You’ve heard it before. Chew your food, don’t just swallow it whole. Chewing definitely affects digestion and absorption. But adequate chewing can also affect caloric intake, improve mood and focus, and improve gut hormones.
Digestion and absorption definitely benefit from chewing more. The more you chew food and break it down into smaller pieces the more easily it is broken down and absorbed. This also leads to feeling satiated (full) sooner and with less food. This can lead to a caloric reduction, or at the very least reduce overeating. Chewing more also allows you to taste more of your food which increases satiety and overall meal satisfaction.
A study on chewing found that an increased number of “chews per bite” resulted in an increase in beneficial gut hormones. The same study also found that the increased level of chewing reduced hunger for prolonged periods after a meal. Chewing is known to help with maintaining focus, as it’s often used in learning situations, driving long hours, to prevent sleepiness, etc. Study participants scored higher on intelligence and alertness tests with increased chewing. Stress was also reported to be lower in this study. While the mechanism is not totally understood, it is thought to be a combination of factors including “increases of cerebral blood flow and brain activity, cerebral blood flow, cardiovascular system, ascending reticular activating system, glucose delivery, and flavors.”
One simple way to chew more without even thinking about it is to eat away from screens. No tv, no phones. Eat with another person. Or looking outside or even at a piece of art you like. Having your meals away from screens will slow the pace of your meal and your chewing allowing for all of these benefits.