Have you ever found yourself eating without even thinking about it? Or, do you eat so fast that you don't even know what you ate or how much you ate?

We all do it. Now that I'm a parent, I find myself telling my kids to chew slowly and taste their food. Ever try putting a pizza in front of kids and then telling them to eat a bite then put the slice down and chew it up? I think that ranks right up there with torture for a kid (and a hungry adult). But that is exactly what we should do when we eat … put the fork down and chew it up.

Our body needs proper nutrition to function well. Not only do we have to choose the right foods to eat, we also have to eat them properly. Eating properly starts in the mouth. Nutrient absorption and healthy digestion begin when you start masticating or chewing your food. As you chew, your body starts releasing digestive enzymes in your mouth and your stomach. I think we depend too much on these enzymes to break down our food and not enough on our teeth. The more we use our teeth to chew up our food the less work we leave for our stomach, pancreas, liver, gall bladder and intestines (the digestive organs) to breakdown that food.

I would say that if you're reading this column, then you probably participate in some form of exercise training during your week. Congratulations! Now let's take it one step further and train our eating habits. Here's some tips to help us develop the healthy habit of chewing.

  • Use your tongue to periodically position the food between your teeth while you're chewing so that your teeth can break down the food properly.
  • Eat in a relaxed manner. Worry and anxiety tend to slow down the digestive activity. We've all had butterflies in the stomach from being nervous about something. That's a great example of how worry affects our digestion. Relax and eat.
  • Maintain a good posture. The food will travel better after you chew it up. I really like this one since I'm constantly reminding my class members and myself to "posture up."
  • Don't use liquids to wash foods down your throat. Chew your food instead and sip your liquid.

With desire, discipline and being consciously aware, we can master the art of chewing up our food. Remember that once you've swallowed your food, it's up to your digestive organs to break up the large pieces that you neglected to chew. So give your digestive organs a break. Eat well and chew it up. Here's to your good health.

About the author: Jonathan Souder is the Fitness Director at Manor House, an ACTS Retirement-Life Community in Seaford.

chew your food