Chewing your food thoroughly: Why is it so important?

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Chewing your food thoroughly: Why is it so important?

According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition...

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According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, chewing food 40 times instead of 15 makes you eat 12% less. If we consider chewing as a habit, it becomes self-evident that our cultural eating habits and specifically our family eating culture has great impact on how much we chew our food. Why is “chewing your food thoroughly” - as is emphasized by experts over and over again - so important and how many times do we chew our food? In this article, we will try to answer these questions with particular focus on the importance of slow eating for our health. 

Proper chewing - a phrase that we have come to hear so frequently in recent times - is acknowledged to hold an important place among the steps that will lead us to a healthy lifestyle and weight loss. Heavy workload and dense school schedules leave people with only scarce time left for their meals. The only time we can eat our food slowly, enjoying every bite of it, are the days off. Imagine you are out with your friends for breakfast and have ordered a hearty Turkish breakfast. Remember how you felt full within minutes in this slow, calm, chatty breakfast and how so many of the delicious food remained untouched on the table? You didn’t even realize how you got full, right? And this exactly is the biggest benefit of slow eating: get a full stomach with less. So, what is the reason of the joy you felt at that breakfast? Just the ambience or was it the deliciousness of the food you ate? The answer is no. It is actually because of the way we use energy.

“Slow eating can help us eat less.” Food taken into the mouth is first prepared for digestion by the perfectly coordinated rhythmic opening and closing movements of the lower and upper jaws, breaking it down into smaller pieces and mixing them with the enzymes in saliva secreted by salivary glands, while some part filters into the capillary vessels of the mouth. This mechanism involves several receptors of the central nervous system and muscles. Data is collected about the structure of the nutrients taken and sent to the brain via acupuncture points in the mouth. The brain analyses the transmitted data and programs digestion accordingly. The better we chew our food, the better can the brain prepare our digestive system.

We should eat in small sips and bites. Failure to chew food properly will impair digestion from the very first step on. Now, let’s delve deeper into the energy issue. A person eating fast is doomed to eat more. Why? Because our bodies need energy at all times. Our bodies spend a lot of energy while food is digested in our stomach. The body of a fast eater can only use the energy generated from the process of dissolving chemical connections, i.e., it is deprived of the energy that the acupuncture points in the mouth can generate.

Improperly chewed food gets into the stomach in chunks and the stomach cannot digest these chunks but only decompose them. The decomposed chunks proceed into the small bowel where their decomposition continues. This decomposition in the bowels causes an increase in white blood cells, and in response, the immune system gets into defense mode, which in the long run can lead to immune deficiency if repeated every time a person eats. You might be surprised how little you chew! Fibers, seeds and skin of fresh fruit and vegetables are not harmful in this regard since they increase the prebiotics and thus contribute to a healthy gut.

Previous researches have shown that chewing food thoroughly can reduce caloric intake and facilitate weight loss. Fast eaters are at 115% risk to develop obesity. In a study, 529 men were observed for over 8 years to examine the changes in their body weight. The results revealed that “fast” eaters gained twice as much weight as those who ate “slow” or at “medium speed”. So, how does this happen?

After you eat, your stomach releases the hunger hormone called ghrelin and the appetite-reducing hormone called cholecystokinin, and a message is sent to the brain through these hormones signaling that you have eaten and food is being digested. Thus, our appetite is reduced, we feel full, and we stop eating. This whole mechanism takes about 20 minutes. As we eat fast, our brain cannot find time to receive the signals of fullness, and as a result, we eat more.

Changing our food intake and chewing habits can be effective in overcoming several health problems such as indigestion, diabetes or stomach, bowel, liver and spleen disorders. Nevertheless, regular health checks by a gastroenterologist to minimize possible stomach disorders will increase our quality of life and offer us a healthier and more enjoyable life.

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