If I asked you how many times the average American chews a bite before swallowing, what do you think it would be?
Now really think about this (even though you can probably see the number directly below). Imagine you are STARVING... maybe even hangry and someone puts a delicious burrito in front of you, guacamole included, drizzled in lime cilantro sauce. See yourself scarfing this baby down. You chew... 1, 2, 3... SWALLOW. BITE, 1, 2, 3... SWALLOW.
That's right: Three. Three is the avergage number of times we chew before swallowing. It's not just the hungry-factor that propels us into fast eating.
It's our busy lifestyles. We are running from activity to activity in a fast-paced "efficient" world, and we've almost been taught that eating on the go is imperative to having a life. "If you're not moving, you're not moving fast enough," is the motto we've come to adapt. When we move fast through life, we've inevitably eat too fast AND feed the stress response. When we feed the stress response, our body releases cortisol which in effect tells your body to store more fat.
The irony of all this is, the slower we eat, the FASTER we actually metabolize our food! The more your food gets broken down in your mouth, the less work your gut has to do.
When we eat slowly, our breath slows down as well, signaling our brain that we are not under stress and therefore not under attack, but rather in "rest and digest" mode.
If we eat slower we have more time to CHEW our food. The longer your food sits in your mouth, the more enzymes you produce and ignite to digest that food. This is because digestion begins in the mouth.
What are the benefits of chewing slowly?
- More energy: For starters, you know that feeling like you want to take a nap after a meal? That's because a LOT of our enzymes and energy goes toward digestion after a meal. Your body has a hard time making you feel perky when it's expending all its energy fueling the furnace that is your gut. The more you chew your food, the less energy goes toward digestion, and the more energy goes to you being plain flippin' awesome.
- Less over-eating: The more you chew your food the slower you eat, given your body more time to process the food, both physically and mentally. Your brain gets a chance to catch up to your stomach and you tend to eat less and be a better judge of when you are actually full.
- Less bad bacteria hangs around in your intestines: Since you already chewed your food like a complete baller, it spends less time sitting around in your gut, acting as food to bad bacteria.
- Hello, weight loss: Your digestion is more efficient and able to dispel toxins, you're eating less, and you have more energy to be active. What more could you ask for in life? In this way, eating slower helps you move FASTER.
So how many times do you chew your food?
Try chewing 10, then 30, then try 50 times! Certain foods, like soft fruits, break down very rapidly, while other foods, like proteins and rough vegetables, may require as many as 50 chews!
Now do I expect you to start counting every bite 50 times? NO. But I do encourage your to try it out and see what happens. You'll be surprised at how quickly we've been trained to swallow our food, instead of enjoying it. You may even plan to chew and notice you have to stop yourself from swallowing right away. It's become such an automatic response.
The beauty of this is, just as we've trained ourselves to chew and swallow quickly, we can also train ourselves, over time, to chew and swallow slowly.
It does take practice. So start with one snack, and work your way up. Eventually you'll be a chewing machine without even thinking about it! Try putting down your fork in between bites and simply enjoying the food, engaging your senses.
What about juice and smoothies? Yup! You can chew them too! Let them linger in your mouth before swallowing-- engage your senses and enjoy.