Mothers, teach your children to eat right … and chew
Mothers, don't let your kids become dinosaurs! Look what happened to them – they used their pearly wonders to grab and hack, then they gulped their food. Extinction. Museum pieces.
So grab some carrots and read this to your kids, practicing chewing as you read. You can consider it exercise if you do it properly – a new team game!
So what’s the deal about chewing your food?
First, your mouth isn’t just a hole down which slides your food. Oh no: your mouth is the first part of your digestive system. Heck, even before you put food in it, if you’re thinking about food or smelling food or eyeing some food, your mouth goes to work making sure enzymes are already in place to do their good work. Good work? That has to do with breaking down the food a bit, or a lot, well before it hits your poor, over-worked belly.
Here’s what’s going on (you can work along with us, here – give some thought to your favorite food, then notice what’s happening in your own mouth):
Your brain senses your interest in having a bite of food.
It activates part of your metabolic system – the salivary glands begin pumping a chemical mix that includes the enzymes that break down food into molecules (do you feel the “juice” in your mouth? If so, you're ready to begin eating. Guess, too, you’re playing along with us – thanks for that!).
The enzymes are fit and ready and in place to really get to work. Did you know that each enzyme has a food specialty? That's right – each enzyme is only interested in one type of food molecule (for example, the enzyme “lactase” is only interested in metabolizing “lactose,” one of the ingredients of milk).
But you foil them by eating too fast – gulp, gulp, gulp. No chance for the enzymes to do much.
But maybe, just maybe, you’re a slow eater, so you start chewing away and you take your sweet time doing it. You're relaxed, good to be around, not a messy eater. You’ll go far in life!
Your enzymes are now happily doing their chemical thing – recognizing the food in your mouth and breaking it all down, bit by bit.
You chew each mouthful about 30 times. Wow! Thirty times. Typically, teenagers and men chew about seven times. Not good. My friends dog, Tavish, only chews once, twice max. But then he only lives about 1/7th as long you will. Think there’s a link?
Because you've allowed all that good food to dwell in your mouth for so long, you have optimized its flavor and nutrient values. Well done!
In a sense, you have “juiced” your food. Yup – your mouth and teeth together are the best food juicers in the world. Sell your juicing machines. Who needs them?
Because you took your time with your food you will have enjoyed all the flavor the food has to offer. Next, you will have metabolized the food so the rest of your metabolic system (starting with your tummy) can really extract the most nutrients possible from the juiced foods without experiencing stress.
Third, because you have taken your time, your brain will determine that you are full without your having to have eaten tons of food. Fourth, you will have enjoyed your meal, experienced pleasure and satisfaction, and, maybe, enjoyed the company of others around the table. Then, finally, you won't feel stuffed and swollen once your meal is finished.
No, actually this is “finally” – you will likely discover, once you start chewing a lot and slowly, that your weight will not be the problem it may have been for you. Finally!
Gloria Askew, RRN, has served as department head at numerous emergency wards and as a chief administrator of a major Canadian hospital. Jerre Paquette, Ph.D, is a professor of English and Film Studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta.