Many of us are guilty, at least on occasion, of scarfing down food and swallowing large mouthfuls. Beyond that, who hasn’t heard some variation of the chew-your-food-X-number-of-times counsel? Such advice may sound like dietary superstition, but how well a person chomps actually matters. Chewing rate can have a significant impact on digestion of nutrients and may also affect hunger levels.
The Tooth of the Matter
In recent years, several studies have determined that chewing food thoroughly makes more nutrients available for absorption. Extra chewing allows compound within the food an additional opportunity to combine before they make it further down the digestive tract, which may have a positive influence on health. According to some studies, taking more time to chew also promotes a slower rate of eating, which can help with better appetite control and (in the long run) improved weight management.
Chomp Like a Champ
There may not be a magic number of times to chew, but a more leisurely nibbling pace has its benefits. Here’s how to maximize your opportunities at the table.
1. Be mindful. Take the time to enjoy what you’re eating, and that includes making efforts to limit distractions like TV, computers and cell phones at mealtimes.
2. Don’t eat alone if you don’t have to. Instead of privately hovering over food, find ways to partake in a more relaxing meal and some good old conversation.
3. Carve out time. Going long periods of time without eating can force energy levels to plummet and hunger to spike. This leads to a greater likelihood that you’ll grab food and practically swallow it whole.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.