“Chew your drink and drink your food.” – Mahatma Ghandi
Chances are, you don’t think too much about chewing. You take a mouthful of food, chew and swallow. After all, it’s not rocket science.
But some health experts will tell you that the way most of us eat, (i.e. somewhat unconsciously), is a disaster for the digestive system. We tend to take big bites, chew little and swallow, leaving the rest of the digestive system to do the heavy lifting.
But optimal digestion starts in the mouth. Which means that these tips can help you get much more from the foods you’re already eating.
- Take smaller bites than you’re doing now.
- Chew steadily until the food has turned to liquid in your mouth. Try for 30 bites per chew. Yes, that means counting your bites, at least in the beginning.
- Don’t drink anything while there is still food in your mouth.
- Wait until you have completely chewed and swallowed one mouthful before you add any more food to your mouth.
If you follow these guidelines, your body will be able to extract more nutrients from your food because you’ll be allowing the saliva in your mouth and the action of chewing to break down your food before you swallow it. Chewing each mouthful 30-50 times also means that you’ll be spending more time with your food.
Here’s another aspect of digestion you probably never considered. When you take time to chew thoroughly, the food becomes well-mixed with your own saliva. Chemically speaking, it becomes more “you” and less “foreign substance”.
Different foods require different digestive enzymes to break them down. So when you chew thoroughly, you’re sending chemical instructions to your stomach and small intestine so they can better prepared for digesting whatever you’re going to swallow and send down your esophagus. In addition, many of the conditions caused by inefficient digestion, such as heartburn and gas will likely improve or disappear completely once you master the art of chewing.
Most people chew very little before they swallow. If you want to really see this in action, silently observe strangers or your eating companions, and notice how little time most food spends in their mouths. It’s quite astonishing when you see others doing it.
Remember this simple idea. The more you chew, the better chance your body has to benefit from the food you’re already eating. You might as well make the best of it.
Rebeca Espinoza writes about health, fitness and weight loss for Spatz Medical, makers of the Spatz3 Adjustable Gastric Balloon. You can find her on Google+ or at firstname.lastname@example.org.