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A study published in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association reported that slower eaters ate 10 percent fewer calories and felt more full. They also drank more water during meals. Another study published in The British Medical Journal, reported that eating quickly and eating until full was consistent with being overweight, and the combination of both of these habits tripled the risk of being overweight.
It sounds like a no-brainer, but have you ever actually tried putting your fork down between every bite, chewing your food, and not picking up your fork again until you’ve swallowed the previous bite? Try it today and pay attention to how it feels. If you’re eating food with your hands, like a wrap or a slice of pizza, put the food on the plate while you chew. Think about how many calories you could potentially save at every meal just by using this technique.
Precision Nutrition – All About Eating Slower
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The benefits of slow eating include better digestion, better hydration, easier weight loss or maintenance, and greater satisfaction with our meals. Meanwhile, eating quickly leads to poor digestion, increased weight gain, and lower satisfaction. The message is clear: Slow down your eating and enjoy improved health and well-being.
When you eat slowly, you digest better. You lose or maintain weight more easily. Yet you also feel more satisfied with each meal.
Conversely, if you rush your meals, your digestion suffers. Meals are stressful. And it might seem like each meal is over too soon, which often makes you want to eat more. Or you “overshoot the runway”, finishing the meal before your natural satiety signals kick in, and ending up suddenly — uncomfortably — overstuffed.
It’s simple: Slow down your eating and enjoy improved health and well-being.
The value of slow food
We’re a rushed, distracted, and too-busy society. Most people in North America eat fast. Really fast. We rarely take the time to savor our food… or sometimes even to chew it properly.
We rush our food no matter who we are.
Why eat slowly?
One of the most important benefits of eating slowly is that it gives your body time to recognize that you’re full.
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It takes about twenty minutes from the start of a meal for the brain to send out signals of satiety. Most people’s meals don’t even last that long!
Imagine the extra calories you could ingest simply because you didn’t allow your body time to register that it no longer required food. Now imagine the effect of those extra calories on your weight.
Eating slowly also helps us feel more satisfied — which is different than just being “full”.
When you slow down, savor a meal, pay attention to tastes and textures, and appreciate each mindful bite, you leave the table feeling good in your soul… even if all you ate was a baloney sandwich.
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Eating slowly also helps our digestion.
Think of digestion as a chain reaction. As soon as we see, smell, or think about food (step 1), we start salivating to prepare for putting that food in our mouth (step 2). Saliva contains enzymes that break the food down, and moistens the mouth for easier swallowing.
Meanwhile, digestive steps 3, 4, 5 etc. have to get ready to go to work. Our stomachs start to secrete more acid. Our small intestine starts to get ready for some peristalsis. And so forth.
If we rush this process, we force our GI tract to deal with stuff before it’s fully prepared. Surprises are great on birthdays, not so great during digestion.
At the University of Rhode Island, researchers examined how eating speed affected the early stages of digestive processing by observing 60 young adults eat a meal.
Slow eaters consumed 2 ounces of food per minute.
Medium-speed eaters consumed 2.5 ounces of food per minute.
Fast eaters consumed 3.1 ounces per minute. They also took larger bites and chewed less before swallowing.
This means that not only are fast eaters putting more food down in a given amount of time, that food isn’t as well-processed. Food is essentially landing in fast eaters’ stomachs in big ol’ lumps.
Digestion starts in the mouth, so large bites that are inadequately chewed will be more difficult for your stomach to turn into chyme – the liquid mix of partially digested food, hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes, and water that passes through the pyloric valve on its way to elimination.
Food that isn’t properly broken down into chyme can lead to indigestion and other potential GI problems. And who wants that?
Smaller portions – without trying
Most of the research on this topic suggests that eating slowly helps you to eat less. That’s especially useful information if you’re trying to lose or maintain weight.
In another University of Rhode Island study, researchers served lunch on two different occasions to 30 normal-weight women. The meal in both cases consisted of an enormous plate of pasta with a tomato-vegetable sauce and some Parmesan cheese, along with a glass of water.
At each visit, researchers instructed the women to eat to the point of comfortable fullness. But during one visit, they also told them to to eat as quickly as possible, while on the other visit, participants were asked to eat slowly and to put down their utensils between bites.
When the researchers compared the difference in food consumption between the quickly eaten lunch and the slowly eaten lunch, here is what they found:
When eating quickly the women consumed 646 calories in 9 minutes.
When eating slowly the women consumed 579 calories in 29 minutes.
That is 67 less calories in 20 more minutes!
And here’s another interesting twist: When the women ate their lunch quickly, they reported more hunger an hour later than they did after their slowly eaten lunch.
So not only did eating quickly lead to greater food consumption, it actually satisfied the women less! Conversely, of course, slow eating meant less food but more long-lasting satisfaction.
Good hydration helps maintain the balance of our body’s fluids, energizes muscles, helps our kidneys and bowels work more efficiently, and improves the appearance of the skin. And one side benefit of eating slowly is that it seems to increase water consumption during meals.
In fact, that same University of Rhode Island study compared the amount of water that the participants drank. When they ate slowly, the women drank 409 mL (about 14 oz) of water. When they ate quickly, they drank only 289 mL (9.7 oz) of water!
