Why chew food thoroughly

Make more of what you put into your mouth simply by thoroughly masticating your food
We Indian fly through our lives fighting time. Among other compromises, this often translates into limited time for meals, and thereby little or no time for that most overlooked ritual: Chewing. Our fascination or obsession with what to eat has drowned out this equally important facet of nutrition.

When Mahatma Gandhi said - Chew your drink and drink your food - he was stressing on the scientifically proven benefits of chewing.

How it works
A series of recent studies conducted on chewing have established a few facts beyond an intimate connection between chewing and weight control. Speed eating, gorging and binge eating were found to majorly contribute to unhealthy weight gain. The studies confirmed chewing every mouthful for longer helps you lose weight because it allows your brain more time to receive signals from the stomach that it's full.

Therefore, the slower you chew, the lesser you eat. Besides, when you chew thoroughly, your digestive system is told of incoming food. This triggers it to produce digestive acids and help the body absorb nutrients.

Inadequately digested food means inadequate absorption of nutrients, which is like paying for gourmet chocolates but getting a toffee. The leptin, ghrelin and cholestokinnen hormones, which are responsible for signaling satiation, don't reach their peak until 20 to 40 minutes after food is ingested. Speed eaters beat their body's signalkeepers by wolfing it down.

To make matters worse, unchewed food particles are not welcome in your stomach.
Sloppily chewed food promotes intestinal bacteria, causing flatulence, bloating, constipation, stomach ache, cramps and even diarrhea.

Nutritionist Naini Setalvad, who considers correct chewing as the first mantra of healthy eating, faults parents for inculcating the gulping-down habit. "Mothers keep telling their children to finish what's on their plates fast so to catch the school bus, classes or anything.
The most common refrain is 'Jaldi karo... why are you taking so long to eat?' Our health entirely depends on what we eat and how well our body absorbs it. Incomplete chewing ruins the digestion process and leads to irritable bowel syndrome and flatulence, among other problems."

Where it starts
Digestion begins in your mouth. Efficient chewing increases the surface area of foods, affording a thorough breakdown by enzymes. Saliva also contains lingual lipase, a fat metabolising enzyme, which breaks down fat before it reaches the stomach. If the fat reached the stomach inadequately chewed, brace yourself for digestion problems.

The longer your food stays in touch with your saliva, the better it gets lubricated and lesser the stress on your esophagus. Even digesting carbohydrates starts with chewing right as your saliva detaches chemical bonds that connect the starch-containing simple sugars. When you don't chew well, these enzymes can't break down starches or digest fats, inducing sluggishness and loss of energy.

Setalvad says, "Almost everyone who comes to me does not chew their food properly. The first thing I do to ensure they chew well is to add a salad or raw vegetables to their meals. I know if they aren't chewing properly when they return with constipation or irritable bowel syndrome."

Pleasure principle
Rushing through a meal bars you from enjoying it to its maximum, leading to a sense of dissatisfaction. Mindful eating is about experiencing food more intensely - especially the pleasure of it - and chewing plays the protagonist in this show. We live to eat, or at least we live because we eat. So good food assiduously chewed for a good time will ensure that you'll love your food the most it can be loved.


An American health-food guru of the late 1800s, Horace Fletcher, was known as 'The Great Masticator'. He recommended chewing food at least once for every tooth or 32 times per mouthful before swallowing. Fletcher, who would chew a morsel 100 times a minute before swallowing, believed that his method held the secret to unlocking hidden strengths. Fletcher's war-cry was 'Nature will castigate those who don't masticate' and he acquired a legendary status with his set of experiments at the Yale Gymnasium.
At 58, he competed with college students in exacting tests of strength and endurance such as deep-knee bending, holding out arms horizontally for a length of time, and calf-raises on an intricate machine - and beat the Yale athletes in all events. Fletcher attributed his feat to studious grinding and gnawing.

Tips to chew well
- Mash slowly and steadily.

- Keep the ambience relaxed rather than loud or distracting. That means no sitting in front of the TV.

- Eat smaller morsels; smaller the bites, the better you will chew.

- Stop only when the mouthful is totally liquid and has lost its texture.

- Take another bite only when you have finished chewing completely and swallowed.

- Drink water or fluids only after your mouth is empty.

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