This is part 8 in the series 52 Weeks of Health. If you are just joining us you may want to start at the beginning.
A year or more ago I made a significant discovery that impacted my health. I was a food bolter. I would catch myself halfway through a favorite dish and realize I hadn’t even tasted it. I couldn’t really remember the first few bites of something that was supposed to bring me pleasure. Now what is the point of indulging in lasagna or chocolate cake if you are not going to take time to savor it? No wonder so many of us have weight issues; we don’t slow down and savor until we’re almost done with the first piece, so we have to have a second helping just to be able to enjoy the taste!
This week in the 52 Weeks of Health I want to encourage you to slow down! Savor every bite of food; chew it carefully and thoughtfully. Chew every bite a minimum of 25 times (more for the really chewy stuff)…well, maybe not yogurt, but hold it in your mouth and slowly move it around with your tongue. This may sound ridiculous but there are many reasons to not only slow down, but to thoroughly chew your food before you send it on its way to your digestive tract.
Chewing your food:
- gives your saliva a chance to mix with your food and start the digestive process. Saliva contains enzymes, amylases (which break down carbohydrates) and lipases (which break down fats). Chewing your food gives these enzymes a chance to do their work.
- gives your saliva a chance to thoroughly lubricate the food before it hits the esophagus. There would be little need to learn the Heimlich Maneuver if more people would just chew their food thoroughly. Enough said?
- will ensure you get all the nutrients you need from the food as quickly as possible.
- ensures that what can be digested will be digested. Large pieces of unchewed food are too difficult for your body to digest and either sit too long in your intestinal tract or are eventually passed on through completely undigested. I’m sure you’ve seen evidence of this. Not only are you not getting all the nutrients you need from the undigested food, but while it sits in your slowed down intestinal tract it becomes a nasty, rotting, feeding ground for unwelcome bacteria, producing gas and worse. Well-chewed food encourages the good bacteria that you want to flourish in your intestinal tract.
- gives your body time to get ready for the meal that is coming. While you chew (in fact even just while you are smelling the food) massive areas in your brain light up. Some of these areas are just involved in the pleasure aspect, but others are sending signals to other parts of your body. One of these signals goes to the pancreas which releases insulin into your bloodstream to prepare it for the food that has not even left your mouth yet. Also, receptors in your mouth analyze the type of food you are consuming (fat, starch, protein, etc.) and send the signals for the necessary enzymes and hormones to be ready.
- slows down your whole eating process so your body has a chance to signal that it’s full before you’ve packed down twice as much food as you need.
- helps protect against and heal the damage done by acid reflux. Not only will you be less likely to overeat, the smaller particle size will make the opening from your esophagus to your stomach work better.
So, this week – count your chews whenever you can (oh, and take smaller bites and put your fork down while you’re at it). I stop to do this every once in a while now, just to keep a handle on my food bolting tendencies. I will often chew for 50 times per bite, which is sometimes overkill, but it helps me to keep my chew count up even when I am not paying attention. By doing this I have significantly increased the time it takes to eat a meal and consequently I eat far less than I used to eat.
In closing, here is a somewhat humorous look at the need to chew your food. The-Benefits-of-Chewing-Your-Food
And some links if you are interested in looking further into this topic:
- Chewing Well: The Salivary Glands Partners for Life
- Does the number of times I chew my food impact my digestion?
- Chew Your Way to Digestion Relief
- Running through the Human Digestive System