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Nutrition Made Easy For Busy People

Why Finishing First Can Be A Loser’s Game

A study of 2,000 adults released today by the Birmingham Food Fest¹ showed that over 36% of people don’t chew their food properly. If you pride yourself on usually being the first to finish your plate, then you may want to bear in mind the impact this could be having on your metabolism and your weight.

Chewing is an important part of the digestive process, and helps trigger the body’s satiety mechanisms which will help you identify when you’re full. If you eat too fast, then the chances are that you’re eating too much, as your brain hasn’t had time to catch up with your body.

An common example of this is when you eat out in a restaurant. You can often feel ready for a dessert immediately after the meal, but if the staff are slow to come over and take your order, then you can find that you’ve changed your mind, because you don’t really feel like it any more. This is because your satiety response has had time to kick in, and your body is telling you that you don’t need any more food.

The more quickly and mindlessly you eat – the same study revealed that a large proportion of us eat while we’re watching TV, texting, using a laptop etc. – the less likely it is that the proper digestive processes can happen.

Many people don’t realise that digestion actually begins in the mouth, and as you chew your food, the saliva releases enzymes that start to break down carbohydrate and fats. By taking the time to chew your food, it also gets a good coating of saliva, which provides vital lubrication for the food particles as they move through the digestion.  If you don’t chew for long enough, then these processes won’t get started and it’s likely to cause indigestion, exacerbating IBS symptoms, such as bloating and wind.

As well as being crucial for the digestive process, chewing certain foods properly ensures that you benefit from key nutrients. For example, broccoli is often hailed as a ‘superfood’ but along with other cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and Brussels sprouts, it needs to be chewed properly to allow the release of the protective compounds that are considered to have an anti-cancer effect.

There are various urban myths about how many times you should chew each mouthful, and a quick Google search shows that 32 seems to be a popular number. The truth is that you just need to chew your food enough so that you’re not swallowing large lumps of un-chewed food, and the amount you need to chew will obviously vary depending on what you’re eating. It’s worth bearing in mind that processed and ‘fast’ food generally require very little chewing compared to fresh fruit and vegetables, so these foods also likely to encourage you to overeat by affecting your satiety responses.

In short, chewing your food properly could have a real impact on your waistline, improve your digestion and even boost immunity, so take the time to savour your next meal and see what a difference it might make to you  .