18 April 2017Why Eating Slowly is a Good Idea

Digestion starts in the mouth.

When hearing the word digestion, most people think of the stomach and intestines. Well, digestion actually starts in the mouth, the first hollow organ that serves as the start of the digestive tract. Digestion starts with the act of chewing and ends in the small intestine. Saliva is the first digestive juice used by the body to break food into smaller particles before it is moved on to the stomach. Chewing well provides a mechanical breakdown of the foods you eat and makes it easier on the stomach to carry on the digestive process. In addition, if you suffer from heartburn, it is helpful to chew well and eat slowly because the stomach won't have to produce as much stomach acid to break down the food.

Give your taste buds a chance.

Taste buds, the sensory organs found on the tongue, allow us to experience sweet, salty, sour, and bitter flavors. The average person has 5,000-10,000 taste buds on their tongue. Chewing food longer gives them a better chance to do their thing. The nose also plays a part in enjoying foods. While chewing, the food releases chemicals that travel up into your nose. The receptors inside the nose send signals to the brain about the flavor of a food. Can you see how chewing slowly can increase the pleasure of eating that slice of pizza or chocolate cake? Even healthier foods taste better when you take the time to appreciate the subtle flavors you might otherwise miss.

Don't miss the joy of eating.

Have you ever inhaled your food so fast that you couldn't even remember eating it? Yea, me too. Last month, I attended an amazing mindful eating conference and yoga retreat offered by Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Program. During this conference, one of the exercises was to have a silent lunch. Imagine 40 adults eating together in silence. Not being distracted by conversation allowed each of us to practice fully savoring the food. Yes, it was awkward and unusual, but I cannot tell you how valuable this experience was to me. Being fully present mentally while eating allowed me to completely enjoy the food and made me want to slow down to savor it.

Ideas for slowing down and fully enjoying food taken from the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Program include:

  • Center yourself. Take a few deep breaths to calm and center before you start eating.
  • Express gratitude. Take a moment to reflect and give thanks for your food and the nourishment it provides.
  • Admire the food. Notice the colors, textures and arrangement.
  • Savor the aroma. Smell the food. Remember, the nose helps us fully taste food.
  • Stay connected while eating. Notice the temperatures, flavors, ingredients, seasonings and textures.
  • You may enjoy eating less food. Pause in the middle of eating. Create a "speed bump". Ask yourself how much more food it will take to fill you up. Don't be surprised if you realize you are already full.
  • Notice when your taste buds become less sensitive. It may be a sign that your body has had enough food.

My curious husband asked me what topic I was writing about this month. I told him it was about the advantages of eating slowly. He said, "Right, so you don't choke." Well, this is yet another practical reason to slow down while eating.

Brenda Braslow, MS, RD, CDE

Brenda is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in Denver,

Colorado who specializes in diabetes prevention and health enhancement.

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Disclaimer: Please note that we cannot provide personalized advice and that the information provided does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit a medical professional.

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Meal Planning & Diets/Healthy Eating

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