Why is enjoying your food good for you?
Have you ever eaten a meal really fast and felt bloated in your lower stomach? Or have you ever eaten something and a few hours later you can’t remember all that you ate, except the sensation of eating it?
We live in accelerated times where most of the time while we eat, we are doing something else too, like watching tv, scrolling our phones, reading, or even working. This lack of awareness of the food we are consuming may end up in metabolic disorders, poor digestion, and overeating. Mindful eating (the practice of maintaining “in the moment” observing how the food makes you feel and reading the signals that your body sends about taste, satisfaction, and fullness), is an awesome practice to change your dietary habits for the better, and enjoy the improved well-being that comes with a healthier diet. Here’s what happens when you enjoy what you are eating:
- You’ll absorb more nutrients:
Food is energy and we need to absorb as many nutrients from the food we eat as possible. If we aren’t absorbing these nutrients, we will miss out on the benefits of eating healthy, nutrient-rich foods.
Research has shown us that smaller food particles make for easier breakdown in our bodies. The more work you can do with your jaw, the less digestion is required of your intestines, allowing them to absorb more nutrients as the food passes through.
Dr. Richard Mattes explains that particle size affects the bioaccessibility of the energy of the food that is being consumed. The more you chew, the less is lost and more is retained in the body.
2. You’ll digest your food better:
It may seem a little weird, but as soon as you start a chewing motion, your body produces more saliva. One of the main benefits of saliva is to lubricate your food so that it slides down your throat more easily. However, that is not all that it does.
Your saliva also contains many important enzymes that aid in digestion. Upon contact with food, these enzymes start to break down your food. The longer your food can be in contact with the saliva in your mouth, the more these enzymes can assist with proper digestion. Our bodies contain a ton of different bacteria naturally in our guts. In fact, the human body carries about 100 trillion microorganisms in its intestines, a number ten times greater than the total number of human cells in the body.
However, when a large food particle enters your stomach, there is a good chance that it does not get digested enough by the time it hits your intestines. If this happens, the bacteria in your intestines will start trying to purify the food. This reaction can easily lead to gas, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain, cramping, and other digestive problems.
Make sure you slow down and adequately chew your food at each meal! Not only will it give your saliva a chance to start the digestion process, but your stomach and intestines will also appreciate a lighter workload with each meal.
3. You won’t overeat
In order to be able to control your hunger and stop eating when you’re full, you need to practice reading your body’s signals. The problem is, many of us run around all day, busy and frantic, which gets us out of tune with our bodies. So how can you learn these signals and feel satisfied, instead of feeling full?
Rest and digest
Digestion does not work properly within the sympathetic mode. The sympathetic mode of the body is part of the nervous system that’s pretty primal and out of your control. If you’ve ever heard the term ‘fight or flight’, this is a reference to the sympathetic nervous system.
It is regulated by a part of our nervous system that is outside our consciousness and acts on automatic responses. These responses prepare the body for action and to defend itself by increasing heart rate, raising body temperature, dilating pupils, sweating, and so on. It also slows down digestion, which is counterproductive during mealtime.
Eating fast puts us in a rushed state. When you eat in a rush, or while you’re feeling stressed, nervous, or anxious, your body keeps you in sympathetic mode. Since the primary job of your body when stressed is to prepare to defend itself or to run away, all of your body’s energy goes to the most essential functions like your heartbeat and muscle constriction, instead of helping you to digest food and to stay in touch with your body’s subtle feelings.
When in the sympathetic mode, your body doesn’t care about your digestion, immunity, or your feelings. This makes it really hard to be in touch with hunger signals and to know when to stop eating. It keeps your body working, and eating, on ‘autopilot’.
What does this mean?
You continue to eat whatever’s in front of you without thinking much about the experience or how you’re feeling. You miss out on the tastes, smells, textures, and full experience of eating when you don’t slow down and tune in.
- Enjoy what you eat ‘stay in the moment’.
Put your fork down in between bites. Keep the lights dim. Play some music. Take your time, employ all your feelings. Take a bite and acknowledge how it feels in your mouth. Allow 15-20 minutes to go by, so you get the full experience of eating and your stomach and brain have the chance to catch up with you, signalling that you’re full. Before and after you eat, ask yourself, am I full?
For most of us it is unrealistic to think we can be mindful for every meal, or every bite, of our day. You can try with only the first bite of your food, or even try to avoid eating mindlessly and ignoring your body’s signals. Enjoying what you eat makes you eat slower, forces you to focus on the present moment, and to change the purpose of eating from feeling full to feel satisfied.
Remember to write three things you are grateful for today.