As soon as a piece of food enters a person’s mouth, it is chewed and swallowed without much thought; few take time to consider that eating too fast can lead to health hazards.
Chewing breaks food down from large pieces into smaller pieces, which are more easily digested according to mercola.com, a website that provides natural health information.
The process of chewing, also known as mastication, is the first step in the digestion process.
Recent research presented at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting and Food Expo indicated that “when participants chewed almonds longer, the smaller particles were better and more quickly absorbed by the body.”
Chewing food slower allows more time for the body to absorb all the healthy nutrients and transform them into energy.
The longer a person takes to chew, the more time it will take to finish a meal. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to signal to the stomach it is full, according to mercola.com.
Thus, a person who reduces the time taken to chew food can control the portions of meals they eat and decrease calorie consumption. A person could cut 10 percent of his or her calories by eating slower. As a result, the body can maintain a healthy weight.
“While chewing more may not melt away the pounds magically, I still think satisfactory chewing is a great way to increase the enjoyment of food,” Arthur Valentine, dietetic intern at Health Promotions and Wellness, said.
“Another technique to prolong the time that we consume food would be to have a drink of water in between every bite or two. It has a positive effect on metabolic rate and can help one to feel fuller faster.”
Additionally, saliva contains digestive enzymes. The more time these enzymes have to start breaking down the food, the easier the digestion will be on the stomach and small intestine.
No hard and fast rules exist regarding how slowly a person should chew food, but chewing until the mouthful of food is liquefied or has lost all of its texture is a good start.
Another good tip is to finish chewing and swallowing completely before taking another bite of food, Valentine said.
If a person does not chew long enough and swallows larger pieces of food it could produce unwanted health effects.
When large pieces of improperly chewed food enter the stomach they could remain undigested when they enter the intestines.
Bacteria then begins to break the large pieces down and could potentially lead to bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, cramping and other digestive problems.
“People should avoid chewing at an extreme pace whenever possible to lessen the chance of choking and to increase the body’s natural ability to digest and absorb essential nutrients,” Valentine said.