I’ve heard “chew your food and your health will be good” all my life. Why is that important? I thought that our stomach and digestive systems break down our food. – Brian J.
Whoever told you to chew your food for good health was correct. For good health, you do need to chew your food. But why? Simply put, stomachs don’t have teeth.
Teeth play an important role in the entire digestive process. They tear apart, grind, crush, and masticate food into smaller particles. Efficient mastication allows for more enzymes to touch the increased surface area, aiding in absorption farther along in the digestive system.
Today’s Americans eat quickly, gulping air with meals and swallowing large chunks of food particles that haven’t been properly chewed. But what’s the big deal, right? It all breaks down eventually.
Not really. Most of the food will pass through, but between the mouth and the anus, there is an important process that contributes towards health and wellbeing. Nutrition absorption is what provides the energy to live life day to day. If you don’t eat, you don’t have fuel for your cells to function. If you don’t chew your food, you can’t absorb the nutrients and will starve your cells from the fuel needed to function.
When food is not chewed well, it causes a variety of adverse effects to health.
At the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting in 2013, Purdue University in Indiana presented the results from a study that researched food absorption. Participants in the study were required to chew almonds and their fecal fat and energy lost was measured. Dr. Richard Mattes, the supervising professor of the experiment, found that those who chewed less experienced more health issues with bacteria and fungi because of the size of the food particles and how long they lingered in the body: “Particle size affects the bio-accessibility of the energy of the food that is consumed. The more you chew, the less is lost and the more is retained in the body.”
Simplified, chewing your food aids in digestion by making food particles smaller and easier to pass through the entire system. Chewing also generates more saliva, which aids in better lubrication to chew and swallow food. Saliva signals the brain to tell the stomach to make acids, the pancreas to secrete pancreatic juice containing digestive enzymes into the small intestinal tract, and prepares for absorption and breakdown.
If food is improperly chewed, only the outer portion will be digested by the stomach acids and barely broken down to a size that is efficient for further digestion. Large un-chewed portions of food put strain on the valves between the stomach and the small intestine. Because these food particles are so big, they don’t breakdown but start to decompose. This results in bacteria and fungi introduced to the bloodstream and digestive tract.
Poorly chewed food equals poorly absorbed nutrients. Eating fast and swallowing air while not chewing food well can also cause acid reflux along with gas, indigestion, IBS, heartburn, constipation, and bloating. If these are common experiences, consider the simple solution of chewing food well. This also will enhance the experience of mindfully eating – slowing down and enjoying the taste and texture of the food being consumed.
Of course, being mindful of chewing food takes time to make into a good habit. Maybe start by cutting food into small pieces and putting the fork or spoon down after each bite. Once we understand the health benefits received from chewing food, we won’t need to count each time we chew; we’ll want to chew our food slowly and enjoy what we’re experiencing.
Brian the council that you received about chewing your food was good. You’ll discover in the long run that your health depends on your choice to do so.
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