Chew Well to Feel Well

by Dr. Joseph McCaffrey on June 22, 2009 · 4 comments

By Dr. Joseph McCaffrey


“Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours.”


 – Swedish Proverb


Your Mom was right again.


There are a number of bad habits out there. A relatively minor but significant one is eating too fast.


There are a lot of reasons why eating more slowly and chewing food well is the way to go.


The minor ones have to do with digestion. The digestive process actually begins when you’re chewing. The process of chewing mechanically breaks the food down into smaller particles that are more easily digested and absorbed.


As you chew, the chemical digestive process begins as well. Enzymes in your saliva mix with food and start the digestive process even before it reaches your stomach.


There’s a big difference between how your stomach responds to well-chewed food and food that arrives in big, coarse chunks.


That’s the functional reason for eating more slowly and chewing well. Other reasons are more important.


Ideally, you eat a lot of your meals with family and friends. Sharing food and family meals creates social bonds that are a precious part of human relationships. Rushing through these meals to rush on to something else lessens the experience.


Good food is a pleasure. It should be enjoyed. Eating slowly and savoring adds to the enjoyment of our meals. It’s one of life’s grace notes. Rush through a meal and we miss it. As we chew, we can enjoy and appreciate the food.


Eating more slowly and chewing well also helps us eat more prudently. Ideally, we come to a meal moderately hungry. We know that eating will sate our hunger. However, it takes time for the food to be digested and enough of it absorbed that the message of satiety is generated.


If we eat quickly, we can eat right by the point of adequate nutrition. We wind up eating more that we need. We feel uncomfortable later and those extra calories become body fat. Not too many of us need more of that.


Here are some suggestions to slow down eating and enjoy meals more.


One technique is to chew each bit of food for a specific number of bites. That is, actually count how many times you chew each mouthful of food. I’ve seen people recommending up to 50 bites for every bit of food.


Others say this approach is too rigid, and that people should just chew until the food is mostly liquid.


However many people find it helpful to actually count bites. It gives them a ritual to follow that helps break old habits. You can try 25 chews and see what that seems like. As time goes by, you may find you need to count less because you become used to swallowing more liquid food.


You also may find you enjoy eating more as you chew well.


Another easy tip to slow the pace of your meals is to put the implements down between bites. Instead of holding your knife and fork at the ready so you can take another bite of food as soon as you swallow, set them down between morsels. You’ll enjoy dinner more and your companions will enjoy the extra attention.


About the Author:  Joseph F. McCaffrey, MD, FACS is a board-certified surgeon and HeartMath Trainer  with extensive experience in both alternative and complementary medical practices. His areas of expertise include mind-body interaction and cognitive restructuring.  Dr. McCaffrey strives to help people attain their optimum level of vitality by stressing wellness rather than disease. To learn more, click HERE. 


[Editor’s Comments:  OK.  I admit it.  People that eat too fast are absolutely one of my biggest pet peeves…and it drives me nuts!  Just ask my wife and kids…they will certainly attest to this!!! 


I am constantly telling the older kids to “slow down,” “chew your food,” or “Don’t put another bite in your mouth until you swallow what’s already in there.” There are times when I can hardly enjoy my meal because one or all of the kids are “inhaling” their food without much chewing.  Ugh!


Can you tell it frustrates me just to think about it?  I don’t know why, but I’m just programmed to eat slowly.  I am ALWAYS the last person at the dinner table, whether I’m at home or out with friends/family. 


I don’t do it purposely.  I don’t have to count bites or put down my tableware like Dr. McCaffrey suggests.  I just do it naturally. 


What about you?  Are you a fast eater or a slow eater?  Have you noticed any health issues from eating too quickly, like bloating, indigestion, constipation or overeating? Do you have any additional tips for eating more slowly you’d like to share?  Leave us a Comment and let us know.]


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ronnie June 22, 2009 at 7:59 am

I eat so fast that sometimes I do not even remember what I ate.
Good article.

2 Maria June 23, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Pretty cool post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say
that I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Anyway
I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon!

3 Michele June 30, 2009 at 8:46 am

I definitely eat fast. Hey now…It is not my fault. I grew up in a house with 7 kids and we usually had friends over so really it was like having 12 or more people in the house. So if you did not get to the food fast and eat fast you did not eat. Well that’s my excuse.

I am trying to eat slower by talking more during a meal or taking smaller bits to chew longer.

I also take more sips of my water in-between bits, slowing me down and filling my stomach more with the water rather than the heavy food.

4 Pete June 30, 2009 at 11:51 pm

Hi Michele. Thanks for all of your great comments!

One thing you should NOT do is drink water when you’re eating. It can dilute your stomach acid and make digestion more difficult. You should try not to drink water at least 1/2 hour before your meal and 1 hour after. Some experts say longer…but that’s about all I can take.

Of course you can still have a glass of red wine with your food. 🙂

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Previous post:

Next post:

The Healthy Minute Facebook Fan Page