Are You Chewing Your Food Enough?

Decades ago when I was an exchange student to Brazil, I marveled at the long, luxurious lunches that were part of every workday.

Shops and businesses closed while families gathered at home for the biggest meal of the day, followed by a restful siesta.

In contrast, lunchtime in the U.S. is prime time for catching up on errands and emails, and scarfing down fast food before the next meeting.

It’s no wonder that we may feel unsatisfied with lunch, and that digestion may be less than perfect.

Slowing down to enjoy food starts with engaging all the senses – appearance, aroma, temperature and texture, taste – even the sounds of crunching and swallowing.

Getting the full sensory experience involves chewing food for a while. From a digestive perspective, chewing has myriad benefits. By breaking food down into smaller pieces, there’s more surface area for moistening the food and exposing it to digestive enzymes.

Digestion actually starts in the mouth, with enzymes in saliva. Chewing well makes assimilation and absorption of nutrients easier on the body. It is thought that chewing sends a signal to the rest of the body about the type of food that is on its way to the digestive tract.

If you’ve ever glanced at the toilet bowl and seen pieces of corn, bell pepper, or other undigested food – you’re not chewing enough.

Consider these tips to enjoy your food more while improving your digestive well-being:

  • Take small bites. Compose each morsel of food, arranging the ingredients to suit your taste. Smaller morsels are easier to chew.
  • Close your mouth. While chewing, keep the lips closed. If air is swallowed or gulped while chewing, it can lead to bloating and gas.
  • Chew into a paste. There is no set number of chews that will work for every size and texture. Continue chewing until you can no longer discern separate features – no leafy edges, no skins or peels, no stalks or florets. Once the food is smooth like paste, then swallow. Don’t compose another bite until after you swallow, so that you truly enjoy each morsel.

Slowing down to chew may be surprisingly challenging for those of us who are used to eating on the run.

Though it takes more time, it will pay dividends in terms of enjoyment, relaxation, and digestion.

Bon appetit!


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