Healthy Eating: Chewing and Digestion

Good digestion begins with thorough chewing. As the individual chews slowly, the tastes and aromas of the meal begin to stimulate the salivary glands. When a person chews, saliva moistens drier foods and makes chewing easier; signals are sent to the digestive tract to prepare a number of enzyme secretions; and the salivary enzyme amylase begins the digestion of starch in the mouth. If food is swallowed without chewing, an inadequate amount of saliva will be produced, and the food will not be properly processed before it reaches the stomach. This can result in an excess of acid, heartburn and indigestion. When a person swallows without chewing, air may be swallowed along with the food and this causes gas and bloating. Inadequate chewing may also cause choking.

Food should be chewed thoroughly until it becomes liquid in the mouth. To chew properly, it is advisable to chew each mouthful 30-50 times. A less formal habit is to place eating utensils down on the plate every now and then, and to sit back and relax between bites. Eating slowly will also make it easier for a person to both satisfy and control their appetite – the metabolic messages of feeling full have time to signal to the individual before she over-eats.

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