Chew Well, Eat Less!
It is not uncommon to find ourselves racing through meals and scarfing down food on the go these days. As a result, it’s easy to forget a very simple yet crucial aspect of eating: CHEWING. Remembering to thoroughly chew the food we consume is an adjustment that could potentially aid our weight loss efforts for a variety of different reasons.
First, chewing well allows us to taste more deeply and detect the flavors of our food. This enhancement of both taste and flavor plays a large role in our feeling of satiety (feeling full and satisfied). If we eat our food too quickly, the taste and flavor of the food consumed may be lost along with the sensation of feeling full and satisfied, thus causing us to consume more. In a study examining overweight and lean subjects, it was shown that the overweight subjects had faster eating rates as well as significantly less chews per gram of food than the lean subjects (3,4).
How does chewing affect our appetite?
Second, the mechanism of chewing plays a role in the stimulation of gut hormones that regulate food intake. One of these hormones, leptin, is released and sends signals to the brain to tell us we are done eating. Hurray! We are now feeling full and satisfied. Chewing thoroughly ensures the release of leptin and increases levels of leptin as well as other appetite-regulating hormones such as insulin and cholecystokinin (CCK). Without the stimulation of these hormones, appetite satisfaction or satiety may not occur. In other words, we end up eating more food in an effort to feel full and satisfied (1,2).
How does chewing decrease our intake?
Finally, chewing increases the surface area of the food we eat, which not only aids in the digestive process, but also aids in the absorption and bioavailability of nutrients. With nutrient breakdown and absorption, our bodies register (bioavailability) that we have eaten enough and that we have acquired the necessary nutrients for health. Without this process, it is possible to consume more food than we need as the body continues the search for nutrients and energy. Other authors have suggested that much of the overly processed, nutritionally lacking foods consumed by many is a reason for overconsumption — the body continues the search to acquire necessary nutrients. One study referenced below showed that chewing thoroughly actually lowered energy intake by 11.9% (equal to a 215 calorie deficit for someone eating 1800 calories a day). (3,4).
Better Gut Tip: Choose an amount of food that will fit comfortably in your mouth, then chew it slowly and deliberately, savoring tastes and textures. Swallow with intention when the consistency is smooth.
1. Miquel-Kergoat S, Azais-Braesco V, Burton-Freeman B, Hetherington MM. Effects of chewing on appetite, food intake and gut hormones: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Physiol Behav. 2015; 1(151): 88-96. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.07.017.
2. Zhu Y, Hsu WH, Hollis JH. Increasing the number of masticatory cycles is associated with reduced appetite and altered postprandial plasma concentrations of gut hormones, insulin and glucose. British Journal of Nutrition. 2013; 110: 384–390 doi:10.1017/S0007114512005053
3. Li J, Zhang N, Hu L et al. Improvement in chewing activity reduces energy intake in one meal and modulates plasma gut hormone concentrations in obese and lean young Chinese men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011; 94(3): 709-716. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.015164
4. JM Frecka, JH Hollis, RD Mattes. Effects of appetite, BMI, food form and flavor on mastication: almonds as a test food. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008; 62: 1231–1238. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602838