If you are looking for some low hanging fruit to snag from the tree of good health as you set off in this new year, look no further than chewing your food more thoroughly.

It’s a simple habit that you can put into practice without much thought or effort right NOW and getting a victory in nutrition and lifestyle changes sets the foundation for bigger changes down the road.

Here are three reasons why thoroughly chewing your food makes a big impact on your health.

1. You get more out of your food when you chew it completely.

While nutrition labels tell us a good deal about the food we consume, that information matters little if we can’t access what the food has to offer.  Researchers found that people with health problems related to chewing food had an increased chance in mortality due to an inability to break food down and absorb nutrients more effectively.  This was especially true with meats and vegetables.

2. Chewing food slowly and thoroughly cues satiety quicker and reduces excess eating.

The feeling of being full is a result of a complex interplay between brain, mouth and gut.  The action of prolonged chewing triggers sensors that signal satiety quicker.  In one study, participants were asked to chew a piece of pizza either 15 or 40 times.  Researchers found that the higher chew rate affects the size of each amount of food ingested, reduces the volume of food swallowed and increases the processing time of the food in the gut, which all play a part in how quickly a person feels full.

3.  Mindful chewing reduces anxiety and improves a present-minded state.

Too often we rush through our meals to focus on work, family, or other items that take up our time in life.   Have you ever found yourself eating a meal and mindlessly scrolling through your phone or computer?  Do you find that brain goes a mile a minute when you sit down to eat?  Do you focus on all of the thousands of things that you did or have to do while you eat?

If this sounds like you, it’s time to reframe meal time.  Instead of eating a meal as something you have to do, why not think of it as an experience that you get to do?  Yes, eating provides us with the essential nutrients our bodies need to survive, but eating is more about surviving.  It is also about living.  Much like life, you can’t really get the full experience out of a meal if you aren’t present in the moment.  There’s so many sensations, sights, smells, and textures that make up a meal and they are there for you to enjoy!  Use your meal times as a chance to disconnect from work and reconnect with yourself and your family/loved ones by slowly chewing your food and focusing on the process and experience of eating.  When was the last time you noticed how tart an orange was, the smell of freshly chopped parsley, the crunch that carrots made?  By slowing down how quickly we eat and focusing on the sensations food provides us, we better connect with the present moment instead of the anxiety and stress of the past and future.

Works Cited
Keller and Layer.  “The Pathophysiology of Malabsorption”.  Viszeralmedicin 2014 Vol 30.  pp 150–154

Miquel-Kergoat, Azais-Braesco, et al.  “Effects of chewing on appetite, food intake and gut hormones: A systematic review and meta-analysis.”  Physiology and Behavior.   Nov 2015 Vol 151 pp 88-96.