01 June 2018
The benefits of eating slowly

The fast pace of life these days means we don’t always have time to sit down at the dinner table and enjoy a relaxed, unhurried meal.

In fact, surveys show the average Briton eats breakfast in under six minutes, lunch in eight minutes and dinner in just 10 minutes. Back in the 1960s when obesity rates in the UK were 20 per cent lower, the typical family spent around half-an-hour eating their evening meal.

It takes 20 minutes from the moment you begin eating for your stomach to signal to your brain that it's full. So when we eat too fast we don’t give our brain enough time to realise we’re full and usually end up eating more than we need in the process.

Slow eating is all about chewing food thoroughly, but few of us actually do. A 2010 survey by the fast food chain Subway showed the average person in Britain chews their food just six times before swallowing it.

Ideally, you should chew soft foods around seven or eight times, and denser or harder foods such as meats and raw vegetables up to 30 times, according to researchers in the US.

In addition to taking your time to eat, chewing your food for longer can help you lose weight. A study conducted in 2011 by researchers at Harbin Medical University in China reported that slimmers who chewed each mouthful of food 40 times ate significantly less and dropped more pounds that participants who masticated each mouthful only 15 times.

As eating slowly and chewing food stimulate the production of saliva, taking your time over breakfast, lunch and dinner can improve your oral health as saliva kills bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease. On top of that, the act of chewing strengthens the jaw, plus chewing on fibrous foods mimics brushing by scraping away plaque and food particles from the teeth, bolstering teeth and gum health.

Chewing also breaks down large chunks of food into smaller particles, as do the enzymes in your saliva, which puts less stress on the stomach. Chewing properly ensures your body absorbs optimal nutrients from the food you eat, another good reason to slow things down.

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