Results like that have sometimes led scientists to wonder if drinking more water is what helps people to feel satisfied for longer.
So the University of Rhode Island researchers put this theory to the test. (By now you’ve probably noticed that URI is really into this slow eating research.) In a variation of their lunchtime study, they controlled water intake so that participants drank the same amount of water at each sitting.
In this version of the test, whether they ate slowly or quickly, the women consumed approximately the same amount of food. And at the end of their meals, they also gave a similar appetite rating.
But an hour after the meal, those who’d eaten slowly reported less hunger and a lower desire to eat, with greater levels of satiety.
Researchers concluded that drinking more water might be key to helping us eat less during a meal.
But eating slowly seems to decrease hunger and lead to higher levels of satiety between meals.
Takeaway – eat slowly, drink more water, consume less food, and feel more satisfied! All-around win!
Is eating quickly really so bad?
Eating slowly may not be a perfect panacea for weight loss, but it will certainly help you with portion control and greater feelings of satiety.
Meanwhile, the research on eating quickly is pretty unanimous: Eating quickly promotes weight gain and makes you feel out of control of your eating habits.
Most of us lead hectic, fast-paced lives, so it’s understandable that we might try to rush our meals. But eating quickly does us no favors.
When we eat too quickly we end up eating more than we need, which leads to poor digestion, weight gain, and lower satisfaction from eating.
Eating slowly, in contrast, makes for better digestion, easier weight maintenance – and much greater satisfaction from our meals.
Spark People – Stop and Chew Your Dinner
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In this era of fast-paced everything, even the act of eating a meal has become something we can do on the run. Breakfast comes in bars, lunch can be eaten while speeding down the highway, and dinner is merely an accompaniment to the evening news, squeezed in between other pressing activities. Invariably, when eating plays second string to everything else, every meal becomes “fast food,” as in eaten-very-fast food. If you find yourself wolfing down your meals in a hurry, you’re actually shortchanging yourself in more ways than you might think.
It turns out there’s a reason food tastes so good. You’re supposed to enjoy it—slow down and savor it, not just get it to your stomach as quickly as possible. Chewing your food thoroughly is actually the first step in the complex process of digestion, and if you glaze over it, just chewing the minimum amount of times necessary to get the food down your esophagus, you’re actually compromising this process. And it’s a mistake many people make.
If you try to imagine swallowing a whole piece of pizza, it’s easy to see why chewing is necessary. But besides breaking up your food into manageable chunks, there’s another good reason to put in the effort and chew. The saliva that coats your food as you chew actually contains digestive enzymes that begin to digest your food before you even swallow it. The enzymes alpha-amylase and lingual lipase begin digesting carbohydrates and fats, reducing the amount of work for which the stomach will be responsible. And it isn’t just a nice gesture. If food fragments are swallowed un-chewed, not only do nutrients remain locked in the fragments, but these fragments create an environment in the colon that is conducive to digestive distress—bacterial overgrowth, gas, and bloating.
For food particles to even leave your stomach though, the “gates” of the stomach, the pyloric sphincter, must open. Conveniently, chewing also aids in this process, signaling this event. And speaking of signals, just seeing your food causes your brain to send signals to the pancreas and stomach to secrete digestive acids and enzymes that are essential to digestion. And the longer your food has contact with your taste and smell receptors—the longer you chew each bite—the stronger these signals become. Strong signals mean more digestive molecules, less indigestion, less acid reflux, and superior nutrient absorption.
Chewing your food thoroughly and eating your meals more slowly has another benefit. It might shrink your waistline—and not just because you’ll have less bloating and indigestion. Eating more slowly gives your body a chance to tell your mind that it’s full, so that you stop eating before you go overboard. In a preliminary study presented at the North American Association for the Study of Obesity’s Annual Scientific Meeting in 2004, study subjects ate less when they were instructed to eat more slowly.
Some helpful tips
- Sit down to eat in a calm environment with minimal distractions.
- Put smaller portions on your plate, and take a break before you think of getting seconds.
- Don’t eat while driving, while watching TV, while texting, etc.
- Pay attention to your food. (Notice the smell, temperature, texture, color and subtle flavor of each bite)
- Choose high-fiber foods that take more time to chew, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Put down your utensils between bites.
- Take a moment. Breathe.
- If you’re eating with other people, enjoy making witty conversation for a few minutes.
- Try setting a minimum number of chews per bite. This will feel strange at first, but give it a try and see what you discover.
- Use smaller plates or different utensils (such as chopsticks).
- If you find yourself rushing, that’s OK.
- Put your utensils down and take a minute to re-focus. If slow eating isn’t habitual for you, this will take practice.
- Find another slow eater and pace yourselves to them. Picky little kids and chatty dinner companions who hardly stop talking long enough to take a bite are often ideal for this.
- Set aside time to eat – at least 20-30 minutes for each meal, and preferably even longer at dinner. Don’t just eat “whenever you get around to it” or treat it as an inconvenience. You’re fueling your body and maybe spending quality time with friends and family. That’s important. It deserves an appointment.
- Challenge yourself to be the last to finish.
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