There is a joke in my family that my grandpa was such a slow eater he would even chew his milk. We all giggle at the mental image, but turns out he might have been doing something right.
The fact is, we live in a culture that glorifies “busy”. We are always in a hurry, rushing from one thing to the next, and food has become an afterthought. Something we have to scarf down between meetings or errands. I admit, I’m number one offender in the eat-at-my-desk department. Despite my lunchtime habits, for the most part I’m a huge proponent of the mindful meal.
We should all be taking time to appreciate and enjoy the food in front of us. Turn off the TV, enjoy the company, savor the flavors, give thanks (heck, take a picture!). And chew.
That’s actually the point of this post — the chewing bit. All of the other mindful meal aspects I mentioned are equally important, but do you have any idea what an impact thoroughly chewing your food can have on your health?
We’re not going to get too serious and scientific about this, but numerous studies have shown the benefits of chewing thoroughly and eating slowly are incredible. Check it out:
- Better digestion. Nutrients are more fully absorbed by your body–larger bits of food just slide right through your system without being much help because they can’t be fully broken down. Also, digestion begins in the mouth with your saliva and this cool stuff called amylase. Let it work its magic, people!
- Improved feeling of fullness. Your body actually has time to tell you that you’ve had enough before you shove more down your pie hole (mmm, pie).
- Decreased snacking. You know, because you’re full.
- ^^Those things mean fewer calories consumed. In case that wasn’t clear.
- Strong teeth & jaw, plaque buildup prevention. I mean, you buy your puppy all those cool chew toys that keep their teeth sparkling, right? Chew your way to pearly whites.
- Less bloat. Eating quickly introduces air to your digestive system. No thanks!
- Food is yummier when you actually taste it!
- Mindful meals give you time to de-stress. Ahhhh, namaste.
We all know our body has a natural process of telling us when we’re hungry and when we’re full. The hormones that tell you what’s up need time to react, which we don’t give them while scarfing down french fries in a quick afternoon break. Twenty minutes is the rule of thumb. If you’re done eating a full meal in less than 20 minutes then you need to slow it down. Not only is that not enough time for your body to give you the signal, but it means you probably aren’t chewing thoroughly.
I realize that sometimes during the work day you may not have a full 20 minutes to enjoy a meal. I get that, I really do. (My desk is crumb central, I get it.) But let’s start somewhere — the meals you have at home should be slow and savored. If eating slowly is hard for you, try putting your fork down between bites or counting how many times you chew a bite. I learned about the benefits of slow eating a few years ago and I remember sitting at the table chewing for what felt like years. Now I’m just a ridiculously slow eater all the time. I’m always the last one to finish eating when out with friends and I always need a doggy bag! Frickin’ always, man!