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 agree that less chewing causes excess gas in the colon for that is an issue for me. I often eat without my dentures and I now understand the value of wearing of dentures to eat chewing properly. - 6/23/2014 7:30:32 AM
  • SUESPA2
    I have started to SIT AT THE LOUNGE TABLE! To make my food go down better & After eating Wait for my food to go down Couple of Minutes! - 3/3/2014 1:56:43 PM
  • CURLYKAYLEIGH
    How do you eat that slwoly when you have smaller portions. AND if the food is hot after 10 minutes it's cold and not so great. I enjoy my food and portion it out correctly. I then dont eat for 30 minutes and have some tea just to make sure I am okay.

    I would like some advice on slower eating please?

    Thanks :) - 3/3/2014 7:18:47 AM
  • Great sentiment, but as I have no sense of smell, my taste is very poor, so eating is a much more mechanical process for me. No 'stop and savor the flavors' because, unless its curry, chilli, Mexican, etc there is very little flavor I can detect!!!
    However, seeing as I am always the first to finish, I need to take this on board to aid my digestion.
    Thanks for a thought provoking article. - 2/4/2014 5:31:31 AM
  • I make every effort to explain to my 14 almost 15 year old son to take his time when eating. He jokes that I am old (33) and I am just slower than eating.
    Due to the fact that I enjoy cooking and the food that I cook, not only for myself, but also what he enjoys... Yes, I take me time... Put down my fork and ask myself... 'Am I full or still hungry'. - 1/25/2014 2:05:23 PM
  • I'm not sure why the article says not to eat with the TV or computer. As a single person, it is the only way to slow down my consumption. If I sat at my dinner table with only my food, all I would have to do is eat and I would eat fast. Most of the time, I do sparkpeople when I eat. So I take a bite, then enter something. Right now I'm filling out this form between bites from my morning oatmeal. If I wasn't sparking, then I would just be eating and I would be finished by now. - 1/11/2014 10:02:14 AM
  • I am always the first one to finish my food first , and I need to slow down to , but I think it is because I am rushed or I wait to long before meals that I feel like I am starving ,then I over eat . - 1/11/2014 6:03:58 AM
  • I am always the first one to finish my food first , and I need to slow down to , but I think it is because I am rushed or I wait to long before meals that I feel like I am starving ,then I over eat . - 1/11/2014 6:01:45 AM
  • I try and take the time to make great meals and enjoy them :) When you savour your food you'll naturally chew slower, concentrating on the flavours instead of glomping down as much as you can!

    Unfortunately, this semester I have back-to-back classes and I'm forced to eat my lunch and my snacks in class ): - 1/6/2014 9:32:52 PM
  • what a great article , it makes perfect sence. i am a terrible fast eater and when my daughter lived home she use to hep me out by saying "mom ,slow down , theres no hurry" i loved it. Also the part about how chewing your food reduces the gas and bloating i never knew it ! thanks so much for the knowledge ! i'm slowing down!! - 10/28/2013 8:31:04 AM
  • I completely get this. When I was smaller, I ate slower. My Mom always made me eat slower and then I lived on my own so I'd eat slow and at the table with no distractions. Now I live with someone who eats very fast and we don't own a kitchen table and I've put on like 50 pounds since I've met him. Time to get back in to old habits is day! :-) - 10/27/2013 5:49:28 PM
  • I have attempted to tell my son that he should slow down when eating. He says that he does not rush, it is just the way that he eats.
    ~I enjoy taking my time to eat and when I get full, I put what is left in a container for another day.
    - 10/5/2013 11:12:00 AM
  • I definitely eat more quickly in groups. At least when it comes to dinner I notice that I slow down. I guess I believe that dinner time is time to talk with the people around you and not be on your phone on computer. If I'm alone then it is the opposite. - 10/2/2013 5:50:57 PM
  • What a great article. Because I always chew my food but I guess not enough. Sometimes my youngest will say that food must be really good. Thanks. - 9/3/2013 12:21:55 PM
  • And here we've been complaining to our two young grandaughters that they take too long too eat. Every one else is done in 12 or 20 minutes and they're still sitting there half an hour later if you let them! Probably a bit much but it is good they they interact while they eat - 7/31/2013 1:55:35 PM