Perhaps you remember your mother scolding you for eating your food too fast and not chewing “enough” times as a child. Well, new medical research has shown that in this case, mom really did know best.
According to a study published in the January 2014 edition of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you likely consume fewer calories during meals when you eat slowly and chew your food more thoroughly. First, this study separated test subjects into a “normal weight” group and an “overweight” group. The normal weight group consumed an average of 88 fewer calories during a slowly-eaten meal, while the overweight group consumed 58 less calories in those meals. Both groups reported drinking more water during these meals and feeling more full after the meals were eaten.
In conclusion, the researchers found that, “Eating slowly significantly lowered meal energy intake in the normal-weight but not in the overweight/obese group. It lowered eating rate and energy density in both groups. Eating slowly led to lower hunger ratings in both groups and increased fullness ratings in the normal-weight group at 60 minutes from when the meal began.”
This certainly isn’t the first research study, nor the last, about the benefits of mindful eating. Researchers who published a July 2013 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism concluded that eating slowly leads to feeling fuller longer. A study published in PLOS One found that prolonged chewing helped prevent diabetes, and a study published in Appetite found that prolonged chewing at lunch decreased the amount of snacking later in the afternoon.
When you eat fast, your body doesn’t have time to go through its natural signaling processes and alert your hormones that you’ve had enough food to eat. According to Harvard Health Publications contributor, Ann MacDonald, “Stretch receptors in the stomach are activated as it fills with food or water; these signal the brain directly through the vagus nerve that connects gut and brainstem.” In this circumstance, it’s easy to overeat, and scientists agree that it takes your brain about 20 minutes to realize your body is full.
So what does this mean for you and your diet? Regardless of whether you consider yourself at a “normal” weight or not, your health will benefit by simply slowing down and focusing on the actions you take. This principle of mindfulness doesn’t just apply to eating; it applies to work, recreation, exercise, and spending time with friends and family. Food was not meant to be gobbled up as fast as possible without thoughtful consideration. Pay attention to each and every thing that you put in your body to naturally boost your mental and physical wellness in the long term. Most studies suggest that 40 chews per bite is best, so start counting until mindful eating becomes your new routine!