Listen, I know what you’re thinking, “I already know how to chew my food”. But did you know the way we chew our food plays a huge role in our digestion? It’s all about setting up the rest of your digestion process for success. Knowing how many times should you chew your food, can actually help your entire digestion process. What do you think is easier for a blender to blend: a pineapple you chopped up before putting in the blender, or a whole pineapple that you throw in?
While we aren’t blenders, we can apply this analogy to this situation. Chewing breaks down food into very small chunks. This way when it enters our large and small intestine, they don’t have to work as hard to pull the nutrients out of the food.
This is important because everyone today is extremely busy. Because of this, people need to place extra emphasis on certain things that might not seem that important. These seemingly unimportant things have taken a back seat to other things. Many people fly through their day and don’t bat an eyelash at how well they chewed their food.
The Start of the Digestion Process
Before we dive into chewing our food, it’s important to understand the digestion process. If asked, many people would say the stomach and our intestines are where our digestion occurs. However, many of us miss out on one of the major tools of digestion, our mouth.
Your teeth, tongue, and saliva play major roles in the initial digestion of food. Your teeth mash your food up, your tongue helps place food that needs to be chewed where it needs to be to get chewed, and your saliva starts the early process of actually digesting food into a form that can be easily processed by organs later in the process.
Once it gets into your stomach and intestines, enzymes get to work breaking the food down and extracting nutrients from the food.
How to Chew Your Food Properly
It’s widely advised and accepted by nutrition experts to chew your food a total of 32 times before swallowing it. The goal is to mash your food into a paste where the food loses all texture from what it was before you started chewing it. Additionally, this depends specifically on what food you are eating. For softer foods, you may not need to chew as much. On the flip side, for foods with a tougher texture, it’s recommended you chew as much as 40 times to ensure the food is chewed properly.
Once you have it chewed to the correct texture, swallowing should feel natural and not forced. If you have to take a swig of water to get your food down, you probably aren’t chewing enough. It’s recommended that you chew, swallow, and then take a drink of water after the act of swallowing.
Consequences of Not Chewing Your Food Properly
If you don’t chew your food properly, the consequences can actually be somewhat substantial and could be the factor in any digestion issues you may have. Not chewing your food enough offsets the rest of the digestion process and can reduce the efficiency of digestion. Here are some consequences of not chewing your food properly:
- Stomach pain
- Acid reflux
The list doesn’t stop there. There are many conditions that not chewing our food may cause. Additionally, there are many other benefits of chewing your food properly. If you take the extra time to chew your food properly, you also allow the digestion process to begin. Your body will start to sense the nutrients you are ingesting and will release endorphins that send a signal to your brain that tell you that you are full.
Eating slower will make you feel full earlier and will help you better gauge portion sizes. When people eat fast, the brain doesn’t have enough time to sense the nutrients and signal a full feeling. Being full isn’t just a physical thing. The brain is actively controlling the hunger levels you feel. When you feel hungry, it isn’t just because your stomach is empty. It’s also your brain signaling the need for nutrients and thus the feeling of hunger. For these reasons exactly, you should take more time to chew your food because it helps your body adjust to your food consumption more effectively and therefore can lead to healthier portion sizes.
Benefits of Properly Chewing Your Food
Aside from the benefits we have listed already, there are many benefits to chewing your food properly. Besides controlling portion sizes, chewing your food can help you retain more nutrients from your food better. It literally makes your body more efficient at pulling the nutrients from your food and using them/storing them for later.
Besides that, shouldn’t we savor the wonderful things in life? If you take the time to really chew your food then that means you are also spending more time tasting your food. If you enjoy cooking then this is just icing on the cake! Eating is something we spend a large chunk of our lives doing, why rush it? This is an easy thing to do when compared to tracking macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients.
Your Second Brain
The key takeaway is simple; spend more time chewing your food. The gut has, for a long time, been referenced as the second brain. The gut, or more appropriately called the enteric nervous system was given the nickname of “the second brain” because it can operate independently of the central nervous system and is believed by many to have evolved before the central nervous system.
Your gut plays a much larger role in how you feel every day than it gets credit for. When you think of serotonin, what do you think of? Most people think of serotonin as a brain chemical; one that makes us feel joy and happiness.
However, did you know that roughly 90% of all the serotonin in our body comes from our gut? Crazy right? That’s why those who suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) have a higher likelihood of suffering from varying levels of depressions because IBS causes issues with the digestive tract and its serotonin output which can cause feelings of depression.
This is why it’s very important to make sure you take steps in your diet to help promote a healthy gut. It can literally mean the difference in how you live your daily lives and chewing our food properly is one of the first steps in promoting good gut health. Things like meal planning, take a lot of work but something as easy to do as chew properly can have just as big of an impact.