower-quality food products without major complaint (including questionable dairy and meat). One trick that airline dining uses to help preserve food is to add a significant amount of salt and fat content. Studies have found that people's sensitivity to salt is lowered by 30 percent while in-flight. So the poor quality remains hidden until it hits your system, leaving you bloated and sick at your destination.

High Altitude Eating Is Hard on Your System

It's not just the food that you have to worry about at 30,000 feet, the altitude itself does strange things to your gut. Being that high actually shuts down your digestive tract, as if under anesthesia. When you land back on ground level, digestion starts and you must work extra hard processing anything you ate while elevated. This sudden workload on the body makes you more lethargic and significantly increases jet lag.

The Solution to High-Altitude Hunger

The smartest move when it comes to food and air travel, and the trick used by flight attendants to avoid jet lag, is to not eat during flights at all. Instead, eating a large meal an hour or two before flight, and then another when you land, allows your body to process the food as it enters your system and avoid the shock of sudden digestion catch-up. If it isn't personally feasible to avoid eating on a long flight, bringing your own healthy snacks, with low fat and salt content, can reduce the strain on your digestive tract after landing.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Hurst, Tex.

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