Timeless Advice: Chew Your Food

Chewing my food did not really come to my attention until I was doing some post-grad studying at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. How I managed to move through over a decade of studying and a university education without “getting” this concept is a mystery. It may simply be that, like drinking water, chewing is one of the simplest things you can do to improve your health.

I first conducted my own chewing experiment after hearing Andrea Beaman share  the lesson she received from her macrobiotic teacher, Michio Kushi, who explained the importance of chewing each bite 100 times. Andrea related that such a task was difficult to do, but encouraged us to try chewing each mouthful 30-50 times to observe what happened.

What I initially noticed was how little I actually chewed. Try 6-10 times before swallowing! Large chunks of food were sliding down my esophagus, burdening my stomach and digestive system. When I stopped to chew, amazing things happened:

1) I grew bored, and quickly! Chewing is a tough task for those of us used to eating on the fly, multi-tasking, or otherwise handling multiple levels of information at once. The task of counting each chew was agonizingly dull at first. Then I began to notice other things…

2) The more I chewed, the more the flavors within foods changed: crackers and apples became much sweeter!

3) I came to understand the compulsion of swallowing – you literally cannot help it after a certain time…small amounts of food become liquid and the need to swallow arises from an area of the body unaffiliated with our conscious mind.

4) And most importantly: I became full on 50 – 75% less food. I realized how little mass my body actually needed to be satisfied, when given the chance to fully assimilate and absorb the nutrition it was receiving. I had the very personal experience of understanding how to work with the digestive process. (remember – it takes 20 minutes for our body to receive the hormonal signals to shut down appetite!)

Truthfully, I still have a hard time chewing 30 times. I still get distracted, bored, and my ego steps in and convinces me I have “more important things to do”. each time I do though, I find I get greater enjoyment and satisfaction from my meal, I lose weight, and I experience more moments of peace throughout the day. This week I’m making the commitment to chew at least one meal very, very thoroughly. I encourage you to give it a try and let me know what YOU notice!

3 thoughts on “Timeless Advice: Chew Your Food

  1. About a week or so ago I began to chew at a minimum of 50 times or until the particular food I’m eating is practically a liquid, whichever would come second. Some foods, such as raw pears or chewy meats, take longer to chew than others. I’ve noticed that my portion sizes have been dropping significantly, which seems to parallel your experience. I’ve also noticed that the food does seem more flavorful this way as well, which you also pointed out. What’s weird to me is that somehow, swallowing food in a practically liquefied state due to thorough chewing is much more satisfying to me than the typical chunks and pieces that we westerners are accustomed to swallowing; if I remember correctly, swallowing has something to do with taste as well, so perhaps that accounts for that.

    I would definitely recommend thorough chewing to anyone, regardless of their current state of health.

    1. Joseph –

      Thank you for sharing your experience!
      Many people notice that foods become sweeter when they chew more. This is because of an enzyme called salivary amylase, which is located in the mouth and begins the process of carbohydrate digestion. By chewing, we allow this enzyme time to do its job of beginning to break down complex carbohydrates, releasing the sweetness that is inherent in them.
      Also, chewing begins activating the digestive process all through the digestive tract, so hormones that induce satiety and satisfaction are actually released by the process of chewing. This may explain your increased satisfaction from chewing to liquid form. Simply spending more time with your food will also increase your awareness and enjoyment of it as well.

  2. Been looking for other people’s experiences with this discovery… not a lot on the internet. I started chewing food to liquid (maybe 100 chews) a few days ago, and notice a few things:

    – I used to be able to tolerate any amount of spiciness, now that the food lingers on my tongue capsaicin is much more intense, unpleasantly so.

    – The additional work keeps me from considering impulse eating. I think eating food is meant to be work, or an obligation. Certainly not the slide-down-your-gullet, fiber-free engineering curiosities we find in the middle aisles of the grocery stores.

    – I also get bored of the food. 3/4s of the way through a meal I’m just ready to do something else.

    – I notice a new sense of relaxed well-being after meals, even a good mood.

    – I didn’t think I was bloated before, but after only 2 days of this my stomach looks noticeably leaner.

    Some other things I’ve found: there’s a consistent inverse relationship between time spent chewing and body weight, and chewing releases brain histamine which improves mood. I never realized before that saliva doesn’t just contain amylase for carbs; it also contains lipase for fats and protease for proteins.

    I wish there was more research, like on the gut hormonal changes in response to chewing. Really looking forward to watching changes in my body after months of this.

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