In January I wrote a post about mindful eating. Since then I have read many articles on the subject and it seems to be very “in” right now. I for one am happy about that. We could all stand to slow down and take more time while eating! Along those lines, this post is all about the importance of chewing our food. I realize this might sound weird but how much time do you actually spend chewing versus biting and swallowing your meals? I encourage you to really think about this and evaluate how you chew.
Last spring I spent two intense weeks at the Ann Wigmore Institute in Puerto Rico. It was there I learned the majority of this information and spent more time focusing on my chewing than I had even on the many meditation retreats I went on. This was because of the structured class time and also the raw food we ate there. Sitting down in silence to chew raw green soup is hard work! So much emotional stuff came up for me during those weeks around chewing, it was a life changing experience.
As I have mentioned, when it comes to increased health, it’s not just what we eat but how we eat. Digestion begins in the mouth, where contact with our teeth and digestive enzymes in our saliva break down food. These days most of us rush through the whole eating experience, barely acknowledging what we’re putting in our mouths. We eat while distracted—working, reading, talking and watching television—and swallow our food practically whole. On average we chew each bite only eight times. Not chewing our food enough can lead to digestive issues.
Here are some great reasons to slow down and chew your food:
- Saliva breaks down food into simple sugars, creating a sweet taste. The more we chew, the sweeter our food becomes, so we don’t crave those after-meal sweets.
- Chewing reduces digestive distress and improves assimilation, allowing our bodies to absorb maximum nutrition from each bite of food.
- More chewing produces more endorphins, the brain chemicals responsible for creating good feelings.
- It’s also helpful for weight loss, because when we are chewing well, we are more apt to notice when we are full.
- In fact, chewing can promote increased circulation, enhanced immunity, increased energy and endurance, as well as improve skin health and stabilize weight.
- Taking time with a meal, beginning with chewing, allows for enjoyment of the whole experience of eating: the smells, flavors and textures. It helps us to give thanks, to show appreciation for the abundance in our lives and to develop patience and self-control.
Now that you know some of the reasoning behind the importance of chewing our food properly try having a silent meal and see what comes up for you. Try eating without the TV, computer, iPhone, newspaper or noisy company. Instead just pay attention to the food and to how you are breathing and chewing. This can be very weird in the beginning. This practice triggered a great deal of emotions for me and that is totally normal. We have so much stuff tied up in food that we are completely unaware of. I encourage you to set aside a few meals a week to practice what I am going to call mindful chewing. As you start to create a new habit, you will begin to appreciate eating without rushing and distraction. You will truly begin to commune not only with your food but with the world around you. We have to eat every day—why not learn to savor and enjoy it?