Are You Chewing Your Food Properly?
When you think of digestion, you likely imagine your stomach or intestines processing your food and extracting nutrients. But did you know that digestion begins as soon as you put food into your mouth? When you chew, you start the digestion process. Whether you chew your food correctly can determine how your body absorbs the nutrients from that food. So, are you chewing your food properly? Read on to find out.
In its most basic form, digestion is simply the breakdown of food. Chewing is the first step of this process. As you chew, you physically break down the food into smaller pieces. Meanwhile, your food mixes with your saliva. You naturally salivate when you smell and eat food, and saliva contains salivary enzymes, which aid in breaking down of the food. Eventually, the food takes on a soft, compact form that you can swallow.
From there, the food moves down the esophagus to the stomach. The food remains in your stomach while it mixes with more enzymes that break down the food to convert to energy. After the food has been digested in the stomach, it moves to the small intestine. Here, the enzymes in the small intestine break it down further so the body can absorb the nutrients. Finally, any remaining food is considered waste and moves into the colon.
Every aspect of the digestive process is essential for nutrient absorption, including chewing. By chewing your food thoroughly, you ensure that the digestive enzymes can completely break down the food it encounters further along in the process. The more you chew, the more nutrients you absorb. On the other hand, if you only chew a few times before swallowing, you’ll absorb fewer nutrients from your food and therefore get fewer health benefits. In severe cases, this can even lead to malnutrition.
Not chewing your food enough can lead to some adverse side effects since your body might not be able to produce enough enzymes to do the extra work. According to Healthline, this includes:
- Heartburn and acid reflux
- Nausea and diarrhea
- Headaches and irritability
Meanwhile, chewing your food properly can help you:
- Enjoy your food. Studies show that most people only pay attention to the first bite of food. Chewing thoroughly forces you to taste each bite.
- Manage your weight. When you chew properly you slow down your eating, this gives your brain time to tell you when you’ve actually had enough so you don’t over eat.
- Prevent an upset stomach. When you slow down your eating you reduce the amount of air you swallow while eating.
- Find gratitude for the food you do get to eat, creating a healthier relationship with food.
Experts generally recommend chewing your food 32 times before swallowing. Softer foods, like boiled veggies, can be chewed a bit less, while more complex foods, like nuts, may need to be chewed a bit more. Try the following tips to help you improve your chewing:
- Take a reasonably-sized bite. Food should stay on a fork or spoon without falling off.
- Close your lips and chew.
- Cut your food into small bite site pieces. This will help to avoid taking large bites and not chewing well enough to swallow comfortably.
- Count your chewing and think about how the food tastes. Consider how it feels as your tongue moves the food around and as your jaw moves up and down.
- After chewing 32 times, or once the food forms a soft, textureless ball, you can swallow.
Although it might seem like a lot of thought, chewing your food thoroughly is incredibly important for your overall health. With a bit of practice, chewing well will become second nature, and your body will appreciate the plentiful nutrients and easy digestion.
Do you have any tips that have helped you chew your food more thoroughly? Let me know in the comments below!
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