- Hannah Aylward
Chew on This: How Mindful Eating Helps Our Bodies
Chew on This: How Mindful Eating Helps Our Bodies
by Hannah Aylward
Although often overlooked, how we eat is often just as important as what we eat. I admit I am guilty of eating in front of my laptop, drinking my smoothie while driving to work in the morning, and noshing on a few kale chips while watching TED Talks. Most of us do not sit around the dinner table together to slowly and delicately enjoy our meals. However, it is time that we practice mindful eating which includes slowing down and chewing properly.
The first step in the digestive process is actually chewing. As I mentioned in my Top 8 Tips to Heal Your Digestion article, chewing well eases the work required from the digestive system, and primes the body for digestion by signaling that food is on its way down. It is so often an unconscious act. We put food into our mouths, and without even putting our forks down, we go for another bite.
Here is why we should add some consciousness into chewing our food:
More Peaceful Digestion
As many of us intuitively know, a pureed soup is easier to digest than a large salad. This is because, well, it is all blended up! This makes it kind of “pre-chewed”. The chewing process predigests food into small pieces and partially liquefies it, making it easier to digest. Digestion is a highly energy-intensive process. This is one of the reasons why I recommend taking 3-5 hours between meals, and always aiming for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast the next morning. It gives the body more time to get through the food we ate earlier on in the day. Chewing properly aids in the digestive process, allowing the stomach to break down food faster.
Reap All Nourishment
Food is nourishment in more ways than one. I believe it is meant to nourish both our bodies and our souls. You cannot beat a hot bowl of soup while snuggled up on the couch on a rainy day. Food is meant to be enjoyed! It enhances our senses. If we rush through our meal, we are losing out on really tasting and savoring all the goodness. When we take the time to chew our food we are forced to slow down a bit and engage in a more ritualistic, conscious practice. We can taste the flavors more deeply. We can smell the different aromas. We can take joy in the beautiful colors on the plate.
In Ayurveda, a sister science to yoga, the concept of fire, or agni, is of central importance. The strength of agni in the body is among the most critical factors in determining overall health. When it comes to digestion, we want to keep our agni stoked. This helps ensure that ama, a toxic disease-causing substance, does not result. An excess of ama is linked to feelings of heaviness, lethargy, bloating, foul breath, eczema, and much more.
Try this Class » Mindfulness in Motion with Neesha Zollinger
Absorb More Nutrients and Energy From Your Food
Chewing breaks food down from large particles into smaller particles that are more easily digested. This also makes it easier for your intestines to absorb nutrients from the food particles as they pass through. Food is our ultimate source of nourishment. We need it to stay alive. If we are not properly digesting the food that we ingest, we are potentially depriving our bodies of much-needed vitamins and minerals. Chewing properly also prevents large chunks of food from entering the bloodstream which can lead to some big health issues like leaky gut, IBS, (irritable bowel syndrome), and even autoimmune conditions. Purdue University professor Dr. Richard Mattes explains that particle size affects the bioaccessibility of the energy of the food that is being consumed. The more we chew, the more energy is retained in the body.
Longer Chewing = More Saliva Exposure
Saliva contains digestive enzymes, so the longer our food is exposed to saliva, the more time these enzymes have to start breaking down the food we eat. This makes digestion easier on the stomach and small intestine. Saliva also helps to lubricate food, making it easier for food to go down the esophagus.
Less Excess Bacteria Lingering in Your Intestines
The digestive process requires energy from many different organs. If large particles of food enter the stomach, it may remain undigested by the time it enters the intestines. There, bacteria will begin to break it down and putrefy. Just like bacteria in our homes, we don’t really want it hanging around for very long. If it does, this can potentially lead to bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, cramping, and more. Additionally, these symptoms can become more than just uncomfortable. If they continue to occur, they can lead to more serious conditions down the road.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
The longer we chew, the more time it will take us to finish a meal. It takes about 20 minutes for our brain to signal to our stomach that we are full. Many of us can overeat because we are simply eating too fast. By slowing down and chewing mindfully, we will naturally consume less food because we will know that we are full. It sounds really simple, and that is because it is! The less we over-consume, the easier it will be to maintain our weight.
Are you ready to try mindful eating today? Try chewing each bite of food 20 times and putting your fork down in between bites. You’ll be surprised at how much more satisfied you are (on many levels) by the time you are finished.
Suffering from bloating? It may be your gut. Check out our top four steps for freeing your gut now.
**We recommend that you do not rely solely on the information presented and that you always read labels, warnings, and directions before using or consuming a product. You should consult your health care professional before making any changes to your regular health care routine.
Hannah Aylward is a Certified Health Coach, nutrition consultant, fitness instructor, healthy living expert, and founder of HAN. She helps both men and women around the world lose weight, heal skin disturbances, balance hormones, heal gut imbalances and feel at home in their bodies through healthy eating, movement, mindfulness and positive self-talk. Her goal is to help others “learn the tools that they need to live the lives they deserve”. Get to know her by visiting her website and following her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.