I walk into the same trap as you, although I (…) should know better. For instance, I didn’t have much time for lunch yesterday, so I downed my precious food (an organic 4 egg omelet with leek, tomato, red onion and mushrooms, nicely fried in virgin coconut oil) without even realizing I was eating it. One bite had hardly made it to my mouth when I was ready to scoop up the next while checking my Facebook messages. So much for mindful eating (maybe another great blog topic) and giving thanks for the fact that I am lucky enough to live in a place where I have access to food at all… and access to Facebook 😉
As I could feel the load of my lunch meal settling into my stomach and I had almost finished my lunch I reminded myself (a little late by then) of the importance of chewing. Hm, chewing. Highly underrated and possibly even more underappreciated.
But why? What is so important about chewing that it is worth writing a whole blog post about it? Let me tell you why.
- One of the main causes of troubles with digestion comes from ‘under-chewed’ food. Swallowing large chunks of food without them being broken down by your teeth causes upset in your stomach and bowels.
- Humans developed with teeth and molars in order to grind food, not just to have a beautiful white smile. Our stomachs cannot handle large lumps of food. Our mouth is our first line of digestion and takes care of breaking our food down into smaller pieces. In fact, nutrients (vitamins, mineral and the lot) are found within the cells of food and only our teeth can break these cells. Our stomach and intestines cannot.
- As I mentioned, your digestion starts in your mouth. It is here where your saliva mixes with your food and your body gets the hormonal signal that there is food on the way.
Little side note: see how this kind of confuses the system when chewing gum?
- Your food simply tastes much better when you chew it thoroughly. All the different flavours are hidden deep inside the food you eat and without completely breaking it down you are missing a lot of these great flavours.
- Those of you looking to drop a few kilograms, thoroughly chewing food is a perfect way to feel satiated quicker and thus you are likely to eat less.
Are you familiar with that ‘OMG I feel so full’ feeling? Try chewing properly. You will find it may relieve you from this feeling.
- Bloating, IBS, heart burn and constipation may be a result of not chewing your food too. The first piece of advice I give my clients when suffering from these issues (besides an elimination diet) is to chew, chew and chew.
- Do you like a workout? Well, your teeth certainly do. Chewing strengthens the bones in your jaw.
But many of us have troubles chewing properly. Not because we have a natural defect in our system, but simply because we are not used to it. It’s boring and it takes time. And with the introduction of processed foods we seem to have forgotten (how) to chew. Here are a few little tips to make chewing easier:
- Cut your food into smaller pieces. Don’t just push that whole potato in your mouth or shove a quarter of your steak in one go. Cut everything small, as if you were feeding a toddler.
- When you have taken a bite enjoy the flavours as they get released into your mouth. Sit back, relax and do not prepare your new load until your mouth is empty. At the same time, let go of your fork and knife (and/or spoon). Put them down. Don’t touch them until your mouth is empty. I often find myself already loading up for the next bite as if I was put on a time limit to finish my meal 😉
- Pretend that everything you eat needs to be broken down to ‘smoothie consistency’ when chewing. Anything less and you won’t benefit from the nutrients.
- How many times do you need to chew? That depends on the food. Surely a banana turns into mush much quicker than celery. As mentioned, just chew until your food has turned into a smoothie.
Yes, you may need to set aside quite some more time to eat when chewing properly but your body will thank you for it. When I eat one of my massive salads (lettuce, tomato, red onion, cucumber, avocado, some protein, alfalfa sprouts and God knows what more) it does take me 45 minutes to finish it. I know, in today’s hectic world that is a long time, but hey, what if it makes you live longer? You will most likely have offset this extra meal time for a longer, happier and healthier life. And isn’t that what we all want?
Need some more tips, drop me a line. Enjoy your lunch 😉