The single most important health advice I could give.
Reasons to chew your food properly:
- You absorb more nutrients and energy from your food: chewing breaks your food down so that it is more easily digested, and easier for your intestines to absorb nutrients from the food. Smaller particles are better and more quickly absorbed by the body.
- Your food gets more exposure to your saliva: The longer you chew the more your food has exposure to the digestive enzymes in your saliva. This relieves some work from the small intestine and stomach.
- Maintain a healthy weight: The longer you chew, the less you will eat. A natural way to decrease portion size. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to signal to your stomach that you’re full. Chewing longer gives your body more time to catch up on this process, and realize you ARE full. Added bonus, saliva breaks food down into simple sugars, creating a sweet taste in your mouth. The longer you chew, the sweeter your food becomes, diminishing the craving for an after meal dessert.
- Easier digestions: Digestion starts in your mouth, like pre digesting your food. Digestion is actually a very demanding task for your body, requiring a great deal of energy. Improperly chewed food demands much more work of your stomach and intestines. Additionally, large particles of improperly chewed food remain undigested when they enter your intestines. This is where bacteria will be needed to break it down, potentially leading to gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, cramping and other digestive issues.
- Chewing produces more endorphins, brain chemicals responsible for good feelings.
- When you chew your foods thoroughly you train your taste buds to notice the nuances of foods and develop a more sophisticated palate that will reject the taste of fake and artificial substances in processed foods. You will change that way you eat by learning the taste of real food.
So what is a healthy chewing goal? 30 times per mouthful! I know, I know, this is overwhelming, most of us only chew our food about 8 times per mouthful or less. Try starting small with a goal of 15-20 chews, and work your way up. Here are some tips to help get you there.
- Eat with zero distractions, no compromises. Shut off your phone, and focus on your plate. Turn the tv off, put the computer, books and papers away. At some business lunch meetings I’ve noticed everybody put their phone in the center of the table, and whomever reaches for their phone first pays the bill. While I love this idea, the energy of the phones in eyesight while eating is just too tempting for most. Leave your phone in the car. Chewing helps you disconnect for a few minutes from the external stimuli, creating an opportunity to check with yourself and how you feel today.
- Practice mindful eating. Eat with intention. Bring awareness to what you are eating, and how often you are eating on autopilot. Are you eating from a place to self love or self sabotage? Remember to breath, and enjoy the process. Taking time with a meal, beginning with chewing, allows for enjoyment of the whole experience of eating: the smells, flavors and textures. It helps us to give thanks, to show appreciation for the abundance in our lives and to develop patience and self-control. Savor every morsel and enjoy all the flavors your food has to offer. A good mindful eating practice to get you started on this journey is to spend 20 minutes sitting with a single almond in your hand. Look at it, think about what it is and where it came from, and eventually eating it. Smell the almond, marvel in its beauty, taste it. Note how creamy and sweet it is, and how it feels in your mouth.
- Counting your chews is tedious and can bore you to tears, often times rather than counting to 30 chews, I just chew until the mouthful is literally liquid in my mouth.
- Don’t allow yourself to get to the point where you’re so starving you scarf down your food in seconds flat. If you need a snack, have a snack. Be prepared for the times when you won’t be able to cook yourself a meal, bring your own healthy snacks with you everywhere. Some of my favorites are raw nuts, fresh fruit, celery and hummus. That being said, snacking too much can cause its own batch of digestive issues. It is best to allow 3-4 hours between meals to give your system the chance to fully digest what you’ve eaten before and rest before its next mission.
- Take smaller bites of food to begin with, chew slowly and steadily, and wait to drink liquids until 30 minutes after dinner.
As you create a new habit, you will begin to appreciate eating without rushing. Keep a food journal to process what you are eating and how you feel. You have to eat every day – why not learn to savor and enjoy it? Happy chewing! Live passionately on purpose!