- Do you eat quickly and wonder where the food went?
- Do you eat on the run?
- Can you remember how your food tasted?
- Are you present to what you eat and how or whether it is nourishing you?
- Have you ever thought about for how long you chew your food?
If you prepare your own food, digestion commences as you prepare it. You're salivating already. Starting digestion before you put anything in your mouth.
More importantly, did you know chewing is a major part of digestion? Generally chewing is an unconscious reflex that we do when we put something in our mouth.
The way you chew, including for how long you chew, can significantly impact your health. It is generally recommended that you:
- Sit down to a table to eat
- Not have any distractions around such as television, your phone or iPad, newspapers, magazines or books
- Put down your sandwich or cutlery between each mouthful
- Chew what you have in your mouth for up to 30 times
- Swallow and empty your mouth before you take another bite
Why? Sound crazy or a waste of time? There are real health benefits to be gained from being present to what you eat and taking your time, in ways you probably never knew…
1. You Absorb More Nutrients and Energy From Your Food
Chewing breaks your food down into smaller particles that can be easily digested. It's easier for your intestines to absorb nutrients from your food and prevents improperly digested food from entering your blood and causing health problems.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
The longer you chew, the more time it takes you to finish a meal. Research shows that eating slowly can help you to eat less and, ultimately, to avoid weight gain or even lose weight. It takes time (generally about 20 minutes) for your brain to signal to your stomach that you’re full. So eating slowly can lead to you eating less.
3. Your Food Gets More Exposure to Your Saliva
Saliva contains digestive enzymes, so the longer you chew, the more time these enzymes have to start breaking down your food, making digestion easier on your stomach and small intestine.
4. Easier Digestion
The chewing process partially liquefies your food, making it easier to digest. Digestion is a demanding task for your body, requiring a great deal of energy, especially if forced to digest improperly chewed food. Ever tried to do some strenuous exercise after a meal. Often it’s difficult because your body is preoccupied with digestion. Chewing properly allows your stomach to work more efficiently and break down your food faster.
5. It’s Good for Your Teeth
The bones holding your teeth get a ‘workout’ when you chew, helping to keep them strong. The saliva produced while chewing is also beneficial, helping to clear food particles from your mouth and wash away bacteria.
6. Less Excess Bacteria Lingering in Your Intestines
When large particles of food are undigested, bacteria in your intestines will begin to break it down. It may start to putrefy, potentially leading to gas and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, cramping and other digestive problems.
7. Enjoy and Taste Your Food
If you rush through your meal with hardly any chewing, you’re not really tasting or enjoying the food.
Here are a few tips for change:
- It’s ideal to eat in a relaxed, non-distracted environment
- Take smaller bites of food to begin with
- Chew slowly and steadily
- Chew until your mouthful of food has lost all of its texture
- Finish chewing and swallowing completely before taking another bite of food
- Wait until you’ve swallowed to drink fluids