When my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday, the only thing I could think of was cake.
I'm a little cake obsessed, which is not a good thing. As the day drew nearer and I could get some distance from my cravings, I decided that the best thing for me to do was bake a Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Chocolate Cake (you can get that recipe here). I even turned down my extremely thoughtful sister-in-law Kathy's offer to purchase a cake from a local vegan bake shop, because as we all know, just because it's vegan, doesn't mean it's healthy! In the end, I'm really glad I did.
My 41st birthday fell smack in between the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). I spent a great deal of time thinking about the things that I could do better and the ways that I needed to improve. And chewing my food more topped my list.
I'm not a good chewer.
There, I said it.
So what's my deal with chewing? I think I'm kind of always in a rush, and it takes a long time to really chew your food. I also don't like the way my jaw feels after spending a lot of time chewing. It hurts. It's probably a muscle I need to develop just like my flabby abs.
Chewing is important. It slows down the eating process. Which I need to do because overeating is one of my habits. If I chew well and slowly, chances are I would become bored with chewing and stop eating as soon as I felt sated, a great way to not overindulge.
Chewing well is essential to good digestion and absorption of nutrients. Chewing your food helps break it down before it heads south to your stomach, and the time your food spends in your mouth is valuable for a few reasons.
Your saliva is a powerful weapon when it comes to digestion. It contains enzymes that break down fats and starches that can only go to work if your food is chewed, thus letting your saliva cover more surface area of what you're trying to consume. If you don't chew as well, these enzymes don't have the ability to break down starches (providing you with energy) or start digesting fats (leaving them partially unprocessed). You'll receive less energy and feel more sluggish as a result.
Saliva also helps relax your stomach muscles, allowing pieces of food to pass along the digestive track and without enough mouth juice, things get a little cramped and painful. So next time you think you had too many lentils, maybe you just didn't chew them long enough?
If your food isn't chewed well enough, your body as a result can feel a little bloated and gassy. This can result from large food particles that aren't digested fully and pass through our colon where they become little floating islands for growing bacteria, which creates the smell and bloating on the other end of your meal.
Though it seems like anything we put in our bodies should be fully digested in our stomach and taken care of, that's not always the case. Though it might be processed by our tummies and the rest of the works from there on out, it doesn't mean our bodies are able to extract all that they could from the food. It doesn't do you any good to make healthy eating choices and not be able to receive all the benefits from it. It would be like going to a spa and paying for a full afternoon if bliss and only getting a pedicure.
As a result, it means that each piece of food we put in our bodies should be chewed well. The amount of chews differs for different foods, and whole, real food takes a decent amount of chews. Make sure you take the time to savor what you eat, allowing your body to extract all it can to better itself, while you max out on all that yummy flavor!
Here are some suggestions for improving our chewing:
- The first tip, if you tend to be a quick eater, it is for you to try to remember, just slow yourself down. So, if you can put up a little sign where you eat that literally slows you down and chew, that will help you because chewing is such an automatic response that unless we remind it, will go into our natural habits.
- Another thing that you can do is to take a few relaxing breaths. By that I mean when you are sitting before your food, typically we dive right in and start to eat it. When you are sitting there, take a moment, relax, feel yourself sitting in your chair and take a breath to about three quarters full, hold it for just a moment and then exhale. If you do that three or four times, it will relax your body, it will slow you down and it will give you time to reprogram your mind to chew that food.
- You don't have to count your chews, since this could interfere with your ability to participate in mealtime conversation, but break down your food with your teeth until it is easily swallowed. If you are very disciplined you might try counting. Give yourself 15 or 22s or if you can get up to 25 even while you are practicing that would be great.
- Don't put another bite in your mouth until you have chewed the one currently in your mouth — a great habit to prevent mindless overeating.
- It's easier to completely chew your food if you take smaller bites, so don't shovel mouthfuls in.
- If you need to use water to wash your bite down, chances are high you didn't completely chew your food. So sip in between bites, not during.
- Put your fork down in between bites. This simple action helps you slow down and truly focus on the food that is in your mouth. Instead of shoveling, take a bite put it down and spend some time.
Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Chocolate Cake
Full of veggies and fruit, it takes a bit of time and effort to make it, but it is oh-so-worth-it. The taste gets even better as it develops it's flavor over time, so make it a few days in advance and refrigerate. How do I know this? Because I've been eating the leftovers since Saturday.
Even Max (3) and Maya (6) like Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Chocolate Cake when they aren't given the choice of this treat versus some sweet processed crap or something full of white sugar and butter.
Where do you fall? Slow chewer or fast eater?
Have you ever tried to slow your eating down and chew more fully? What was the result?