© Nikola Hristovski | Dreamstime.com

 

Chewing. The act of breaking down food in your mouth with your teeth. It’s something we take for granted because if we didn’t chew, we’d be preforming the Heimlich Maneuver on a daily basis. Chewing seems so simple. You just bite down a few times, swallow and repeat. But how often do you really chew your food and, quite frankly, why does it matter?

Here are 5 reasons you should absolutely care about proper chewing:

Digestion

When you take a bite, the digestion process starts immediately. The motion of chewing triggers your body to produce stomach acids and pancreatic juices in anticipation of food entering the stomach. Powerful enzymes in your saliva begin breaking down fats and starches, and depending on how thoroughly you chew your food, much is actually digested in your mouth. Basically, the more work you do in your mouth, the less work your entire digestive tract has to do breakdown your food.

Nutrition

If you are already buying healthy, real food, make the most of it by chewing thoroughly. In fact, chewing actually makes your food more nutritious. How? The Nutrition Diva, Monica Reinagel explains:

“…Longer chewing has been shown to increase the amount of protein your body can absorb from foods and put to use building muscle.  It also makes some vitamins and minerals more available for absorption—especially from uncooked fruits and vegetables. (Cooking foods has some of the same nutrient-releasing effects as thorough chewing.)  Chewing also increases the amount of fat that is absorbed from foods that contain both fat and fiber, such as nuts.”

If you have kids, start young and remind them to slow down and chew their food well. This is one good habit their little bodies can certainly use.

Weight Loss

With an estimated 75 million American dieters, losing weight is on the mind of almost 25% of the entire U.S population. If that statistic wasn’t crazy enough, the weight loss industry brought in revenues of $60.9 billion in 2010. In this tough economy, finding free ways to boost weight loss is always welcome.  Guess what, chewing can help. When you slow down and chew your food well, it gives your body a fighting chance of telling you when it’s full. Assuming you listen to your body, you’ll end up eating less and consuming fewer calories. This is something everyone can focus on.

Gas

Inadequate chewing can cause embarrassing things to happen down south. When partially digested food enters the intestines, bacteria can cause food to ferment resulting in foul-smelling gas. The better your food is digested in your mouth and stomach, the better your chances of avoiding the toot fairy.

Enjoyment

When you sit down to a beautiful meal, no matter how simple or luxurious, it’s almost sinful if you don’t slow down and enjoy every bite. The true art of eating is muted by the glutinous, gorging of fake food constantly on the go. Chewing is one simple way to bring it back. Be aware of what you are eating. Feel the unique sensations in your mouth. Chew consciously and with a purpose. Savor every morsel.

Tips

Start by counting the number of times you chew a typical bite. For the next bite, try chewing until the food is pretty much completely gone and see how long it takes. There is no magic number of times you should chew since every person is different and foods varies. Awareness is critical and feeling how long food should stay in your mouth prior to swallowing helps re-train you. Other things that help: take smaller bites, use smaller forks and spoons, put your fork down between bites. Engage in conversation; the more you talk, the slower you eat.

Remind one another to enjoy every bite and chew thoroughly. The new mantra at our mealtime is, “don’t forget to chew your food!” My 3-year old loves it when she’s first to bring it up to mom and dad. Unfortunately, without the constant memory jog, I go back to inhaling my food and haphazardly chewing. I’m hoping that with continued reminders, thorough chewing will become my new norm.

 

Sources:
Nutrition Diva
Summer Tomato
The Kitchn
Market Data Enterprises

Image: © Nikola Hristovski | Dreamstime.com