Duh! You’re probably thinking that is a silly title for a blog post. After all, we learn early in life that our stomach doesn’t have teeth. But, judging by the way most of us gulp down our food, I wonder if we haven’t forgotten that chewing takes place in the mouth, not in the stomach.
Healthy digestion begins in the mouth. Chewing can significantly impact your health in myriad ways:
- Nutrient absorption -Research shows that you absorb more nutrients from food when you chew properly. The particle size of food affects the bioavailability of nutrients in the body. Don’t leave essential nutrients in your food! It may sound goofy but “chew” your smoothies and soups, too!
- Weight Management -The longer you chew your food the longer it takes to finish a meal. Research shows that eating slowly can help to control portion size and calorie intake. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to signal your stomach that you’re full so don’t reach for seconds right away.
- Improved digestion -Chewing prompts the GI tract to prepare for digestion. When saliva mixes with food as you chew, enzymes are secreted that begin to predigest your meal. Chewing also nudges the stomach to release hydrochloric acid to aid in the breakdown of protein. Proper chewing can actually reduce gas and bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, cramping, and other digestive problems.
- Relaxation and Pleasure -Chewing well can be relaxing; it switches the nervous system into the parasympathetic state known as “rest and digest”. Chewing forces you to slow down, savor each morsel, and really enjoy all of the flavors your food has to offer.
The next time you sit down to eat, practice thoroughly chewing each bite of food. This will require you to put your fork down between bites, not talk with your mouth full, and be truly focused on the present moment. Like I said, it’s a practice! Notice how these practices improve your digestion and your overall health.
Until next time, make every bite count!