Chew On This

Now here's some food for thought. Whether we are at a healthy weight or not, many of us simply eat too fast and chew too little. Think about it. How many times do you really move that mouth up and down after you've taken a bite of that grilled chicken sandwich and let your teeth go to work on it? Truthfully, most of us barely pulverize that bite; we just chew it into small enough pieces to swallow as we load up our fork for the next bite!

So what's the problem? Granted, how much we chew is not going to make a difference in how many calories we obtain from the food, or how many vitamins, minerals or antioxidants we absorb from that bite. So, if nutrition is not a problem, why worry about the chewing part?

Chewing is supposed to be the first part of the digestive process. The teeth grind food into smaller and smaller bits. As we chew, good old saliva (spit) is mixed in with the food. Saliva actually contains enzymes in it that begin breaking down carbohydrates (breads, cereals, pasta, veggies, fruits, sugars) right in our mouth. That's what's supposed to happen, anyway!

When We Don't Chew Enough:
  • Stomach works harder to digest bigger pieces of food. The stomach has extra work to do churning since its job is to break apart all those big chunks into tiny ones to be digested. Sometimes, excess stomach (gastric) acid is delivered to our stomach to help digest this bigger load of less pulverized pieces of food we've eaten so quickly. Some people also swallow more air while doing this. All of this may end up making stomachs more gassy, uncomfortable or upset after eating. Plop, plop, fizz, fizz...(an old Alka-Seltzer commercial line for those of you too young to remember! :)
  • Eating too fast. This often leads to over eating. Eating too fast doesn't allow us the time it takes for our brain to tell us we've had enough and we are actually full. We just keep on stuffing it in. Doing this too often can lead to weight gain. Remember to swallow your bite after you chew before you reload that fork!
  • Less ability to taste food. To taste food, it needs to stay in your mouth long enough for the taste buds to really sense it. Chewing enables you to taste and enjoy your food.
  • Inability to realize that you have eaten something. Consciously chewing your food increases the awareness that you are eating. So many people have told me they get busy, eat quickly, and often end up not even remembering they have eaten. By focusing on mindful chewing, we learn to be more aware of their eating habits.
Mindful chewing is the eating behavior I want us all to focus on this week. This means we are going to chew each bite we take (unless it's a mouthful of yogurt or something that doesn't need to be chewed...but even with that soft, creamy stuff, hold it in your mouth for a bit.) I am not going to tell you to chew each bite 35 times or some ridiculous amount like that. Just be conscious of the act of chewing. Chew to savor the flavor and the texture of the food: enjoy the experience. Chew to slow down your eating process. And, chew to enable your digestive process to work more efficiently for your comfort. You may just find you don't need as many antacids throughout the day!

Moral: Slow down, your chewing too've got to make your chewing last!