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Chew Your Food!

About Lisa Schmidt

Lisa Schmidt is an expert in the sciences of nutrition and behavioral health change. As a nutritional therapist, she specializes in weight loss, healthy weight promotion, and disordered eating. Other therapeutic specializations include grief, loss, anxiety, depression and couples counseling. She is on the faculty of Arizona State University's School of Social Work, teaching courses on Mindful Eating, Sustainability, and Stress Management.

As a Certified Nutritionist, one of the things I remind my clients is to thoroughly chew their food. Chewing Improves Digestion Why is chewing so important?  One reason is because physically chewing food in your mouth begins the process of digestion by breaking down larger pieces of food into smaller particles.  Swallowing smaller pieces of food takes pressure off of the esophagus, making the act of swallowing more efficient.  Chewing also releases saliva, which has digestive enzymes.  The release of enzymes into the throat and stomach begins the process of digestion. Chewing helps with IBS, and other digestive problems.

The process of chewing helps the body trigger digestion through the initiation of many processes.  Digestion is one of the most energy-consuming processes of the body, so it’s important that you help your body along by doing your part!  When you eat whole, fresh foods, you’ll find that the process of chewing is essential.  If you eat processed foods, which require very little chewing (by design, by the way!) you actually sabotage your body’s own digestive processes.  Your body extracts energy from the foods it eats, in order to convert the energy in plants (and animal products) and change it to our own energy fuel, ATP.

When your body cannot extract the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from the food you eat efficiently, or when it has to extract nutrients from “food like substances” that contain non digestible things like chemicals, binders, fillers, or other additives, the digestive process is impaired.  Energy conversion is compromised, and it shows up in many ways.  You may feel sick, tired, experience low mood and end up on prescribed medications for symptoms that may only be related to not eating whole, fresh foods!

Other Reasons to Chew Your Food Properly:

Dr. Michael Gregor of Nutritionfacts.org has an excellent video on his website which discusses the amazing way that cancer fighting natural compounds, called sulforaphanes, are used by the body to help boost the liver’s detoxifying functions.  What’s so amazing about these potent detoxifying enzymes is they are actually created by the act of chewing – in particular, broccoli, when two other enzymes (myrosinase and glucoraphanin) are released and “mixed” together by the action of biting into, and then chewing, broccoli.  What’s so fantastic is that we don’t need to spend lots of money on special detoxifying juice cleanses, or other forms of supplemental nutrition.  Instead, we simply need to chew our whole, fresh food thoroughly and release the natural healing compounds contained in them.  Watch Dr. Gregor’s cool video about detoxification here.

Chewing food thoroughly also:

  • Helps food move through the digestive tract.  Chewing sends messages to our GI system that food is on its way.  This triggers the production of stomach acids which help spped up digestion.
  • Relaxes the lower stomach, which needs to relax before food can be transported to the intestines. Releasing saliva helps to relax the lower stomach and also speeds up the digestive process.

Conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can be aggravated by poor chewing mechanics.  If you are troubled with gas, bloating, pain, or bowel problems, you might want to visit a dietician trained in the treatment of IBS.  Contact me for a consultation.

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