What do they really mean when they say “chew your food”? By Steel Burkhardt

What do they really mean when they say to chew your food 100 times? Doesn’t that feel excessive? When I was a kid, and from time to time even now, I inhaled my food. You’re thinking….me too! I literally went to the hospital once because I had a piece of chicken the size of my 13 year old thumb stuck in my esophagus! (It came out, as you might have guessed.)

I started to really think about chewing over the last couple of months after reading a book by Thich Naht Hanh, a Buddist monk.  Like most Buddhists, he believes everything should be done with practiced mindful meditation, including “Mindful” Eating. Even if you scarf down everything till the last bite and then remember, “Oh, I am eating”, that last bite can be the one you are mindful about, connecting you to the energy and the beauty of your food.

Besides being mindful, there are other good reasons to chew your food.

Your body is filled with bacteria, some bad but mostly good, creating a microscopic world inside of you called microbiome.  This world aids and assists your digestion, starting in your mouth.  Your teeth break down the food and your saliva lubricates, helping the food down your esophagus. The bacteria does quite a few things like reducing the acid, killing harmful germs and breaking down carbohydrates with digestive enzymes.  Your mouth will even start to take some of the micro nutrients straight into your blood stream through your cheeks and under your tongue.

The problem is…if you don’t chew enough, you don’t receive these benefits! This makes your stomach and the rest of your digestive system work harder, taking energy away from other organs to do their job.

One last bonus to “mindful chewing” is that you actually eat less because your body is receiving nutrients a little slower, letting your brain catch up with your eyes and stomach! A win win!

Consider these benefits at each meal and if only for a moment, be fully present, chew a little slower, taste all the wonderful flavors in each bite and be in gratitude of the meal you’re feeding your body.

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