How is it already mid-November?! The holidays are fast approaching and soon we’ll be inundated with advice for avoiding the inevitable overindulgence of food and drink.
Today I’ll tackle it from a different angle – the very important task of chewing your food. Stick with me, because this information is so important you’ll want to practice it year-round.
Ever think about what’s happening in your mouth as you savor every juicy bite of that turkey? Or maybe you’ve forgotten what it feels like to savor food because life is hectic and you can’t slow down? Perhaps a better question, do you experience bloating and indigestion from eating on the run or from eating mindlessly?
Let’s break it down. Digestion uses more energy than any other involuntary function your body performs. It starts in your mouth, through chemical and mechanical means. The mechanical process is the physical breakdown of food, which starts when you chew. Chemical breakdown also begins as you chew, when your salivary glands secrete enzymes, hormones, and gastric fluid that help to separate food into little pieces, making it ready for digestion and ultimately nutrient absorption. The more you chew, the more you jumpstart digestion before ever swallowing your food. Because of this chemical process even foods that are more soft and liquid in nature like smoothies, yogurt or soup need to be chewed well. To quote Paul Bragg, known as the father of the health movement in America, and developer of products like Bragg’s apple cider vinegar: “Drink your solids and chew your liquids”!
The conclusion, the longer you chew your food, the easier digestion will be on the rest of your body. And when digestion requires less energy, there is more energy to go around elsewhere. Because after all, digestion requires more energy than any other involuntary function of your body. Bottom line: chew your food well for increased energy.
Back to tips for avoiding overindulgence, chewing well slows you down. You taste and savor your food as you chew mindfully, but also become more aware of how satisfied you are before taking a second helping.
How much should you chew your food? There is no tried and true formula, but the goal is to change the texture. If you’re a rule follower aim for
- 32 Times for softer foods
- Up to 60 times for denser foods like animal protein and fibrous veggies
It’s also important to avoid taking large bites by not overloading your fork or spoon with food. Go for one small bite at a time.
Experiment for yourself, but most importantly be patient and focus on enjoying the flavors.
With that I leave you with a lovely recipe to chew on, my favorite winter kale salad. This salad is a festive accompaniment for a holiday meal or a satisfying meal on it’s own. And it’s highly antioxidant to boot!
Massaged Winter Kale Salad
vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free
- 1 bunch curly kale
- Kosher or sea salt
- 1 apple, chopped into ¼” pieces, skin on
- Seeds from ½ of a pomegranate
- ½ medium sized beet, shredded with a micro plane or a fine cheese grater
- Toasted walnuts, roughly chopped*
Thoroughly rinse kale under cool running water and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel, or rinse and spin in a salad spinner. Remove stems by gently pinching the sides of the thick end of the stem and running your thumb and forefinger upward along the stem. Discard stems. Roll kale leaves into a cigar shape and roughly chop, first width-wise, then lengthwise. Place chopped kale in a bowl, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt and massage with your hands for a few minutes. Toss with chopped apple, pomegranate seeds and shredded beet, then toss lightly with orange ginger dressing. Let salad sit for 10 minutes, top with crushed toasted walnuts and serve.
Orange Ginger Dressing
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice (juice of 1 orange)
- 1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice (juice of ½ lemon)
- 2 Tablespoons fresh, chopped ginger
- Raw honey, to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
Combine orange juice, lemon juice, honey, chopped ginger and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Slowly combine olive oil in a thin drizzle while whisking continuously. Juice to oil ratio should be approx. 1 to 3, and finished dressing should coat the back of a spoon.
*To toast walnuts: Bake in an oven preheated to 375° F for five minutes, stirring halfway through.