How You Eat Matters as Much as What You Eat – Here’s Why
For many years, there has been a constant emphasis on what, when, and why you should (or should not) eat certain food. While these should all be considered, did you know that HOW you eat food matters too?
Recent research highlighted the importance of knowing HOW to eat your food and the positive impacts linked to these. With that being said, here are some tweaks to your eating habits you should consider not just to enjoy the food you eat, but potentially improve your well-being too.
- Eat slowly.
Authors of a 2015 study revealed that people who ate faster may have more body weight and possibly a higher obesity risk. On the flipside, a 2014 article revealed that groups of normal-weight and obese people who ate slower experienced less hunger. The normal-weight group also reported being more full one hour after taking their meal.
Most of us have learned to eat quickly, hurrying though our meals, because of today’s fast-paced lifestyle. However, eating in a rush or when we are in a stressed state can result in inadequate digestion of the food. When we are in the stress response (a.k.a the “fight-or-flight” mode), the body prioritizes those functions that have to do with survival such as being able to run away from or fight off a threat. Digestion is not necessary for survival so the function of the digestive tract is greatly reduced so it may not be able to digest food nor absorb the nutrients from the food.
On the other had, when we are in a relaxed state (a.k.a. the “rest-and-digest” mode) the body’s functions are geared towards growth and restoration. Digestion is one of those functions: it is through digesting our food and absorbing the nutrients that we give our body the materials it needs to work properly. Eating in a relaxed state, at a relaxed pace, helps you to digest your food completely and better absorb the nutrients it provides.
- Chew your food.
One way to slow down while you eat is to make sure you chew each bite slowly & adequately. We forget that digestion actually starts in the mouth: the teeth break up the food and mix it up with saliva which is the first digestive enzyme in the whole process.
One 2022 study revealed that the more you chew your food, the higher your levels of hormones like insulin, GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide), ghrelin (known as the hunger hormone and plays a role in appetite), and CCK (cholecystokinin). These hormones play a role in satiety (helping you feel full), enhancing your body’s digestion, and reducing blood glucose levels after the meal. Overall, you are able to improve some aspects of your overall health thanks to a better “dining experience.”
Another study published in 2021 also highlighted that chewing increased diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT) or the energy that is converted to heat after a meal. Researchers advised that this act of chewing food may help reduce one’s risk for being overweight and obese.
- Limit water intake while eating.
While we need to make sure we stay adequately hydrated throughout the day, we also need to watch the timing of our water intake. Try to limit your water intake around meals: avoid drinking water from 10 minutes BEFORE up to 30 minutes AFTER a meal. Too much water can decrease the acidity of your stomach (we need it to be very acidic in order for it to digest food), and can also cause your stomach to be so full that the contents backflow up into your esophagus causing heartburn and reflux (GERD).
To avoid this, it may be better to drink water between meals instead.
- Savor the flavors and pay close attention to your food.
Lastly, make an effort to savor your food’s flavors. When you savor while chewing, you are able to determine its taste, flavor, texture, and even smell. This may lead to better appreciation and enjoyment of the food you are eating. Plus, your senses of taste and smell can help you choose wisely, in particular which food is more nutritious instead of less nutritious, and possibly even toxic, substances.
Moreover, try to avoid distractions while eating. Refrain from watching TV or scrolling through your phone, as these factors can alter how your body perceives food. In the long run, bad habits like these interfere with your awareness of satiety (feeling full), and can lead to your eating more food than you want or need. Over time this mindless eating can eventually lead to the development of obesity.
If you are interested and want to discover other ways to improve HOW you eat, feel free to consult a physician or even a dietician. They can help you analyze what you may have been doing wrong and suggest ways to address these. Happy eating!