Food – Chew? Why?

Man was created with an inquisitive mind. “Why?” is a favorite question from infanthood through adulthood. We like to know the ins and outs and what fors. With understanding comes an ease of mind. When the Adventists were first given the message of health reform, though, they had to go without the answer to their “whys?” But today science has confirmed many of the scientific reasons that were behind God’s instructions by way of our diet.

“Chew your food well; there are no teeth in your stomach!” We have all heard our parents tell us to chew well, but inevitably, as with any curious child (or adult), up pops the question “why?” There is a reason that has nothing to do with old wives tales or superstition, but science and how the body works. The stomach’s job is to mix food, liquids, and digestive juices with its peristaltic, squeezing motions. When large pieces of food enter the stomach, the surface area of the food is decreased, but the chemical breakdown of the food is not as effective. This causes a hindrance in the digestive process.

Most people love to eat. Food tastes so good and we tend to over-do what we like. Chewing food well increases the flavor in the food for our taste buds to pick up, and increases our sense of satiety as we eat. Part of feeling “full” is simply feeling satisfied. This is a factor in portion control and then, obviously, weight control.

Chewing our food well is also important as a preparation for swallowing. The esophagus, the tube that takes food to the stomach, can only be stretched so far. It is important that the food swallowed is small, moist, and well lubricated. This does not happen if the food is not chewed. People sometimes choke on their food simply because it is too large and dry to swallow with ease. The Heimlich maneuver is not as consistently effective or pleasant as simply slowing down enough to chew!

Pavlov so aptly demonstrated for us that even the thought or sight of food can make us salivate. Saliva contains chemicals that are important in the early stages of digestion, one of which is alpha amylase, which begins the chemical breakdown of starches found in carbohydrate, a primary component of the vegetarian diet. A second chemical in saliva is salivary lipase, which is responsible for the breakdown of fats. Fats are found in many vegetarian foods, such as nuts, olives, and oils.

So next time you are tempted to swallow your food before it is a well-lubricated, ground-up bolus, think of Mom and Dad and realize that they did know what they were talking about after all!