After years, and I mean years of education within the nutrition field one of the most important lessons I learned is to “Chew your Food.” Sounds simple enough but it is an art and must be mindfully practiced – I am still working on it. In today’s world we eat while multitasking – eating at our desk, in the car, walking, while watching TV etc. This leads us to eat more and unfortunately compromise our digestion and overall health.
When food mixes with the saliva in our mouth it initiates the process of digestion. A signal stimulates the stomach to secrete digestive enzymes creating an acidic environment to further breakdown food particles. Thus, if we gobble down our breakfast without thorough chewing, digestive enzymes are not secreted and larger food particles enter the stomach. Gas and/or bloating are common symptoms your pancreas is working overtime to secrete digestive enzymes. Being proactive and incorporating what I like to call “mindful chewing” into your routine can help deter major health issues such as leaky gut syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and bowel issues to name a few.
If you have the time go check out the book, Power Eating Program: You are How You Eat by Lino Stanchich. In a WWII concentration camp with little to no food, Lino brought his awareness of eating into a meditative state; with eyes closed, savoring every mouthful – taste, smell, texture; and chewing approximately 50 times before swallowing. Incorporating this eating technique with the mind-body connection gave him optimal nourishment, strength and immunity – which ultimately saved his life.
Eating and chewing mindfully as Lino did is not always possible and that is okay. The point is to be present and aware. Incorporating these simple techniques into your routine is a step in the right direction. Like I mentioned before, it is a practice thus, the more you try the easier it gets. Try it out for yourself and if this does not convince you listen to Mahatma Gandhi “chew your drink and drink you food.”
1. Do not eat and drink at the same time
Ideally one should limit the amount of fluids before, during and after mealtime. I often tell clients to imagine their stomach holding digestive fire to assist in breaking down food particles. When excess fluids, especially cold liquids are taken in it puts out the fire, dilutes your enzymes and compromises digestion.
Tip: It is okay to take small sips throughout the meal if needed but try sipping on room temperature water (no ice) with a squeezed lemon wedge to help out your digestive fire.
2. Eat your biggest meal earlier in the day
Another reason why breakfast is the most important meal of the day is digestion is strongest between 7am and 11am. Therefore, as the day progresses our meals should get smaller with dinner being the smallest meal of the day.
3. Chew your food 30 to 50 times per bite
It will feel like you are chewing forever. Start off with 5 chews per bite and work your way up. Notice the taste, texture, temperature, the smell, the flavor, every tiny movement of your jaw, etc. Naturally you will want to swallow your food, when you do, imagine your food being broken down your stomach before going for another bite.
4. Eat sitting down
To eat sitting down is without distractions such as TV, cell phone, computer etc. Setting the intention to eat mindfully from the beginning of your meal creates a space that allows you to be present.
5. Make your meal last 20 minutes
Studies say that it takes 20 minutes for your brain to signal your stomach that you are satisfied. Thus, slowing down our meal intake leads us to consume less.
Did you notice anything while chewing? Did you discover something about your own eating habits?