We have all most likely been advised at some point to chew our food more, and eat slower. This suggestion may seem difficult to follow because we are usually not told why it is important.
When we understand how much chewing is beneficial for our overall health, taking a little more time with each bite during a meal seems to make much more sense. There are several reasons to chew more slowly, here I will summarized the points I have found most helpful to understand into 5 categories:
1. Digestion starts in the mouth
Many people would say that they start digesting their food after it is swallowed, but the crucial first step of the digestion process begins in the mouth as you chew. Chewing signals the salivary glands to start producing saliva and informs the body that it will be receiving food, and allows it more time to prepare for digestion. The more you chew, the more saliva is mixed in with your food before it is swallowed, and this is very beneficial.
Despite the fact that human saliva consists of 98% water, it is extremely potent and contains important enzymes, as well as other substances such as compounds with antibacterial properties, mucus,and electrolytes. The salivary enzymes begin the process of breaking the food down chemically while the teeth work to reduce the size of the pieces of food that the digestive system will soon have to deal with. These enzymes break down carbohydrates and starches into simple sugars, and the longer you chew, the less the rest of your system will have to work on breaking down these substances.
2. Don’t make your digestive system work harder than it has to
Often times the simplest cure for indigestion after a large meal is only a more lengthy chewing practice. Chewing each bite longer can significantly simplify the digestion process required by the intestines.
Having smaller units of food enter the digestive tract also reduces the amount of gas swallowed and can reduce the likelihood of gassy or bloated feelings after meals. Large units of food are also more difficult for the body to move through the digestive tract.
3. Receive maximum nutritional benefit from your food
By allowing the chewing process to be completed entirely, you are supplying your body with smaller pieces of food which it can digest much more quickly and efficiently.
The smaller a piece of food becomes as you chew, the more surface area it has to be exposed to digestive enzymes, and the faster it will be broken down and the quicker and more efficiently the nutrients provided can be absorbed into the body.
4. Stop over-eating
It takes about twenty minutes for the brain to receive the message that the stomach is full. If someone is eating quickly, it is easy to take in much more food than is necessary before realizing they are full, leaving the eater with that unpleasant over-stuffed, unhealthy feeling we are all perhaps too familiar with.
When you take the time to stop shoveling in food and actually process each mouthful fully before swallowing, it takes a longer time to finish a meal. During this time, you are able to receive the news that you are full and hopefully stop before consuming an unnecessary amount to the point at which such consumption becomes unhealthy and may cause problems for general health or extreme distress for the digestive system.
5. Appreciate your food more
In today’s world it is easy to feel the need or desire to eat far too quickly. When you take the time to chew more thoroughly, you will start to appreciate your meal times more. The more you chew, the sweeter the food in your mouth will taste, as the saliva reduces larger compounds into simple sugars.
Flavors and textures will start to jump out at you more as you focus on and appreciate how amazing eating can be. Chewing slowly can open the door to a new, and more mindful view of what you put in your body. It can also help you to enjoy the experience of eating more, which reduces the amount of craving for food you don’t need later.
So how much SHOULD you chew?
There are many opinions on the appropriate number of times to chew each bite. A good rule of thumb is to insure that you chew until you can no longer tell what you just ate simply by the texture of the food in your mouth. For healthy digestion, solid food should be chewed a minimum of 30 -40 times.
Thick liquid food such as porridge, smoothies, or soup should be chewed a minimum of 10 times. Although chewing food that does not need to be broken into smaller pieces may seem pointless, the act of chewing can prevent the possible upset stomach caused by the consumption of a larger amount of food when the body was expecting simply water or juice due to the lack of chewing and saliva production. The saliva mixed in with the food will also make it easier to digest, despite the original consistence of what you are eating.
If you find eating slowly and chewing longer to prove exceedingly difficult due to a busy or rushed lifestyle, or a lack of self control when it comes to eating, try these tips for taking it slow while you eat:
-Try using chopsticks
-Sit up straight and breathe slowly and deeply while you eat
-Concentrate only on eating, and eliminate distractions
-Designate an area for eating only
-Try a mindfulness or gratitude meditation while you eat
-Cook your own meals more often so you appreciate what you eat more
Taking the time to chew well can work wonders on your digestive system and general health, as well as decrease any discomfort you may feel after a meal. So take the time to appreciate each bite for the gift that it is, and allow your body the chance to digest your food as it is meant to, with minimal extra effort.