The Science Behind Chewing Your Food Properly

published Mar 1, 2010
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Some days it can feel as though we’re lucky to find time to grab a bite to eat, let alone chew it before we have to be back to the grindstone. Chewing your food is obviously a way to savor the tastes your consuming, but do you know the more scientific reasons in favor of chewing your food thoroughly?

First and foremost, we blame High School for the bad eating habits of today. 3-4 lunch shifts where kids file into a cafeteria (with questionable food choices), knowing they only have 20 minutes before they have to be back to class, balancing bathroom breaks and a trip to your locker — well it’s easy to see how we all became accustomed to eating in a rapid fire manner with our only goal being quick consumption.

Chewing your food helps break it down before it heads south to your stomach, we all know that much, but the time your food spends in your mouth is valuable for a few reasons. Let’s take a look:

1. Saliva Beat Down: Your saliva is a powerful weapon when it comes to digestion. It contains enzymes that break down fats and starches that can only go to work if your food is chewed, thus letting your saliva cover more surface area of what you’re trying to consume. If you don’t chew as well, these enzymes don’t have the ability to break down starches (providing you with energy) or start digesting fats (leaving them partially unprocessed). You’l receive less energy and feel more sluggish as a result.

Saliva also helps relax your stomach muscles, allowing pieces of food to pass along the digestive track and without enough mouth juice, things get a little cramped and painful. So next time you think you had some bad Thai food, maybe you just didn’t chew it long enough?

2. Who Cut The Cheese?: If your food isn’t chewed well enough, your body as a result can feel a little bloated and gassy. Great conversation starters huh? This results from large food particles that aren’t digested fully and pass through our colon where they become little floating islands for growing bacteria, which creates the smell and bloating on the other end of your meal.

3. Nutrient Absorption: Though it seems like anything we put in our bodies should be fully digested in our stomach and taken care of, that’s not always the case. Though it might be processed by our tummies and the rest of the works from there on out, it doesn’t mean our bodies are able to extract all that they could from the food. It doesn’t do you any good to make healthy eating choices and not be able to receive all the benefits from it. It would be like going to a spa and paying for a full afternoon if bliss and only getting a pedicure.

As a result, it means that each piece of food we put in our bodies should be chewed well. The amount of chews differs for different foods, obviously steak will require a bit more chewing than say an olive, but the theory is still the same. Make sure you take the time to savor what you eat, allowing your body to extract all it can to better itself, while you max out on all that yummy flavor!

Related: Eating Quietly

(Image: Flickr member mini_true licensed for use under Creative Commons)