Picture this scenario: work runs late, you have to get to the dry cleaners before they close, and you’re starving. So you grab the nearest burrito and inhale it without pausing as you weave through traffic, cursing the surrounding drivers who don’t know how badly you need that pair of pants for tomorrow’s festivities. If someone were to take an x-ray of your stomach, they’d see what is essentially an intact burrito, which is now beginning to strain the waistline of your jeans.
Or perhaps this one resonates more: on Sunday you prepared a nutritious and wholesome winter squash stew to eat throughout the week. Monday at lunch you’re slurping it as fast as possible while answering phone calls and returning emails. You invested time in making a healthy choice, but you’re not really getting the most out of it if your focus is elsewhere.
Most of us lead rushed lives, and our digestion often suffers. Even if your diet is less than optimal, you can still squeeze more vitamins and minerals out of your choices by practicing the lost art of chewing.
Chewing begins the digestive process, breaking down your food into manageable particles and mixing it with amylase. The more you chew, the more messages your body receives about the nature of food it’s about to digest, so it can be better prepared. When we gobble hastily, food often ends up in undigested clumps in the GI tract, leading to inflammation, indigestion, and all kinds of various and sundry ill health. Taking time to chew can also help to guide your body into a more relaxed state, which allows for optimum digestion. Chewing stimulates the endocrine system, sends oxygen to the brain, and helps to develop short-term memory cells.
How much should you chew? Ideally, you want the substance in your mouth to reach a soupy consistency. If you’re starting out with a smoothie or stew, it still needs to be chewed in order to kick-start the digestive process in the mouth.
So why not test this out at your next meal? Give your food a few more chews and see how you feel.