Chew On This: Why it is Important to Chew Food Properly
I can remember as a child my mother telling me to slow down and chew my food. I would sheepishly agree to follow her instruction… until she looked away. What I didn’t know back then was that there is a significant amount of science behind this seemingly silly order by my mother. All I knew was that after food entered my mouth, it travelled to my stomach and then exited out the other end. Does it really matter how much I chew, as long as I get the food down?
Chewing is a lost art form in our ever-increasing fast-paced lifestyle. In today’s society we convince ourselves that we don’t have the time to relax and chew our food. More often than not, we are eating on the go and inhaling our food before running into the next meeting.
It’s important to look at the many reasons why we are told to chew thoroughly. Most people are unaware of the fact that digestion actually begins in the mouth (not the stomach). The action of chewing helps break down our food mechanically into a finer texture, thus increasing the surface area for saliva to do its work. Saliva does not simply make the food easier to swallow. In fact, it contains amylase, or more specifically ptyalin, which immediately starts to chemically convert complex carbohydrates and starches to simple sugars. Chewing also stimulates better hydrochloric acid production in the stomach, which is essential for protein digestion. Optimal chewing also initiates peristalsis (wave-like contractions that move food along the digestive tract.)
On a deeper level, chewing mindfully helps us to become more present in the moment and activate our parasympathetic nervous system (which controls our digestive processes). Focusing our attention at a more introspective level while we eat, will begin to re-establish a natural rhythm within the body. The connection we form with our chewing has been compared to a light meditation and drastically improves our overall digestive function, which directly affects our health.
This initial digestive process, which is often overlooked, is crucial to complete assimilation of the nutrients from our food. Incomplete digestion may be a contributing factor in the development of many ailments including flatulence, bloating, belching, food allergies, nausea, bad breath, bowel problems and stomach disorders. Fortunately, chewing is an easy and affordable way to take the first step towards increasing your digestive function.
The next time you sit down to eat, focus your attention on chewing each bite thoroughly before swallowing and bring your awareness to the positive changes that ensue. Your entire body will thank you!
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