When it comes to health and well being I like to keep it simple, going back to the basics which often time gets overlooked as we become encumbered by the complex (at least I know I do) at the expense of simplicity. Today we will be talking about a simple step which can yield tremendous health benefits, it’s so simple many people will probably ignore it though I hope you won’t. 🙂
Health and well being revolves a lot around what we eat and whilst this is important, it is of little value if we are unable to digest and absorb the nutrients in the food. The digestion and absorption process begins in the mouth, which makes chewing a crucial stage. The saliva in our mouth contains amylase, an enzyme which begins the digestion of carbohydrate and lipase, a fat digesting enzyme. Though the process of digesting carbohydrate continues in the stomach, chewing ensures that food is coated with sufficient salivary amylase to complete this process. The lipase becomes activated in the stomach where it begins the process of digesting fat.
Chewing also stimulates the parotid glands to release hormones that stimulate the thymus to produce T cells which are the core of the protective immune system. In his book May All Be Fed, John Robbins describes how three men were able to survive in a concentration camp during World War II, by chewing their food very well, while others died¹.
Not chewing our food properly can have a domino effect on our ability to digest and absorb nutrients. When food (carbohydrate) is not coated in sufficient salivary enzymes, food reaches the stomach without the ingredients necessary to stimulate the production stomach acids. When stomach acids are not released we are unable to digest proteins or absorb essential vitamins leaving us with indigestion and a feeling of being bloated. An inability to absorb nutrients means the immune system is less able to fight disease, making us prone to infections.
Since taking on board the chewing gospel, one thing I have noticed is that I get full quicker which means I eat less compared to when I eat hurriedly. While writing this piece I was delighted to find that my experience has been scientifically researched by researchers from the Texas Christian university who explored the relationship between eating speed and calorie intake. They found that people who ate slowly, ate on average, 88 fewer calories than fast eaters. The study also showed that eating slowly and having smaller bites makes us feel less hungry an hour later and also enhances the enjoyment of a meal compared to when we wolf food down².
We live in a fast paced world, meals on the go, eating while we drive or work on the computer mean we don’t pay as much attention to chewing. Being mindful and concious when we eat can help us digest food more efficiently and reduce digestive issues. I’ve read that according to an old custom each bite should be chewed 30 times, now I know this sounds excessive, so I wouldn’t make a rule of it, it’s more like an ideal and like they say “aim for the moon, if you miss you may hit a star”
So when next you eat remember to chew, chew, chew! 🙂
References 1) Digestive wellness: Strengthen the immune system and prevent disease through healthy digestion Elizabeth Lipski. Published by Mc-Graw-Hill, ISBN 978-0-07-166899-6