It can be hard not to scarf down your food when it comes time to sit down for a big meal, especially when you’re really hungry. Other times, it can be hard to even find the time to sit and slow down long enough to chew a meal in a culture that thrives off of stress and busyness. Chewing food well is a key digestive process, but does it have other health benefits?
You may want to think twice next time you find yourself shoveling food in your mouth without taking the time to chew it thoroughly. It sounds odd at first, but chewing foods slowly and methodically can affect other bodily functions and even help you enjoy eating your meals more.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of chewing and how it can affect your weight, appetite, and more.
How It Works When You Chew Your Food
The topic of chewing and spitting seems like a topic that’s not fit for the dinner table, but in fact, it’s happening in everyone’s mouth. When you chew your food, you activate your salivary glands and signal to the brain that it’s time for digestion to begin. Chewing breaks down the food for your stomach with the help of your saliva, and digestive enzymes are released to help prep the food to be broken down within the body.1
This helps the food move through the small intestine as it’s supposed to, whereas chewing your food faster and not as mindfully can cause stomach pain. Fast chewing can also cause the food to move through the intestines too quickly, causing you to become hungrier faster.
When in doubt, chew food more; it never hurts.
How The Speed Of Chewing Affects Calorie Intake
When food is chewed well, it paves the way for better digestion, as it can increase more blood flow to the stomach. Some believe that it could even help your body absorb more nutrients, although there isn’t much research to support those claims today.2
However, eating slowly does help you eat less. Your appetite is controlled by hormones (mainly “hunger hormones” like ghrelin and leptin). When food is chewed slowly, it gives the brain plenty of time to process the food and then release fullness hormones, signaling that it’s time to stop eating. Oftentimes, the brain is unable to do this when overeating because it doesn’t have enough time to receive fullness signals from the body.3
Feeling fuller sooner affects the body’s caloric intake. In fact, one study found that two groups of participants, one with normal weight and one considered overweight, ate fewer calories when instructed to slowly chew an unhurried meal. Participants also reported feeling fuller longer and less hungry an hour after eating.4
Over time, reduced calorie intake can lead to weight loss. So, next time you’re thinking of committing to a new diet plan, consider chewing your food slowly (alongside plenty of fruits and vegetables, of course). You may find that you fill up faster and discover that you’re eating less.
Does Chewing Gum Also Help With Weight Loss?
Research has found that while chewing gum doesn’t help you shed heaps of pounds, it can help curb your appetite and the number of consumed calories when it comes to trying to cut back on things like sweets or an unnecessary mid-day snack.5,6
That’s not to say that gum will keep you full if it’s been a while since your last meal, but if you find yourself craving foods you’re trying to avoid, popping a pack of gum in your purse or briefcase isn’t a bad idea.
Other Benefits Of Slow Chewing
Additionally, food that’s slowly chewed produces more saliva, which helps balance out the pH in your mouth after eating foods with a high acid or sugar content – which can save your teeth as you age.7
Chewing Your Food Properly Helps Digestion
The benefits of slow chewing are many and can have long-lasting effects on various parts of your body, including your teeth, stomach, intestines, and even the way you taste food. It can also even help you lose weight by curbing your appetite by helping control your food intake, the nutrients you absorb, and thus, how many calories you’re eating.
Good, slow chewing habits are easy to come by, and can even be incorporated into your next meal. The next time you sit down to eat, try to chew every bit of food 40 times, set down your utensils between bites, or sip water between bites.8 If you know another slow eater, try dining with them and match their pace. You may find that chewing your food is easier this way when you have a friend to help.
Slow eating and chewing food properly are just some of the keys to a healthier lifestyle. So, remember: Pile your plate high with fruits and veggies, and chew your food properly and thoroughly to help those food particles digest – it makes a big difference.