Fitness Boot Camp Tip of the week – Chewing your food

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Mar 07

 

Tip of the Week:  Chew Your Food Slowly

When people think digestion, they most often think of intestines and their stomach. The truth is that the digestion process actually begins in the mouth. The process of chewing is a vital component of the digestive process. The action of chewing mechanically breaks down very large amounts of food molecules into smaller particles. This results in food having an increased surface area, an important contributing factor to good digestion. Chewing your food well allows the food to be exposed to your saliva for a longer period of time. Food being in contact with saliva is not just important because it helps to lubricate the food, allowing for less stress on your esophagus, but because saliva contains enzymes that contribute to the chemical process of digestion. Carbohydrate digestion begins with enzymes in your saliva breaking down some of the chemical bonds that connect the simple sugars that comprise starches. Also, the first stage of fat digestion begins in your mouth with the secretion of enzymes by glands located under the tongue.

So what are some benefits to chewing your food thoroughly?

  1. Aids in the proper transport of nutrients in your body.
  2. Helps start the important digestive process, which is important to being healthy.
  3. You are more likely to eat less by eating thoroughly. When you are eating slower, your brain can tell you that you are full, causing you to eat less.
  4. Helps to prevent the heavy feeling that sometimes follows a meal and it also will help you lose body fat since you are not eating as much.

What are some of the side effects of not chewing thoroughly?

  1. Poorly digested food means poor absorption of the vitamins and nutrients that the foods you are eating provide. 
  2. Eating rapidly and swallowing large mouthfuls contributes to acid reflux which can damage the lining of the throat and esophagus. About 44% of Americans experience reflux or heartburn at least once a month, 20% have it every week and 7% suffer from it daily. 
  3. Other side effects include flatulence, indigestion, heartburn, gas, IBS, and other discomforts.  Chewing each bit thoroughly allows less air to enter in which decreases gas and burping. With an increasing number of individuals with IBS, constipation, abdominal spasms and bloating, chewing food could possibly prevent a number of these daily discomforts. 

For people who have trouble chewing foods, it may be helpful to cut food into small pieces and to allow extra time to chew food at a comfortable, unhurried pace. Another helpful hint would be to put your fork down on your plate after each bite. For people who just do not have the time to eat and chew each bite, a well-balanced meal replacement shake is a good alternative. Again, chewing thoroughly takes some time to get used to and will be strange at first. Making a conscious effort to start benefiting from chewing will be a start. A lot of people say chew a set number of times before swallowing your foods. I do not believe there is a magic number because different foods are more easily chewed. If you understand the benefits associated with chewing thoroughly, you will start today.