As humans we tend to react pretty quickly.  Things provoke us in life, and sometimes we respond automatically without much thought.  Slowing down and thinking through mealtime has a number of advantages, both physical and mental.  Let’s start with the concrete world of physical benefits!

Less gas and bloating:  If you chew and swallow food quickly, you also swallow quite a bit of air.  That air has to come out one end or the other at some point!  Food that isn’t chewed properly could also end up fermenting in your gut, which will just create more gas and bloating.

Better nutrient absorption:  Digestion starts in the mouth, where your teeth and enzymes within your saliva break down food.  Your grub needs to be chewed properly in order to free the nutrients up for absorption.  Before you swallow, food should be chewed long enough that its texture and shape no longer resembles what went in your mouth.  That means broccoli should be chewed until it no longer feels like broccoli on your tongue.

Eat what you need, nothing more:  Our digestive system has a number of signals it sends to the brain when the stomach is full.  It can take up to twenty minutes for the brain to receive that message!   When we slow down at mealtime we can take time to observe whether or not we are satiated.

Here are some mental benefits to chew on:

Enjoy your food:  A satisfying meal involves all of your senses.  Take some time to savor the color and appearance of your food.  Observe all the obvious and subtle smells.  As you’re chewing (thoroughly) notice how the flavor settles into your tongue.

Calm down:  Eating mindfully is a meditative process.  Stepping out of your busy day to appreciate a wholesome meal can help you feel more emotionally balanced.

If you’d like to read more about mindful eating, check out any book by Susan Albers PsyD.

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