By Maija Kivelä
We all know that chewing our food properly aids digestion and helps to avoid bloating and gastric discomfort. But how often do we actually focus on the process of chewing while munching on the go? It’s almost counterintuitive, isn’t it. It definitely isn’t the first impulse when we are in the middle of our busy day, wolfing down a quick lunch or pick-me-up.
Are you counting your bites?
Don’t overthink it, but bring awareness to meal times.
Digestion begins with chewing. When you chew your food properly, your mouth and teeth break down larger pieces of food into ever-smaller particles. The abundance of saliva released contains digestive enzymes, which, while you chew your food, your body is also releasing in your stomach to help break everything down. Digestive enzymes and stomach acid only work on the surface of the pieces of food. Think: if you swallow a big piece of food, only its outermost surface will be available for your digestive enzymes and stomach acid to break down. Chewing your food for longer means a larger amount of its nutrients will be available for enzymes, absorption and ultimately, digestion.
Digestion is one of the body’s most energy-consuming processes, so it’s important to help it along from the moment you bring the nutrients in to your mouth. Processed foods are important to avoid (especially children)as the require much less chewing. The more you chew the better you are able to digest and the more you will absorb important nutrients. Chewing promotes growth and repair in the body.
How many times should you chew?
Well, you should know that there isn’t an exact number for all foods. A general rule of thumb for soft foods is to chew 5-10 times. For meat, vegetables and some fruits, it goes up to 30 times. 30 times sounds like a very long time! Eating steak can take a while; but it’s important to remember that eating good, healthy food is a pleasure — not a race. Think about nourishing your mind and body every time you grab something to eat, not just satisfying the hunger or emotions.
Save the drinks for later.
Drinking during meals slows down digestion considerably; but 30 minutes before or after eating doesn’t interrupt the system. It’s lovely to have a coffee for dessert and a small cup is absolutely fine. But too much caffeine straight after a meal can really speed up digestion, meaning that your body won’t be able to extract all the nutrients from the food. Coffee is also highly acidic, so having some straight after a meal can give you heart burn.
Always make time to sit down to eat.
Being on the go and making due with easy and readily available snacks is familiar to us all. Sure, it’s great to eat small frequent meals but it’s easy to forget those calories during proper meal times. Try to keep on-the-go snacking to a minimum, and make time for yourself to be able to sit down and enjoy your lunch slowly without any rush. Eating mindfully will promote effective digestion and prevent overeating.
Make your meal times special and enjoy nourishing your body!