With Thanksgiving around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to remind you to, “Slow down and chew your food.”
Why is consciously chewing your food essential for better health? The answer is multi-faceted and illuminating. Let’s break it down into three main reasons and benefits:
1. It increases your body’s ability to absorb and use the nutrition you eat;
2. It reduces the amount of “energy” you consume per meal, helping you easily manage your caloric intake and overall health while preserving your energy for other things.
3. It gives you many psychological benefits.
In summary, when you chew solid foods, you will enjoy better digestion and nutrition absorption, you will need less energy/calories per meal which often reduces hunger and cravings, and you will develop a better psychological relationship with food.
Let’s Take a Deeper Look into Reason #1 … You Aren't What You Eat...You Are What Your Body Can Do with What You Eat!
Bioavailability is the capacity of the nutrients in the food you eat to get into your cells. And chewing is the first step of food digestion … the mechanical part.
Chewing has three main functions: to reduce the particle size of the food, to expel air and to mix the food throughly with saliva to prepare the food properly for entering the stomach, and to increase the surface area of the food to allow more digestive enzymes to come in contact with it.
During chewing you also gain more time to chemically alert the rest of your digestive system to start its engines!
This diagram illustrates how, for a given bite-sized piece of food, chewing can increase its total surface area by nearly 3 times.
Also, within our saliva is an enzyme called amylase that assists in the chemical breakdown of the carbohydrates. So carbohydrate digestion, or breakdown, starts right here in the mouth, in a big way. And chewing is a big part of creating saliva.
So as you chew, and break down the food into smaller pieces, carbohydrate enzyme digestion begins immediately in your mouth. Protein enzyme digestion begins in the stomach, and fat occurs in the small intestine.
Consider that blended foods like that in smoothies, is actually partially digested because the mechanical breakdown of the food has already occurred. Right?
But what about the saliva, containing amylase, mixing with the food while your chewing for optimal carbohydrate digestion?
Well, I don't recall who I heard this from, but for optimal digestions you can always consider "Drinking your food, and chewing your drinks."
On a serious note, there is a major benefit to chewing food until it is the consistance of a smoothie. That would be what would be considered the optimal amount of chewing and will ultimately benefit the body the most.