In this fast-paced world, most people eat on-the-go without giving a thought to how they chew food. Chewing, also known as mastication, is the mechanical process that breaks down food. It is the first part of the digestion process that should not be neglected.
Why is chewing food properly so important?
1. It initiates the digestion process
Chewing breaks down food into smaller particles, increasing its surface area, so that enzymes can efficiently break it down. Chemical digestion begins in the mouth with salivary amylase breaking down carbohydrates and lingual lipase breaking down fats.
2. It aids digestion naturally
The process of chewing generates the entire digestive process by activating signals to send messages to the rest of the gastrointestinal tract. For example, the stimulation of taste receptors in the tongue sends signals to the stomach lining to produce more hydrochloric acid in order to break down the proteins in the stomach. Chewing also signals the pancreas to prepare to secrete enzymes into the small intestine.
3. Heightens the flavour of food
The more you chew, the longer the food stays in your mouth, giving your taste buds more time to enjoy the flavours of the food you are eating. Savour these flavours as you eat slowly and chew more thoroughly.
4. Aids in weight loss
Chewing properly allows the stomach to work more efficiently. The more you chew, the longer it takes to eat; therefore, giving the brain more time to send signals to the stomach that you are full. Because you become full faster, you end up consuming less food which means fewer calories.
5. Absorb more nutrients from food
Chewing breaks the food down into smaller particles that are easier to digest. It helps the intestines to absorb nutrients from the food as it passes through the digestive system. This also prevents improperly digested foods from entering the blood stream. When food isn’t chewed properly, food particles may remain undigested once it reaches the intestines. This can lead to bacterial overgrowth and cause digestive problems such as abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, flatulence, diarrhea and constipation.
Rushing through meals wreak havoc in our digestive health. It is advised to chew food 20-30 times before swallowing. Each food requires different chewing times. Fruits and vegetables will require less chewing than proteins such as poultry and meats. In general, food is chewed completely when it has lost all its texture. Food should be in its liquefied state for easier swallowing and better digestion.
Acquiring the habit of chewing is a great foundation to good nutrition. So next time you eat, be more aware of how much you actually chew your food. You’d be surprised at how this can improve your overall health and well-being.
Be kind to your digestive system and chew just a little bit longer!