Dr. Mark Hyman is a practicing family physician and advocate in the field of functional medicine. The following arrived in my inbox via his newsletter. I hope you take this reminder to slow down and enjoy the benefits that come with truly enjoying a meal and time together.
Digestion begins with your mindset. Do you feel calm, grateful, and open to the experience of taste, texture, delight, and energy with every bite you take?
Unfortunately, most of us don’t take the time to be present with our meals, which can actually lead to poor digestion. Even worse, we gobble down our food without taking enough time to fully chew and allow the digestive enzymes in our saliva to properly break down our food. It’s no wonder most Americans are deficient in at least one nutrient and struggle with digestive challenges.
It takes about 20 minutes for your gut to tell your brain that it’s full. By that point, most people finish their plate and have already gone back for seconds (maybe even thirds). Once leptin (the satiety hormone) finally reaches your brain, it’s too late, and you’ve likely already overeaten. It also comes as no surprise that those who eat too quickly tend to be more overweight.
However long it takes you to make a home-cooked meal from scratch with fresh, whole foods, and quality ingredients, that’s how long it should take for you to sit down and eat it—unless you’re slow-cooking a roast all day or throwing together a salad that only takes a few minutes. In that case, chewing each bite of food 30 to 40 times is best for digestion.
Some tips to slow down eating are: take smaller bites, don't overload your fork, and chew until the food has lost its texture. Take a mindful moment to appreciate the journey your food took to get onto your plate. Pay attention to every bite—how does it look, smell, taste, and feel in your mouth?
Slowing down your meal times also comes with many beneficial side effects, like better digestion, increased nutrient absorption, improved portion control, and a feeling of calmness—you might even enjoy the eating experience more altogether.
Bonus tip: eat your meal with others, when possible. Instead of quickly eating a meal on the go or eating dinner in front of the TV, make mealtime sacred with your loved ones. If you live alone, schedule a Zoom night once a week where you and your friends eat together with the help of technology. Various studies have shown that eating with others improves digestion and enhances feelings of belonging, connection, and joy.
In my house, mealtime means that everyone rolls up their sleeves to help cook, our favorite music playing in the background, while we laugh, help, connect, and cherish the togetherness built around food.
So remember, chew your food, and when you can, enjoy your food with a loved one.