Why You Should Slow Your Eating
How does the speed of eating affect health?
One dilemma we face in our daily lives is not having enough time. We seem to have the same problem when we eat. When we finally have time to eat, we often devour our food as fast as we can.
Busy people are experts in doing things quickly - but when it comes to eating, being swift is not a good trait to have.
Quick eating can result in overeating. While you eat, your brain doesn’t focus on the eating process, but rather on the objective of filling your stomach. Once your stomach becomes full, it does not automatically trigger satiety in the brain. The sensation of being full happens when neurological signals from your stomach reach your brain. You need to give your stomach and brain some time to communicate.
It actually takes about 20 minutes for you to feel full.
If you rush meals, your digestion suffers. You might feel like each meal is over too soon, which makes you eat more or gobble up dessert. Or you finish the meal before your satiety signals kick in, making you feel stuffed.
Eating slowly is not only about health - it’s about a lifestyle.
Here are some reasons why you should consider eating more slowly:
Researchers at Japan’s Kyushu University, drawing on data on 60,000 Japanese health insurance claimants, discovered that slow eaters were 42% less likely to be overweight. Normal-speed eaters had a 29% lower risk of being overweight. Imagine all the extra calories you may have ingested simply because you didn’t allow your brain to register that your tummy is full.
At the University of Rhode Island, researchers compared the difference between quick and slow eating, and this is what they discovered:
- When eating quickly, women consume 646 calories in 9 minutes.
- When eating slowly, women consume 579 calories in 29 minutes.
That is 67 fewer calories in 20 minutes’ time. It doesn’t seem like a lot — but if you eat 3 meals a day, it adds up quickly.
Digestion is a chain reaction that starts when we see or smell food. We start salivating to prepare for food being in our mouth. Saliva contains enzymes that help break food down and make it easier to swallow. As your mouth is prepared for food, your stomach starts to secrete acid. If you rush this process and just devour food, you’ll upset your GI tract. We all love surprises – but our digestive system doesn’t.
At the University of Rhode Island, researchers examined different eating speeds and the effects of early digestion:
- 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.
Food that isn’t broken down properly will make it harder on your stomach, and may lead to indigestion – and who knows what other potential GI problems? Fast eaters are sending big lumps of food to the stomach, making it work harder to create the liquid mix chyme.
Hydration is vital for the body to maintain the right balance of fluids, transport nutrients to the muscles, help kidneys eliminate waste, and maintain skin. The benefit of slow eating is that you are more likely to increase your water consumption during meals.
The same University of Rhode Island study showed that women who ate slowly drank 409 ml (about 14 oz) of water during their meal. When food was eaten quickly, only 289 ml (9.7 oz) of water was consumed. Researchers determined that eating slowly seems to decrease hunger and leads to higher levels of satiety between meals.
The message is clear: slow down your eating and enjoy improved health and well-being.
Slow eating will help you create a better relationship with food, but will also make eating food more enjoyable. It’s hard to enjoy your food if it disappears too quickly. Eating slowly can be a great way to practice mindfulness. Be in the moment, rather than rush through a meal while thinking about the next task at hand.
Tips for slow eating
- Sit down to eat in a calm environment with little distraction. Don’t do it while texting or watching TV. Pay attention to your food!
- Put down your utensils between bites. Take a moment. Breathe.
- Choose high-fiber foods. Foods that contain high fiber – like fresh vegetables – require more time to chew.
- Practice! Eating quickly is a habit that needs to be broken.
- Take smaller bites and chew your food. Notice the texture of what you are eating and appreciate what it adds to your meal. This is something I need to remind myself of daily.
- Have a conversation. You only have one mouth. If you use it to talk, it will be harder for you to shove food down your gullet.
Most of us live fast-paced lives, but eating quickly does not favor our health and well-being. Eat slowly, consume less food, drink more water, and feel more satisfied. It’s a win-win!