Have you ever finished eating your lunch or dinner and could barely remember what you had just eaten? Could you identify the tastes and textures? Has your stomach ever felt uncomfortable after you quickly gobbled down a sandwich or meal? Do you eat in the car or in front of the television or computer screen?
Many of us are often are distracted or in a hurry when eating and don’t give the simple act of chewing much thought. Does proper chewing of our food lead to better digestion? Yes! Healthy digestion and absorption of nutrients starts with the basic act of chewing our food. As you chew your food, digestive enzymes are released into the stomach to help your body convert the food into energy.
There are many benefits of chewing your food properly:
- Absorb more nutrients – smaller particles are easier for our bodies to digest.
- Enjoy and taste your food – proper chewing forces you to slow down and enjoy the flavors.
- Maintain a healthy weight – it takes time for your brain to tell your stomach that you are full, so taking longer to chew each bite may help you control how much you eat.
- Care for your teeth – the saliva that is produced from chewing helps wash away bacteria from your teeth and it gives the bones holding your teeth in place some exercise.
- Reduce the risk of bacterial overgrowth in the colon – this can help prevent bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and other digestive problems.
So, how many times should you chew your food? That depends on what you are eating!
Its common sense that soft food like fruits and some vegetables break down more easily than a steak. Some experts suggest 5-10 chews for soft food and up to 30 for denser foods.
Here are some more specific guidelines for proper chewing:
- Start with smaller bites
- Chew slowly
- Most of the food should be liquefied in your mouth
- Swallow completely before the next bite
- Limit the amount of liquids you consume while eating
The Harvard Health Letter discusses the concept of “mindful eating” where you can apply some of the ideas above to help prevent health issues and increase your enjoyment of food. This method also emphasizes the importance of limiting your distractions! Turn off the TV and computer while eating and enjoy your food!
Author: Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Franklin County
Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Franklin County
Cavuto, K. (2015). 5 Reasons You Should Chew Your Food. http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2015/03/10/5-reasons-you-should-chew-your-food
Mercola (2013). 7 Important Reasons to Properly Chew Your Food. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/07/31/chewing-foods.aspx
Harvard Health Letter (2011). Mindful Eating. http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/mindful-eating