Chewing food properly is not something most people give much thought to, but it is an important step in digestion. When most people think of digestion, they may think it starts in the stomach; however, it starts before food even reaches the stomach. The digestive process starts as soon as food enters the mouth. Enzymes in the saliva, along with chewing, help break down the food you eat. Living in a fast paced society, it is easy to eat on the run and rush through meals. Chewing properly is often overlooked, but it is an important step to proper digestion, maintaining a healthy weight and overall good nutrition. Consider these 7 reasons to chew your food properly.
1. It Increases the Absorption of Vitamins, Minerals and Other Nutrients
When food is broken down thoroughly through chewing, it is easier for the nutrients to be absorbed by the intestines. For instance, certain foods, such as nuts and some raw vegetables cannot be broken down completely in the stomach and need to be chewed thoroughly. Also, while food is being chewed, the digestive system gets the message that food is on its way. This triggers the system to produce acids in the stomach that further digest food and help the body absorb needed nutrients.
2. Helps in Maintaining a Healthy Weight
The longer a person takes to chew his or her food, the longer it will take to finish a meal. People who eat slower tend to eat less. As people eat, a message is sent to the brain to indicate that they are getting full. If you chew too fast and plow through a meal, you may be done with your food, but the brain still thinks you are hungry. When this occurs, you are more likely to continue to eat and consume more calories, which can lead to weight gain or interfere with weight loss.
3. Allows Food Longer Exposure to Saliva
This is important for a couple of reasons. Enzymes in the saliva help break down the food. For instance, lingual lipase is one of the enzymes produced in the submandibular salivary glands under the tongue. This enzyme helps break down fats. Longer exposure to saliva while chewing means longer exposure to this enzyme. If fat is not broken down thoroughly and is left unprocessed, it can lead to digestive problems. Longer exposure to saliva through chewing properly also helps the food travel down the esophagus easier, since it lubricates or moistens the foods.
4. Less Energy is Needed to Digest Properly Chewed Food
The body uses a great deal of energy to digest food. If you do not chew your food properly, other parts of the digestive system have to use more energy and work harder to break down the food. Smaller particles of food broken down by proper chewing allow the food to move through the entire digestive track easier. First the stomach can work more efficiently and quicker to break down food. From there food travels to the small intestines more efficiently.
5. Helps Teeth Stay Healthy
The process of chewing food properly also helps the teeth. It is a workout for bones holding the teeth and helps keep them strong. The saliva produced while chewing properly is needed to wash away bacteria in the mouth. The saliva released also helps clear food particles out of the mouth. If there is less bacteria in the mouth, there may be reduced plaque buildup and tooth decay.
6. Decreases Excess Bacteria in the Intestines
When a person does not chew properly, food particles that reach the stomach may be too big. Large food particles make it more difficult for the stomach to completely digest the food. Food may be left partially unprocessed, and digestion is not complete. This undigested food causes an increase in bacteria in the intestines, which may cause a variety of symptoms:
- Excessive bacteria can cause gas and bloating.
- Some people may develop diarrhea or constipation due to the bacteria overgrowth.
- Abdominal pain and cramping are also common symptoms of bacteria overgrowth in the digestive track.
7. Increases the Ability to Taste and Enjoy the Food
Everyone has rushed through a meal, not chewing well at one time or another. This prevents a person from really tasting the food, which may lead to not feeling satisfied with the meal. Meal time should be a time to relax and enjoy the pleasure of good food. Taking the time to chew each bite thoroughly, is not only good for the body, but can help feed the soul.
Although there are many reasons to properly chew your food, many people may still not adhere to it. Eating and chewing fast may become a habit. As with all habits, it may take a conscious effort to change and slow down and chew properly. There is not a steadfast rule on how many times to chew food. Various types and textures of food will require different amounts of chewing. A good rule to follow is to keep chewing until the food is almost liquefied. After a while, chewing properly will become second nature.