7 Benefits of Eating Slowly
This article explains the importance and benefits of eating slowly and why eating quickly can be detrimental to your health.
Why Do You Eat?
You eat to give enough energy to your body. You eat to get enough nutrients to keep you healthy.
Will you achieve these if you eat fresh food, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables?
You will if you eat properly. Otherwise, all the foods you consumed will not only go out as waste but will be toxic to your body. This happens if you gobble up your food and eat them in a rush. You do not give your system enough time to digest the food.
We are all guilty of shoveling food down and eating quickly from our early childhood days to college days and to working days. These are all bad habits.
To eat slowly, you have to use your teeth to chew and not many people realize this.
Chewing food slowly is important as it helps the body to get more nutrients. How it works is through the enzymes in your saliva. The moment food enters your mouth; it will act by breaking down the food, enhancing your ability to digest these foods. The longer the food stays in your mouth, the more time the saliva has to act on these foods. That is why you need to slowly chew your food and enjoy its every single moment.
Fast eaters do not make good company for dining out. They are too busy gulping their food and have no time to talk and appreciate the company of others. You practically feel invisible sitting next to them!
While it is not easy to change this habit, it is something worth doing.
Eat Slowly is Part of Religious Practice
Eating slowly is not a modern healthy lifestyle. It was recommended since ancient times and even recorded in many religious teachings.
It is recommended in Judaism (reference: Jewish idea Daily) and in Islam (reference: The Islamic Bulletin), where eating should be done slowly and to stop eating when full.
Therefore, eating slowly has been an ancient habit and what you eat is just as important as how you eat.
Benefits of Eating Slowly
Eating slowly has many health benefits. If you are still not convinced of this lifestyle, the following reasons will help change your perception and convert you into doing the simple act of eating slower.
1. Lose weight
For you to eat less and lose weight the trick is not just to have the feeling of a full stomach but also for the brain to receive and give signals that you had a satisfying meal.
The hormone, leptin, is the link that signals the brain on satiety. It will enhance the feeling of fullness and pleasure, after your meal.
This will not function if you eat fast as the intricate system does not have enough time to work. Therefore, chew your food slowly and give yourself enough time to enjoy the pleasure of eating and at the same time, give your system adequate time for the hormone leptin to get into action.
For Better Digestion
2. Better Digestion
Eating slowly gives the enzyme in your saliva sufficient time to break down the food. This will give better digestion.
If your digestive system is weak, you will not absorb the many nutrients in your food, irrespective of whether it is high-quality organic food or junk food.
Unlike what most people perceived it to be, digestion starts in the mouth and not in your stomach. Hence, the more time spent chewing food in the mouth, the less time taken to do this function in the stomach. Therefore, you will have less digestive issues.
Wind or flatulence is one of the side effects of poor digestive system. It arises from trapped wind cause by, amongst the things, eating too fast.
4. Less Stress
When you eat slowly, you concentrate on your eating and your mind is focus on that action only. You pay attention to your eating. You are in a state that is less stressful unlike when you are gulping your meals and thinking of what to do next.
5. Insulin Resistance
Based on the studies by Japanese researchers in 2007 among middle-aged men and women in Japan, eating fast will lead to insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance will increase the probability of developing diabetes as well as heart disease.
6. Metabolic Disorder
In the study conducted by the Health Department of SUNY Health Science Center, on the relationships between fat distribution and eating rate, the fatty liver and increased level of serum lipids are common in people that eat fast.
Hence, eating fast will results in the accumulation of fat in the liver, causing liver injury as well as hypertension.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition where food in the stomach will flow back into the esophagus (i.e. the digestive tube from your mouth to the stomach) causing irritation and heartburn.
If you suffer from frequent heartburn, you will feel the burning sensation in the chest. This will get worse if you lie down. You may also get a wheezing cough and have a problem sleeping. This may make you moody and ill-tempered.
To rid of these problems, eat slowly.
