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 am also a fast eater I need this article as well. Makes a lot of sense. - 4/2/2015 1:37:25 PM
  • REDROSEBUD4
    I sure needed this article. I eat fast. I have slowed down a couple time, but then mindlessly the next day-off to the races. I'm eating fast.
    I've read that by eating slowly also helps in making you feel "full", so you don't eat as much. This is great if you are trying to lose weight. - 4/2/2015 12:18:49 PM
  • I am the world's worse at eating like someone is going to grab my food away. I then sit and talk while my sister finishes eating at a leisurely pace. If I'm by myself, I will eat mindlessly at the computer. - 4/2/2015 8:30:28 AM
  • This article is for me definitely, I have always had problems with eating terribly fast, even if I'm not in a hurry, I'm not even hungry or I'm eating in a group. It takes me up to a a few minutes to eat my plate off. My dietitian told me this is a very bad habit from many points of view, but it's still very hard for me to control myself and slow down. - 4/2/2015 4:57:29 AM
  • Great article! I think a lot of us need this reminder. - 3/31/2015 8:52:05 PM
  • Take time to chew! My dad poked a tiny hole in his throat because he didn't chew properly. He had to spend 4 days in the hospital and a clear liquid diet for 2 weeks, so make sure you chew! - 1/27/2015 4:08:16 PM
  • I have to take small bites and chew them well because of my lap band. 104 pounds as of today. Well worth it! - 10/15/2014 6:12:49 PM
  • I agree with BAIXOMUSIC. I eat breakfast and lunch with sparkpeople. In between bites I type something, scroll to read something or check out my friend feed. That's what slows down my eating. If I'm typing, I can't pick up my food.
    I eat dinner with DH so there I agree with the article. Good information about the aid to digestion. I never considered that before. - 10/15/2014 7:51:21 AM
  • ADIOSALL
    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

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