Besides the mechanical breakdown of food, chewing is important for several reasons including:
- mixing food with saliva containing enzymes that help to break down starches into smaller sugars.
- giving the rest of your digestive tract a much easier time with properly digesting and assimilating nutrients.
- reducing indigestion and gas.
- gives your jaw muscles a good workout.
- Chewing food thoroughly means until your mouthful of food has been broken down into mush. This requires a lot of chewing, about 20 to 30 chews for every mouthful of food. How many people actually do this? I would venture to say almost nobody. How easy is this to do? I would say very difficult
The basic concept of mindful eating is to pay attention to every bite of food. Here are the basic steps:
Step 1: Eat in silence with no distractions. Turn off the computer, television, stereo, and other distractions. Put away your cell phone. Step 1 can be very difficult. If you can free yourself from all these external distractions for 20 minutes, the rest of mindful eating is a piece of cake.
Step 2: Be present. Notice all the shapes, colours, and smells of your food. If we take a salad as an example, notice the shapes and colours of the various vegetables. Notice if there are any pleasant aromas. Even think about where all the vegetables came from. Imagine a farmer planting seeds and watering the soil. Imagine the energy of the sun helping the plants to sprout and produce beautiful fresh vegetables. Think of all the effort that went into preparing this meal. Feel grateful for this delicious meal you are about to enjoy. Simply spend a minute or two doing this.
Step 3: Eat. Take a mouthful of food. Try to notice the food as you bring it to your mouth. After you put the morsel of food in your mouth, put down your utensils. Chew your food slowly, savouring the texture and taste and noticing any changes. Chew slowly until the food is a paste and then swallow. Pick up your utensils and repeat again and again, at a relaxed pace. Try to stop eating when you start to feel full—this is very difficult since we are conditioned to eat until our plate is empty. Simply save leftovers for your next meal.
Eating this way takes some patience. Taking the time to eat mindfully may seem like a waste of precious time, after all we have so many things to get done today. The payoff is well worth it. You will experience improved digestion and assimilation of nutrients, getting more out of your food. You will start the next part of your day with improved energy and focus. You will accomplish a lot more compared to if you simply scarf down a meal in a hurry.