How to Eat Slowly
Winston Churchill once said that "Eating words has never given me indigestion'" but if you eat fast, it certainly will give you indigestion and bad health!
It is not easy to change this habit and will certainly take time. The following suggestions will help you adapt and change to this new habit of eating properly and slowly. If you find it hard, remember that if you gulp your chow down too fast, you tend to gobble up more.
1. Do Not Eat When You are Hungry
Having a mild to moderate hunger is a normal signal telling you that your body's metabolic action is working well in burning off your previous meal. When you prolong this and the intense hunger comes into action, you not only find it hard to concentrate but will be irritable and find it hard to eat slowly.
Therefore, do not wait until you are very hungry to have your meals. If you feel hungry in between meals, drink plenty of mineral water and have fruits or nuts. This will help tide you over, until it is mealtime.
UPDATE: A reader, Craig Hartranft, suggested that since the word 'hunger' may have different meaning to people from different countries, I should clarify it to mean "that if you have an extreme appetite for lack of prolonged food consumption to eat smaller portions in confined period" See his full text in the comment section, below.
2. Do Not Eat Standing Up
Problems with some of the fast food joints or busy places like airport are the lack of sitting areas. You end up standing or even walking while having your meal. You will be wondering why it matters whether you eat standing or walking and not sitting down.
Just like eating when you are intensely hungry, eating while standing or walking will make you eat more. You will also eat quickly and in the end, you will feel hungry again two hours later.
Find a place to sit. Sitting at a table for your meal will psyche your brain that you are having a meal. You will most likely eat slower and you tend to eat only when you are hungry.
3. Eat in Small Portion
When you eat in small portions and on small plates, you take your time to enjoy the meal. If this is difficult to help you through the day, then take frequent small portion meals.
This helps to maintain a constant blood sugar level hence giving you more energy through the day. This is important if you are diabetic.
Eating a small portion frequently will also keep your metabolism working. This is your body function that works to digest food. Just remember to take them in smaller bites and chew thoroughly.
Enjoy Your Food More
Grow, prepare and eat your own food. You will enjoy it more if it is the fruit of your labor,
4. Do Not Multi-task
I have to admit I am a frequent offender of trying to do so many things at any one time. While having my breakfast I might be reading the newspaper or putting the laptop and other stuff into the briefcase.
At night, I might be having dinner while watching television or reading and answering my emails.
Multitasking is good to a certain extent but if you include having your meal into that regime, it can be harmful. You tend to eat more and faster. So resist this urge and give yourself a break to enjoy your meal.
5. Talking When Having Meals
It certainly is bad to talk with your mouth full and in certain quarters, it is bad etiquette to talk too much while eating food.
However, talking while you are having meals will help slow you down. Just make sure not to talk with your mouth full.
Indian Ayurveda and Eating Slow
Ayurveda way for better digestion also includes sitting down when eating and not while walking, standing, or driving.
Another way to improve the digestive system is to stimulate the 'digestive fire', Agni. This is by eating a concoction of fresh ginger, lemon juice, and salt just before lunch or dinner. This will activate the digestive enzymes.
Avoid Cold Drinks during Meals - Instead, Drink Beverage at Room Temperature.
Ayurveda compares the digestive Agni with burning fire. A big fire will burn the food and small fire will take a longer time to cook. So balancing the flame is important. Putting cold water will extinguish the fire.
In Ayurveda practices, drinking cold drinks or with ice is a big no-no as this will douses the digestive fire.
Practice and Continue to Practice
You need to stop the bad habit of gulping your food. Make a point to practice the suggestions mentioned earlier.
Put a reminder on your mobile phone just before mealtime on the good eating habits. Put it down in your diary, on your fridge door and get your partner and family members to be part of this new eating lifestyle.
Resources and References
- Harvard Health Publication: Eating Slowly
- Science Direct: The Obese Eating Style
- US National Library of Medicine: Eating fast leads to insulin resistance
- US National Library of Medicine: Metabolic correlates of eating behavior in severe obesity
© 2012 Mazlan