If we are totally honest with ourselves, most of us fail to chew our food. Because of our increasingly busy lifestyles we are often in a stressed state and pressured for time, so food is eaten at a velocity that bypasses a number of important steps required for healthy digestion. In addition, the speed at which we eat may cause us to eat past the point of satiation, leading to unwanted weight gain. Here are some reasons why chewing your food completely can change your health for the better.
Your gateway to your gut
Believe it or not, digestion starts in the mouth. This is often easily forgotten as we gobble down our food; but this first step is crucial. Chewing, or the technical term ‘masticating,’ signals the body to begin the digestive process, alerting the stomach to prepare to make gastric acid and signaling the pancreas to prepare to secrete its enzymatic juices into the small intestine.
The act of chewing activates saliva that contain, alongside other components, the first crucial digestive enzymes that help break down your food. Here, the chemical break down of starches and fats are initiated with the main salivary enzymes, amylase and lipase. The mechanical digestion of food also begins in the mouth with the process of chewing (teeth) and transportation (tongue).
Your stomach does not have teeth
If we swallow something whole, such as a piece of apple, an abnormal series of events occurs. First, the stomach must churn the apple with its own muscular movements to help break it down into smaller pieces, which is a demanding task and a function it is not designed to do. Next begins a lengthy chemical process of breaking down the large piece of apple causing the stomach to secrete more gastric acid, which irritates the stomach lining and can cause acid indigestion or reflux.
Chew, chew, chew
Chewing is a ‘pace setter’ – whatever speed and number of times we chew sets in motion a rhythm that our entire body adopts. By chewing rapidly and insufficiently, we initiate an unsettled frame of mind that is reflected in the body and stresses the digestive process. Conversely, chewing at a slow to moderate rate promotes a relaxed, grounded demeanor that builds a stronger metabolism. On top of that, you are likely to feel more satisfied because it allows time for the hormones that tell you ‘enough is enough’ to kick in, which will make it less likely that you’ll overeat.
Research shows that we should aim for 30 chews per bite. You don’t have to count, though. Just chew until your food is a liquified consistency. You might find this tough to start with, but chewing this way is a learned practice, which your body will thank you for. When food is broken down adequately, it is easier for the body to absorb all the essential nutrients. In fact, for the sake of your digestive system, I would go as far to say that it is better to eat a less nutritious meal and chew it properly then to scoff down a healthy salad.
The bottom line
Improper chewing of food is damaging to our system. To be fully nourished by food and to digest optimally we must taste and chew.
You can alleviate numerous unpleasant digestive symptoms by chewing your food properly such as bloating, cramping and gas, which are often the result of resident bacteria getting to work on food that should have already been ‘pre-prepared’ in the mouth.
By chewing your food properly you can change your health. You can expect not only better digestion but increased energy, weight loss, improved sleep, and increased focus. At the end of the day, there is little point putting in nutritious food if you are not giving yourself the best possible chance of reaping its benefits.
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