How many times do you put food in your mouth a day? What about chewing- about how many chews per bite do you give your food? Is there a recommended number of chews? What does proper chewing yield??
This past week I have been thinking A LOT about chewing. Probably to the point where I would get distracted chewing because I was thinking about my chewing. But in the end my thoughts thankfully have led me to answers that I wanted to share with you.
On average people eat 3 meals a day with 1-3 snacks throughout the day. If you consider that, there are plenty of opportunities to think about chewing! In using myself as a “trial” I had one meal where I gave about 20 chews per bite and the following meal I chewed the way I am used to. Let me tell you - I was quite surprised by the difference. At first it felt like it was taking forever! But practice started to yield results and I got used to it. 20 chews per bite is a good place to start. Ideally you are looking for the amount of chews it takes until all the food has moved out of your mouth.
You see, digestion begins in the mouth. The chewing process is a form of mechanical digestion and the saliva present engages a form of chemical digestion. Without getting too detailed, different nutrients need to have this beginning part of digestion in the mouth before their digestion process continues in the stomach (intestines). If food is not “digested/chewed” well in the mouth it can lead to discomfort for the duration of the digestion process. As you can imagine- if you were to swallow a bite of cereal + milk without chewing, those cheerios would be sitting in their large carbohydrate form in your digestive track. However, if you chewed them well they would be broken up into smaller saccharides (sugars) that will happily move on down the digestive track. When foods are not chewed well, they sit in their larger form in your intestines and can begin to ferment— now it will take even longer for them to fully digest.
This fermentation can lead to overall discomfort, bloating, and flatulence. Not to mention, that actually chewing well, will give your brain enough time to register if you are still hungry or full. Sounds like there are a lot of benefits of chewing and fully chewing our food!
So here’s my final question - what’s the rush? Why do so many of us find ourselves eating quickly or swallowing without chewing well? When teaching a child to chew, we tell them to keep their mouths closed, not to talk while chewing, and to focus on their food. Can’t we do the same? Being present with our food when we eat it gives our body and brain the chance to eat our food and be satiated by it. In social situations there is certainly an unspoken rule that if someone asks you a question and you are chewing they will wait patiently. Let’s practice that. Let’s give ourselves the chance to chew well and live well. Once you try it I’m sure you will be surprised.
This afternoon or even this evening as you slow down for the Shabbat meal try it. Give that first bite of challah 20 chews. You’ll notice the difference, it will literally melt out of your mouth on its way down your digestive track!
Shabbat Shalom, Chanukah Sameach, and Happy Chewing!