The Health Benefits of Chewing Your FoodPublished on Friday, October 21, 2022 by
Should you really chew your food 10, 20, 30 even up to 80 times before swallowing?!
Does chewing your food really affect nutrition and even weight loss?
While weight loss from chewing seems like a stretch, chewing your food has several nutritional benefits, including improved digestion, weight loss, and affecting the nutritional value of food.
Weight loss from chewing?
Really? Well, no, not significantly. The act of chewing your food more is not what will initiate weight loss. The average person might spend 30-40 minutes daily, chewing food. In terms of calories, we’re looking at around 12 calories burned. Not a significant calorie deficit! However, we can look at diet quality and how long it takes to eat certain foods.
Studies show that people who have a diet full of minimally processed foods (think fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) consume fewer calories than those with a diet higher in processed foods. This could be because minimally processed foods require more effort to bite and chew. Chewing more thoroughly means consuming a full meal more slowly. This process allows the body to release satiety hormones and signal fullness.
Chewing and digestion:
Believe it or not, digestion begins as soon as the food hits the tongue. Digestive enzymes in the saliva start digestion by breaking down starches into simple sugars. Have you ever noticed that if you chew bread long enough it actually starts to taste sweet? The longer you chew, the more digested the starches become.
The entire process of consuming food triggers different reactions in the body.
The stimulation of taste buds and smell receptors, before even chewing anything, can trigger a response in the digestive tract by triggering the production of stomach acid and pancreatic juices, prepping the system for the whole digestive process. Once you take a bite and start to chew your food thoroughly, it is broken down into smaller pieces.
Once swallowed, it mixes easily and thoroughly with stomach acid. When stomach acid breaks down food proteins into small, digestible particles, the acid also kills off bacteria and other pathogens that may be in food. Lastly, the more thoroughly you chew your food, the less partially-digested food enters the colon, translating into less intestinal gas and bloating.
How chewing affects nutrition:
Does better digestion mean that you are getting more nutrients from your food? Actually, yes! Longer chewing time and chewing capacity have been shown to increase the amount of protein your body can absorb from foods, and be put to use in building muscle more efficiently.
Longer chewing has also been shown to make certain vitamins and minerals more available. Carrots are a large source of beta-carotene, an important nutrient for cell growth. When cooked or raw carrots are chewed thoroughly, the bioavailability of the beta-carotene is higher, showing just how important it is to chew enough to break down the food into tiny particles. Not only helping with digestion but also the availability of nutrients.
So, to sum things up, chew your food! Many of us only chew each bite 5-7 times before loading up our forks. We can all benefit from eating more slowly and mindfully.
5 Tips for Mindful Eating include:
- Listen to your body and know your hunger cues
- Cut out the distractions. Turn off the TV and put away your phone
- Eat slowly and allow yourself the time to enjoy your meal
- Chew your food until it is an applesauce consistency
- Try the “mouth full, fork empty” policy. If you have food in your mouth, wait until you have chewed and swallowed to put more food on your fork!
- Srour, B., Fezeu, L. K., Kesse-Guyot, E., Allès, B., Méjean, C., Andrianasolo, R. M., Chazelas, E., Deschasaux, M., Hercberg, S., Galan, P., Monteiro, C. A., Julia, C., & Touvier, M. (2019). Ultra-processed food intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: prospective cohort study (NutriNet-Santé). BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 365, l1451. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l1451
- Rico-Campà, A., Martínez-González, M. A., Alvarez-Alvarez, I., Mendonça, R. D., de la Fuente-Arrillaga, C., Gómez-Donoso, C., & Bes-Rastrollo, M. (2019). Association between consumption of ultra-processed foods and all cause mortality: SUN prospective cohort study. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 365, l1949. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l1949
- Lemmens, L., Van Buggenhout, S., Van Loey, A. M., & Hendrickx, M. E. (2010). Particle size reduction leading to cell wall rupture is more important for the β-carotene bioaccessibility of raw compared to thermally processed carrots. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 58(24), 12769–12776. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf102554h
Caitlin RileyRDN, LDN