Chewing your food is the first step in a very long and complex process that our body goes through to digest our food. If our digestion isn’t working properly, we cannot obtain the nutrients and energy from the food we eat to live healthy and happy lives.
I think its fair to say that we are always in a rush, because there are just SO many things to do right? Eating on the run or quickly shoving some food in at meals times is really common. Some people even see eating as an inconvenient due to the time it take. This results in not chewing our food properly.
‘So what’ you might ask. Well, if you aren’t chewing your food properly, you aren’t digesting it properly. This step is SO important for digestion. Think about it – it’s the very first step in a long line of things that need to occur for us to digest our food properly so we can utilise the nutrients within it! What’s the point of eating that beautiful grass fed steak or avocado and salmon salad if your body can’t get all the nutrients from within in?
Chewing is the only major mechanical process in digestion, the rest is chemical which means its really the only step we have total control over!
Here’s the three main things that happen when we chew properly.
We use our teeth and tongue to break the food into small particles (which increasing the surface area) so that our digestive juices can work quickly and effectively. If big chunks of food make it to our stomach, the rest of the digestive process has to work a lot harder and sometimes food doesn’t get completely digested.
Salivia is released in the mouth and this starts the break down of carbs and more importantly, this along with the physical act of chewing, triggers processed further down the digestive tract. So when we don’t spend time chewing, the whole digestive process is affected.
When we spend time chewing properly, we become mindful of what we are eating. This is a beautiful habit to get into. Not only can you spend a few moments giving thanks to the food for nourishing you, but by slowing down and spending the correct amount of time enjoying your meal, you are more likely to be in ‘rest and digest’ mode. This is very important! If you are stressed or rushing, your nervous system will read this as a sign that it needs to be in ‘fight or flight’ mode rather than ‘rest and digest’. If you are in fight and flight, your digestions is slowed or even stopped! Have you ever been nervous and needed to rush to the toilet? That’s because you went into fight and flight and your digestion was shut down.
Please make the simple art of chewing a daily practice. The more you chew, the less bloating and flatulence you will have AND you’ll have extra energy as your body will be able to actually access all those nutrients in your food.
Have you noticed there are million-and-one ways to ‘eat healthy’? No red meat, no saturated fats, gluten free, low carb, raw foods only, no dairy, specific macro ratio’s, fructose free, paleo, according to your blood type, low FODMAP, insert newest found diet here! It can be completely overwhelming. But what if we strip it all back to a simple concept?
Sound easy enough, but what exactly is real food?
I’m referring to food that comes from nature and is as close to its unprocessed state as possible. This includes vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, grains, meat, eggs, fish, seafood etc. Basically, if it comes from nature, it’s a real food. Note – There is a caveat, which I’ll get to soon.
The epidemic of food-like products
A ‘food-like product’ is something that tastes like food, looks like food and even smells like food, but isn’t actually FOOD. To explain what I mea, let’s take a look at something I would call a ‘food-like product’:
This is what a major Supermarket brand in Australia uses to make it’s chicken nuggets, something you probably consider to be a food, right? But as you can see, you’re not getting chicken covered in breadcrumbs which is what you assume chicken nuggets are.
Let’s take a closer look.
All those numbers in the ingredients list are additives made in a chemical lab. I can assure you, they don’t come from nature! ‘Wheat gluten’ is one of the proteins within the wheat grain. Have you ever stopped to think about how they might get the gluten out of a grain? Know this; it wasn’t done in kitchen. Another ingredient listed is ‘Natural flavouring’ but rest assured, it’s far from natural. This is something that started with a food based ingredient and was then manipulated with upwards of 40 chemicals to make a ‘flavour’ that could be added to these little nuggets of wannabe-food, to make them taste more like real food. ‘Egg powder’ is made by spray drying liquid eggs, a process which is known to oxidize the naturally occurring cholesterol in the yolk, making it extremely dangerous for human consumption. Egg powder has a shelf life of 5 to 10 years when stored without oxygen. Is this a real food? I think not. I could go on but you get the point.
Unfortunately, chicken nuggets are just one example. In reality, the vast majority of what you will find in a supermarket can be considered ‘food-like products’.
Take a look for yourself. Do you have ice cream in the freezer? Perhaps some Milo in the cupboard? Shapes or other premade savoury delights? What about your yoghurt? Surely yoghurt is real food? Quite possibly not… go take a look at the ingredient list on some of your store bought products. See how many ingredients you actually recognise and ask yourself this: If you don’t recognise them, do you think your body will?
The aforementioned caveat.
Ok this is where it can get a bit tricky so I’ll keep it as simple as possible. Arsenic comes from nature, but it’s not a real food, for obvious reasons. Seed oil comes from nature but it is not a real food either. Why? Because it has been very heavily processed with heat and chemicals which create a product that is nothing like the product we started with. As mentioned, real food comes from nature and is as close to its unprocessed state as possible. On the contrary, Olive Oil is a real food, made simply by pressing olives to squeeze out the oil. That’s it! Can you see the difference?
There are many examples I could give but my aim is to make your healthy eating habits simple, not more complicated! So if it comes from nature, the next question to ask is, did your Nana’s Grandmother eat this? Seed oil = no. Butter = Yes. (Because butter is a real food. It’s just agitated cream and maybe some salt) Did your Nana’s Grandmother eat margarine? No. Did she eat ice cream? Possibly, but only if it was home made. Did she eat bread? Probably, but it didn’t contain anti-caking agents, preservatives or bleached flour. You get the idea.
A simple summary.
Eat real food. From Nature. As close to its unprocessed state as possible.
If in doubt ask yourself, did your Nana’s Grandmother eat this?