We’ve all heard it before: ‘You need to chew your food 20 times before you swallow’. Is this actually true, and if yes, why should we be chewing so much? If you look at some articles on the internet, the number of chews ranges from 20-50 per bite of food. Sounds great, but is it realistic?
In general, we can definitely say that most people are eating far too quickly. As a rule, we need to slow down, with most things, but definitely with time for eating our various meals. When we slow down, we allow our mouth and senses to experience the meal and thereby enjoy the food better. Slowing down by default means we would chew more.
Why do we eat?
There are two main reasons why we eat. The first is the simple one. We eat to nourish our bodies (body reason). We eat so that our bodies get all the nutrition that they need, carbohydrates for energy, proteins to keep us strong, fats to protect us, vitamins and minerals to keep us healthy and various other nutrients found in the foods (phytonutrients, antioxidants etc.) that make our bodies function at their best. The one thing to remember when it comes to nourishing our bodies is that we don’t actually need too much food to get all of the nutrients that our bodies need.
The second reason that we eat is slightly more complicated. We eat to nurture ourselves, specifically our mouth and taste buds (head reason). We eat because we enjoy the taste of food. So here’s the important point to remember: the only time we can taste food is while it is in our mouth. So how can we get to taste food more? One answer is to eat more, but that doesn’t necessarily work, and it really won’t help most of us keep our weight stable. The better answer is to eat slower and chew more! The slower you eat and the more you chew the better you will taste the food. And when we slow down and chew more we’ll be able to eat less and still get the benefit of enough taste.
Slow down and chew
An important part of this is to try to slow down every time you eat. When you slow down eating and taste the food properly, you will require less food nurture at the end of the day. This is known as mindfulness or mindful eating, an important concept in our lives that many of us miss. Taking time out (and eating slowly, tasting each bite) regularly in the day will really help you not to want to eat treats at the end of the day. When you rush through the day you’ll need nurture at night, and food, specifically treats, often end up being the choice of nurture, even though many of them are also eaten mindlessly.
Mindful eating all day long
Breakfast: Many people skip breakfast because they feel there is no time for it. But it is an important meal to eat, as it will fuel your body for the first part of the day. Try to sit down for breakfast instead of having the meal on the run. You should prioritise eating as you do getting dressed, brushing your teeth etc.
Lunch: Most people sit by their computers and work while moving the food into their mouth. It’s a mindless process, where the focus is on the work and not on the food. Try to move away from your computer and relax while you eat lunch. Look at and smell your food, eat it slowly, chew it thoroughly and enjoy it and the time out. This will completely change the second half of your work day.
Dinner: Dinner is probably where most people do sit down to eat, often with their families or friends. Use this time to focus on learning to slow down and chew more.
Snacks: Take 5 minutes out for any snacks, so that you can enjoy the food. Remember to have snacks only if you are starting to feel hungry, not because it will help you cope with your stress. Sometimes we need to just stop and take a break to breathe, which requires no food!
Chewing our food more and really tasting it is such an important part of our health and wellness. It’s not necessarily about chewing a specific number of times, but try to be mindful while you do, enjoying your food completely in the processes.