Monday, April 18, 2011

Simple Tip: chew your food

A simple step to health that's easy to swallow...

Why should we chew our food thoroughly?  
  • saliva initiates digestion which prepares the alkalinity of the stomach so our bodies can kill harmful germs that may be in our food
  • the act of chewing releases brain chemicals that decrease the feeling of hunger
  • saliva lubricates our food for an easy transit through the esophagus (have you ever swallowed a tortilla chip too soon? ouch!)
  • the first stage of fat digestion begins in the mouth with the secretion of the enzyme lingual lipase, by glands that are located under the tongue
  • the first stage of carbohydrate digestion begins with salivary alpha-amylase, a enzyme that breaks down the chemical bonds that connect the simple sugars that compromise starches
  • when food is not chewed properly, the fragments are left too big to properly be broken down and absorbed, leading to incomplete digestion - not only will digestion be inhibited, but the overall surface area of your food will be smaller, impeding your body from absorbing as many nutrients from your food as it should have
  • undigested food becomes food for bacteria in our colon, which can lead to bacterial overgrowth, flatulence, and other symptoms of indigestion
How do we chew our food correctly?
Forget that old rule of "chew each bite at least 50-100 times." According to the World's Healthiest Foods website, "chew your food completely until it is small enough and dissolved enough to be swallowed with ease. A good rule of thumb is as follows: if you can tell what kind of food you are eating from the texture of the food in your mouth (not the taste), then you haven't chewed it enough. For example, if you are chewing broccoli and you run your tongue over the stalk and can tell that it is still a stalk or over the floret and you can still tell that it is still a floret, don't swallow. You need to keep on chewing until you can't tell the stalk from the floret." 

I tried this method for a few days and not only did it become natural for me to eat this way, but I also didn't feel like I had "mush" in my mouth or have the annoying chore of counting bites.

Important tip: don't forget to "chew" your liquid foods as well! When I drink my smoothies or eat things like soup and ice cream, I try to remember to chew these foods too (it's sometimes more like a few mindful swishes around the tongue depending on what you're drinking) to get optimal digestion.