Mastication, otherwise known as chewing is the process by which food is crushed and ground by the teeth.  By now we all know that we need to chew our food, but it’s how and how long we chew that has a large impact on our health.  Speed eaters beware!

Chewing breaks down large food particles into smaller more easily digestible particles and is therefore the first step of digestion.  Chewing releases saliva or “liquid gold”  which coats your food with digestive enzymes like amylase and lipase.  These enzymes immediately begin breaking down carbohydrates and dietary fats in your mouth.

Unfortunately many people miss out on this essential phase of digestion. Speed eating or eating in a hurry to get to the next task causes us to gulp down our food rather than properly chew.  Drinking to assist in “washing the food down” may seem like a good idea but it flushes large food particles down the digestive tract prematurely causing alot of unnecessary stress to the digestive system.
Here are some of the health benefits associated with properly chewing your food:

  • Better nutrient absorption from our food: Research shows that smaller food particles are better and more quickly absorbed by the body than large particles which are passed through the body. Can you imagine eating all that broccoli just to have it flushed out!!
  • Healthy weight: Properly chewing your food takes more time than gulping it down. Eating slowly will result in taking in less calories.  It takes the brain about 20 minutes to signal the stomach that it’s full.  By taking your time and thoroughly chewing your food you are allowing your body to recognize that it is full and decreasing your chances of overeating.
  • Easier digestion: When you chew your food well you are partially liquefying it which will make  it much easier on your digestive system.
  • Increased Energy: Digestion is a demanding task requiring a great deal of energy.  Chewing food thoroughly prevents added strain on the digestive system allowing us to conserve our energy for other tasks.  Also, we are better absorbing the nutrients needed to create energy.
  • Enjoyment:  Taking your time at the table by chewing and slowing down allows you to take in the full aroma, flavor and texture of your food and truly enjoy your meal.

So how do we slow down and remember how to partake in the primal act of chewing? Contrary to what some may claim, chewing each bite 100 times is just not realistic.

Try a few of these suggestions to consciously slow your eating pace:

  • Give yourself adequate time to eat your meal.
  • Try to refrain from eating at your desk, in the car or in front of the TV. This leads to “mindless eating” which results in lack of chewing, overeating and generally prevents your from even tasting your food.
  • Give thanks before your meal – this does not have to be a practice of religion but just sit down and truly be thankful for the meal you have in front of you.  This allows you a moment to be conscious of your food rather than just “diving in”.
  • Place your hands over your plate as a reminder to slow down. Consciously remind yourself.
  • Take the first bite, put your fork down and just enjoy the aroma and flavors of that bite.
  • Chew slowly and steady.
  • Chew until your food is mostly liquefied and the texture has been broken down.
  • Finish chewing and swallowing before drinking and before taking another bite.
  • Try to AVOID plowing through your plate and especially taking a drink and gulping your food down.

Remember, teeth are for more than just a pretty smile.

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