ou’ve just cooked up a delicious dinner. Medium-rare grass-fed sirloin, asparagus sautéed in coconut oil and garlic, and cauliflower rice. High fives and satisfied taste buds for making a nutritious and delectable meal. But are you actually absorbing all the nutrients that food has to offer? Or will you be dropping them off with the kids at the pool?
Chew your food.
When we grew up, our parents tried to instill in us plenty of advice that was outdated or irrelevant: Elbows off the dinner table. Wear a sweater or you’ll catch a cold. Don’t replace your brother’s toothpaste with moisturizing lotion.
But occasionally a few important tips slipped in. One of them is “chew your food.” Ok, dad. 30 years and thousands of research hours later, I believe you. But I’m still going to run with scissors if someone needs them quickly.
Here’s some food for thought (pun intended) to help get that delicious dinner to where it needs to go in the body.
Digestion starts in the mouth. The longer the better. Overall less digestive energy will be needed, so that you can efficiently get all the goodness from the goodies you gobble. The physical process of chewing with your teeth breaks down the food in preparation for the stomach, and gives the stomach a head start in upregulating the acids to digest it. More surface area exposed to more digestive juices means more available nutrients. Try 15-30 chews per bite of food.
Eat slower, and you may eat less. Chewing also sends a neurological signal to your brain telling it that you’re eating, so it can start regulating your hunger hormones. This is why I hate tapas. After two hours I’ve only eaten a handful of salad, 3 olives, an almond, and two slices of seared ahi. I’m a growing boy and need more than that for dinner, but eating that slowly makes me feel full.
Poorly digested food means poor absorption of the vitamins and nutrients that the foods you are eating provide. Incomplete digestion can also lead to bacteria overgrowth, reflux, flatulence, indigestion, heartburn, gas, IBS, etc. This is one reason why we avoid legumes – they leave undigested carbohydrates in the gut, which ferment and cause bloating and gas. “Beans, beans, they’re good for the heart; the more you eat…”
Don’t drink with your meals. Fluids dilute your body’s own digestive juices and stomach acid, and decreases their ability to break down your food. Have some water before you eat or 1-2 hours after.
And on the hippy dippy side, try incorporating bone broth and fermented vegetables into your diet. Raw sauerkraut and kimchi are probably the easiest to find around (or make them). These foods provide the gut with good bacteria and aid with the digestive process, and help heal and nourish the GI tract.
So remember, just because you put it in your mouth, doesn’t mean your body is using it.
Your mouth is not a vacuum.
(And do not say “That’s what she said.” Steve Carell owns that. He OWNS it.)