Chewing Isn’t Doing

Dec 06, 2023
Photo collage of people eating, chewing, and food.

Thich Nhat Hahn’s little gem of a book How to Eat simply puts it this way, “When we are eating, we know that we are eating. When we are opening a door, we know we are opening a door. Our mind is with our actions.”

But are we paying attention to this enough?

Chewing and eating a meal is an action. Although eating begins with chewing, how we chew and therefore digest, begins the moment we sit down to eat.

Chewing is not just about a strict number of times we open and close our mouths but also about the environment or state we are eating in.  Chewing is an action that requires our simple presence to stay connected to our digestive process and, therefore, our deeper nourishment and enjoyment.

Eating is a time to slow down, take a pause, and keep other activities from becoming intertwined. Yet for many of us, we have become meal-multi taskers, diverting our attention away from the plate, flavors, and textures towards other tasks or devices and screens.

Are you a fast eater? Do you eat while checking email or driving? Do you pay attention to chewing or mostly don’t think about it? Have you heard that you must chew 32 or 100 times and feel confused? 

Chewing stimulates the production of water in the form of saliva. The more we chew, the longer we chew, and the more digestive enzymes we create, which in turn, exponentially makes for better nutritional absorption. The body likes it when we chew our food well because it has to work less hard to break it down. This eases things for the entire digestive tract.

Although we can’t always create the perfect environment full of pleasant colors and sounds, we can give consideration to our pace, our headspace, how the food makes us feel, where it came from, and how the stomach will receive its ripe nutritional offering. What we are ingesting while we digest matters!

So how do we learn to consciously chew?

Make meals an important time of rest. Use your favorite dishes. Have a glass of water a ½ hour before a meal so that you aren’t overly hungry and therefore don’t wolf your food down. Enjoy the process of putting food onto your plate.  The designated time for a meal, and the number of times you chew, is really up to you.  However, the slower and more thoroughly you chew and enjoy your meal, the more benefit you will get from your food and digestion. And the more appreciation you might feel for the pause and the food in front of you.

Chewing isn’t doing!
Angela Coon
Licensed Acupuncturist,
Digestive Wellness Specialist

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