Nutrition Articles

Stop and Chew Your Dinner

The Benefits of Slowing Down & Chewing More

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In this era of fast-paced everything, even the act of eating a meal has become something we can do on the run. Breakfast comes in bars, lunch can be eaten while speeding down the highway, and dinner is merely an accompaniment to the evening news, squeezed in between other pressing activities. Invariably, when eating plays second string to everything else, every meal becomes “fast food,” as in eaten-very-fast food. If you find yourself wolfing down your meals in a hurry, you’re actually shortchanging yourself in more ways than you might think.

It turns out there’s a reason food tastes so good. You’re supposed to enjoy it—slow down and savor it, not just get it to your stomach as quickly as possible. Chewing your food thoroughly is actually the first step in the complex process of digestion, and if you glaze over it, just chewing the minimum amount of times necessary to get the food down your esophagus, you’re actually compromising this process. And it’s a mistake many people make.

If you try to imagine swallowing a whole piece of pizza, it’s easy to see why chewing is necessary. But besides breaking up your food into manageable chunks, there’s another good reason to put in the effort and chew. The saliva that coats your food as you chew actually contains digestive enzymes that begin to digest your food before you even swallow it. The enzymes alpha-amylase and lingual lipase begin digesting carbohydrates and fats, reducing the amount of work for which the stomach will be responsible. And it isn’t just a nice gesture. If food fragments are swallowed un-chewed, not only do nutrients remain locked in the fragments, but these fragments create an environment in the colon that is conducive to digestive distress—bacterial overgrowth, gas, and bloating.
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • I too need to slow down and taste my food. I vow to be the last one finished and to "Be fully present while you eat". - 5/29/2016 9:06:55 AM
  • Good thoughts…I'll have to chew on them. Ha! Seriously, I appreciate the article. Eating too fast is a bad habit for me. Now that I'm freshly aware of the problem and more educated about the benefits of chewing slowly, I will try again to break this life-long habit. Thanks! - 5/8/2016 7:37:57 AM
    How true, great article! - 5/7/2016 12:38:58 PM
    I enjoy eating mindfully, but sometimes I let myself get SO hungry, that I just want to wolf it all down! Making a meal by myself last 20 minutes is definitely a challenge! Funny thing though, when I'm with a group, I'm frequently the last one to finish my meal! - 4/27/2016 1:15:01 PM
  • I have a hard time making half a sandwich last for 20 minutes. - 12/15/2015 1:59:31 PM
  • I have discovered that the body/mind is a powerful tool to many healthy lifestyle changes. When I eat mindfully and concentrate on food I can feel the juices in my mouth. When I eat distracted I don't even notice or feel the juices come into my mouth. Mindfully is very important for our bodily functions. I am working on using mindful steps to better health. - 10/18/2015 9:25:08 AM
  • Some distractions actually help me eat slowly. Right now I have to put my food down because I'm typing. Eating while at the computer is different than eating in front of the TV. It's also a difference of eating alone vs. being with others. Sitting alone chewing and thinking about my food feels weird to me. So onto the computer I go. - 9/28/2015 8:14:01 AM
  • I'm just like BUB001...always the last one finished eating at a restaurant, probably because I do so much talking too. I tend to eat meals while sitting at the computer and with the TV on (talk about multi-tasking!) and it usually takes me at least 30 min to finish. - 9/27/2015 4:57:13 PM
  • As I child and through most of my young adulthood, I was the last to leave the table. I was a very picky eater and very slow. Since I became a teacher many years ago, I became a fast eater out of necessity (no long lunches any longer). I need to rethink my eating habits again. The digestion factor is an important one. - 9/27/2015 9:42:36 AM
  • Not something I've ever had a problem with. I guess I talk too much when in a restaurant with friends or family, because I'm always the last person to finish eating. The young ones then groan if I also order a dessert. - 9/14/2015 11:20:26 PM
  • When I was teaching we only had a half hour for lunch. That's not a lot of time to get to the teacher's lounge, grab your food and eat. And if we had lunch duty, there was barely time to wolf down food before the next class. - 9/14/2015 11:04:14 AM
  • I am the oldest of 5 kids and we didn't always have lots to eat so I learned to eat fast! Now, at 58, I STILL eat fast. I try to slow down but....I will keep trying! - 9/13/2015 4:08:54 PM
  • I really lack chewing skills but an expert at gobbling down. By time I sit down at the table my family has the food half-eaten and I feel I must catch up. Is it really a race? - 9/13/2015 12:36:52 PM
  • This was so interesting! I definitely need to slow down and be more mindful... give myself a chance to feel full, too. - 9/13/2015 10:54:27 AM
  • I certainly needed this article, This is going to be a challenge that I am willing to accept.
    Slow down self...Think about this article at each meal !!! - 8/16/2015 11:28:00 AM

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