Chewing IS Important – 5 Reasons Why
Engaging your pearly whites in the chewing process is the most important step you can take for the health of your digestive tract and your beautiful body cells. Chewing is important as the initial step that breaks food down mechanically into smaller pieces and begins to break down food chemically with the sloshing and mixing about the mouth with saliva.
Are You An Efficient Chewer?
Think how many people, in our fast-paced world, just quickly chuck food into their faces at breakneck speed and maybe chomp on it 5-6 times. Large chunks of food are swallowed only to repeat, repeat, repeat until their meal is over. Many people pay little conscious attention to what they are eating, how they chew, or in what state the semi-chewed food is entering their stomachs.
Pay attention the next time you engage in eating a meal. Are you an efficient chewer or a food chunk swallower? Do you take the time to pay attention to textures, flavors, etc. as they change throughout the chewing process or the way your food feels as it slides down your esophagus? Is mealtime a relaxing experience or just a quick stop for a refuel and then speed on to the next task?
1. Chewing Begins Carbohydrate Digestion
Carbohydrates are simple and complex sugars in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts and seeds. Saliva contains enzymes that help to break down carbohydrates. When we take time, really take time, to chew well, we are supporting this important digestive process of carbohydrate digestion.
When we skimp on chewing, carbohydrates land in the stomach without adequate ‘beginner’s work’ on the carbohydrates and puts more work, later, on the small intestine to do the digestion of carbohydrates.
Healthy chewing, beginning the carbohydrate digestion, helps to prevent reflux. The more you chew your food, the more messages are sent to the gut to get the digestive juices flowing. Longer chewing time signals the stomach to produce much needed hydrochloric acid for the stomach’s digestion of protein. Messages are sent to the whole digestive tract so all organs can work optimally to digest your food. Thorough chewing is the foundation that sets the stage for vital digestion throughout the digestive tract.
Minimal chewing creates minimal time for messaging throughout the GI tract to get prepped and send out digestive juices contributing to impeded digestion.
2. Chewing Food Well Feeds Your Gut Microbes
Probiotic formulas are expensive and money is wasted taking them if you are not going to offer them kindness and feed them well. Chewing your food thoroughly breaks down the food fibers, the starches. These digested fibers feed the gut bugs you want to survive and thrive in your gut. Everything needs to eat.
3. Chewing Well Helps Prevent Intestinal Permeability Syndrome
See above for how chewing feeds the happy, healthy gut bugs. When we are not feeding the “good” gut microbes to maintain a healthy and balanced microbial population, we can create an inflamed and irritated gut lining. Inflammation in the gut can lead to intestinal permeability syndrome (leaky gut syndrome) and, in turn, can contribute to many chronic, lifestyle-related, health problems.
4. Chewing Food Slowly And Well Promotes Relaxation
Eating fast, swallowing food practically whole, creates a stress response in the body. Stress causes body tissues (muscles, organs, etc.) to tense, contributing to poor digestion and chronic fight or flight response throughout the body. The digestive tract and whole-body tensing contribute to constipation. Chewing well helps to prevent constipation.
Chewing IS yoga for the digestive tract, nervous system, and whole body. The act of chewing well stimulates the vagus nerve, part of the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the ‘rest and digest’ branch of the nervous system and supports keeping us calm and relaxed.
Our bodies are meant to live in rest and digest mode and not in the stressed out, fight or flight mode. Sit back, relax, and chew your food well. You will leave the table feeling calmer and your body will digest your nourishing food much more completely.
5. Chewing Food Well Means Food Is Then Swallowed In A Liquid State
In this state, your body, digestive tract, is better able to digest and pull the nutrients out of the food.
Liquid food in the digestive tract has a larger surface area for digestive juices to do their work well. Better digestion of food means your body cells are being better nourished by the whole foods you spend your money on. This is very important my friends. The more nutrients we can pull out of the food we eat, the healthier we will be. Health is all about what nutrients actually get to and are taken into your body cells. Poorly chewed food cannot be digested well and all of the available food’s nutrition will not reach your body cells.
Nourished body cells create a nourished and vital, whole body.
In conclusion, well-chewed food means a healthy body!
Peaceful Meal Plan
Spend time chewing your food into a liquid consistency. Plan for 30-50 chews per bite or gulp of food. Gulp: I am thinking about smoothies, creamed soups, etc. that are gulped down without any conscious thought to the actual chewing.
If food is already a liquid or mushy consistency (soup, puddings, smoothies) take 20 to 30 conscious chews. Literally swish the liquid food about the mouth, while chewing, so the mixing with saliva action happens.
If food is in solid form, take 30 to 50 conscious chews. Solid food should pass down the esophagus in a liquid-like state.
For example, raw fruits and veggies and bites of meat require 30-50 chews. As you chew, food is liquified. The liquid portions of food will seem to get auto-swallowed. Yes, the mouth mass will get smaller and smaller as you continue to chew. Resist the urge to swallow the chunks of food and keep chewing. The skins of and fibers of fruits and veggies are loaded with micro-nutrients that feed your body cells and complex carbohydrates/starches that feed your gut bugs IF you chew them up well. Trust me; the gut bugs (microbes) do not have teeth to do the chew job if you leave your food chewing unfinished. Show those gut bugs some genuine hospitality and chew, chew, chew. A balanced gut microbial population keeps your immune, nervous, and whole-body health intact. That, my friends, is another post on gut health.