“Nature will castigate those who don’t masticate.”― Horace Fletcher
So you’ve dialed in your nutrition, followed a strict macronutrient plan, and you still aren’t experiencing results? The solution could be far simpler than you can imagine: chewing your food 32 times every bite.
While it’s true that we are what we eat, we are also how we eat. In our busy society, too many individuals rush through meals, skip chewing their food, or simply wash down what they put in their mouth with a variety of liquids. Such food practices lead to serious digestive issues and consistent overeating because the body is not getting any nutrition from the poorly chewed food. The failure to properly chew food can also lead to bloating and weight gain.
Therefore proper nutrition isn’t just about meeting macros and eating quality foods. It’s about producing the right hormonal responses in the body to food. This can be all accomplished by simply chewing your food!
When one thinks about what makes up the human digestive system, one typically visualizes the stomach and the intestinal tract only. This leads many to believe that digestion starts in the stomach. However, what this common perception is missing is the actual starting point for the entire digestive process: the mouth. The physical act of digesting food starts in your mouth, not in the stomach. This is perhaps one of the most critical reasons why you need to chew your food an appropriate amount of times. It sets up the entire digestive process for success by allowing nutrients in food to actually be utilized by the body for its natural processes.
When it comes to the actual act of chewing, your teeth, tongue, and salivary glands all play critical roles that set up the digestive process. Your teeth grind down consumed food into more manageable and smaller bites, your salivary glands secrete various enzymes on the food to aid in absorption, and your tongue manipulates the food in your mouth to get it finely chewed before it enters the stomach.
(Coach’s Resource: Chewing your food is one of our eight Basic Lifestyle Guidelines (BLGs). Learn how to coach healthy lifestyles and the seven other BLGs in this free course.)
Doing such a simple task like chewing your food actually yields plenty of results for your health and wellbeing. Here are the seven health benefits you can receive from chewing your food according to Dr. Mercola:
Dozens of studies have proven these benefits. The latest research from the Institute of Food Technologists has shown that when participants chewed almonds longer, the smaller particles were better and more quickly absorbed by the body. Further studies conducted by researchers at Harbin Medical University in China found that participants consumed 11.9 percent fewer calories, regardless of whether they were slender or obese when they spent more time chewing. They also lost weight, lost fat, and claimed to feel more energetic throughout the day.
If you find that over the course of reading this you feel you don’t chew your food enough or thoroughly, you can change it. You can change it if done in an ‘active’ way, as chewing is an ingrained habit. Like any bad habit, it takes time to reshape and reform. Our coaches suggest that you start by attempting to chew each bite around 32 times. However, the amount of ‘chewing’ appropriate for yourself may be entirely different. In any case, the overall goal when you chew your food is to grind whatever you’re eating into a fine paste. In addition, you should:
This leads us into a concept we at OPEX Fitness call ‘food hygiene’. Food hygiene is not just about what you eat, it’s about how you eat. It’s really not as complicated as it may sound. Do you sit or stand while you eat? Are you chewing your food 32 times? Are you distracted while eating? The answers to these questions reflect how you eat your food as well. Chewing your food is an important part of food hygiene as it is part of the eating process. However, there are other elements within food hygiene you should optimize if you wish to enhance your digestive system.
Start nourishing your body by following these basic tips:
Remember, the digestion process starts with chewing. Not when the food is in your stomach. It may take some time for your body to adjust to these food hygiene practices. However, the payoff will come in the form of improved athletic performance, better body composition, and better resiliency both mentally and physically.
Sometimes the key to achieving your fitness goals is about what takes place outside of the gym rather than in it. That is why we have created OPEX Nourishment, learn more about our nourishment ideology and get our Basic Lifestyle Guidelines in the free mini-course Coach’s Toolkit.