Food for Thought
The digestive tract, a 30-foot marvel of mechanical and chemical bio-machinery, turns the 3 or 4 pounds of food that we eat every day, into us, plus eliminated waste. While most of us think of the stomach and the intestines and perhaps the pancreas and gallbladder when it comes to digestion, in reality, this incredible, if under-appreciated, multi-step process begins in the head. When we THINK about our food, we initiate the secretion of digestive juices that facilitate its breakdown in the stomach. This is why it’s critical to pay attention to our meals while we’re eating them. Not only does eating mindlessly impair the digestive process, making harder to decompose what we ingest, but just as importantly when we’re oblivious to what we eat, we miss satiety signals that can result in excessive intake of food. The head is home to another key component of the digestive system, the teeth. While using our chompers isn’t necessarily something we have to learn, using them well is. When done effectively chewing helps reduce stress on the esophagus and improves contact with salivary enzymes, essentially pre-digesting food before it enters the stomach. Saliva also contains buffers that neutralize cavity causing acids and enhance remineralization of dental enamel
While some health care professionals recommend chewing at least 32 times before swallowing, that’s not always required. To get the maximum mastication benefits you just need to chew until food has lost at least most if it’s texture before swallowing.