Sandra Tonn, RHN
Given that we rarely chew our food thoroughly these days, you might say that chewing is a lost art - along with a lost opportunity for better health. Since ancient times, Japanese and Chinese cultures have taught the digestive benefits of chewing well.
Given that we rarely chew our food thoroughly these days, you might say that chewing is a lost art along with a lost opportunity for better health.
Since ancient times, Japanese and Chinese cultures have taught the digestive benefits of chewing well. Beyond the many physical benefits, the Chinese also believe chewing encourages patience and reduces desire.
More than a century ago, an American named Horace Fletcher - otherwise known as "the Great Masticator became a renowned advocate in the West for chewing one's way to health. Fletcher espoused chewing each mouthful 100 times until it is pure liquid and the natural swallowing reflex is activated. His theory became very popular, and avid chewers or "Fletcherisers" as they came to be known - included John D. Rockefeller and Thomas Edison.
Today, the gobble and gulp eating practices of Western society often leave us burping, bloated, fatigued and diseased. While Fletcherising isn't the answer to all of our modern-day health problems, chewing our food well can go a long way towards healing many of them.
Digestion is so directly linked to the health of our cells, that all parts of the digestive process are crucial to a healthy outcome. Chewing is a basic way to improve digestion and, therefore, increase health.
The more we chew our food, the less work we leave for the rest of our digestive organs, including the stomach, pancreas, liver, gall bladder, and intestines. Digestion actually begins in the mouth with digestive enzymes in saliva. Food must be mixed with saliva and chewed well to release its full nutritional value. As a bonus, you'll also notice that the more you chew your food, the better it tastes as nutrients are released.
The art of chewing does not allow for habits such as eating on the run or grabbing a quick bite. To chew thoroughly and digest well we need to relax and enjoy our food. The act of chewing is relaxing, which is no coincidence - the digestive system shuts down during stress. Therefore, we are only able to digest properly if we are relaxed.
Thorough chewing helps to prevent the heavy feeling that sometimes follows a meal. It may also facilitate managing and losing weight because it slows down the eating process, allowing time for the body to signal to the brain when it is full. Put down your fork or spoon after a mouthful of food and count at least 30 to 50 chews. Try 100 if you want to be a Fletcheriser.
Once you are chewing more, don't make the mistake of considering yourself a slow eater - realize instead that others eat too fast and will pay a price with their health. Mastering mastication, or the art of chewing, is a simple, yet effective step towards better health in the new year.