Aside from breathing, eating is the most natural thing your body does. Ingesting food or a meal seems like the most simple thing in the world, but the surprising fact is that many people are on auto-pilot while doing so meaning they don’t always chew and break down that food properly. Even though we’re taught by our parents at a very early age how to chew and swallow food, we don’t always understand the importance of doing so.
The importance of chewing
The physical act of chewing is just the first step in a long chain of events that convert the food you ingest into energy for your body to thrive properly. Chewing your food in the correct way is of utmost important to break down the food into smaller chunks. This way, the stress on the oesophagus is reduced as food can move more easily through it and once it reaches the stomach, it is metabolized better. When each mouthful is chewed well, the right amount of saliva is released, containing digestive enzymes. These are used throughout the whole digestive system, right from the mouth, down the throat, all the way down to the stomach. These are key in breaking down the food further in order to help it convert into the energy your body requires. This ultimately leads to a reduction in appetite, proper nutrient absorption, toning of the immune system and encouraging healthy digestion.
If food is not digested properly, you will begin to feel the effects of this through multiple digestive issues like indigestion, constipation, headache, heartburn and low energy.
How to chew properly
- You must be relaxed when you start eating and take proper time in chewing food thoroughly. Don’t grab food and hurry it down in a rush.
- Take small bites and cut your food into smaller pieces. This begins the process of breaking it down before it even reaches your mouth as well as reduces the risk of choking.
- Chew the food until it loses all its shape and becomes almost liquid. The length of time for you to chew the food varies depending on what you’re eating as well as the unique salivary glands in your body which differ from person to person.
- At this stage, swallow your food slowly and carefully. If it isn’t properly broken down, it could damage your throat as it passes through it.
- It’s very important to wait for the food to pass through your oesophagus before taking the next bite.
Thinking about how long you should chew food before swallowing, according to expert advice, soft food can be chewed 5-10 times while dense food like vegetables and meats must be chewed 20-30 times before passing it to the oesophagus.
For parents, providing food that is healthy and not processed to the children is very important. This will get them used to the action of chewing correctly, since unprocessed foods are normally more dense, and will also kick start the body’s process of releasing the enzymes needed to break it down even better.
Some surprising benefits of chewing properly
- Chewing properly can help prevent weight gain and obesity. If you consume a meal too quickly, the signal between your gut and brain is delayed, meaning you end up being full much earlier than you actually feel full. The gastrointestinal system will also speed up the process of digestion by producing the right levels of hydrochloric acid to break it down properly when you chew properly.
- Chewing food properly helps you to appreciate the complex flavours in a meal better, making it a more enjoyable experience overall.
- Did you know your facial muscles need a workout just as much as the rest of your body? Chew your food slowly and the muscles in your face will get the exercise they need, resulting in a sleeker and smoother facial profile.
- Chewing can even lead to increased intelligence! The increased blood flow around your head and digestive system leads to enhanced activity in the brain.
- It also helps to keep your gut bacteria properly in balance by reducing overgrowth of bad bacteria as well increasing the levels of probiotic bacteria – read more about the importance of these to your gut here. If these are out of balance, you’ll find you experience symptoms such as bloating, constipation and indigestion. If you experience any of these symptoms already, a gut bacteria test like GutQlu can help to diagnose what exactly is going on.
- The good levels of saliva produced in our mouth when we chew food correctly help to wash away any bacteria and food debris that might otherwise hang around in the mouth. This results in better dental health.
- It’s even been reported that chewing correctly can help to suppress carcinogens found naturally in some food sources thanks to an enzyme released called perioxidase.
So although it might seem like chewing your food properly is the most obvious and insignificant thing in the world, make sure to bear in mind just how important it is for not only your digestion but also your overall health. Taking proper care and attention when eating a meal will help you enjoy it better as well as prevent issues like discomfort from bloating and indigestion.
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