Nutrition week is all about getting you on the right track to a healthy lifestyle. One important step that researchers and health experts stand by - eating slowly. Read on to know more.
"Taken slowly or mindfully, even eating an orange or a bowl of soup, or a piece of dark chocolate for that matter, can take on the flavour"
- Mary DeTurris Poust
Nutrition week (September 1 to 7) reminds us of how important it is to stay healthy. While we focus on foods we must include in our diets, foods we can swap out for healthier alternatives and foods which can make us feel fuller, we tend to sideline the importance of how we must be eating. There is one rule in eating that researchers suggest for a healthier lifestyle - eating slowly. In the fast-paced world we live in, eating slowly is something we have a hard time doing. We have a hurried breakfast, usually on the go, we gobble up lunch while browsing through messages on the phone and dinner is mostly in front of the television with no regard to what is on the plate.
Eating slowly helps you savour and relish your food. Well, not just that. It also helps your body understand when you are full. Eating at a fast pace means consuming more calories than you realise, giving no time for your body to tell you that you are full already. Read on to find more about how eating slowly can help you stay healthy and even lose weight.
When you rush your meals, digestion is stressful. Moreover, when the meal gets over too soon, you may feel an urge to eat more. Eating slowly helps in better digestion, aids in weight loss and helps you leave the table satisfied with your meal. It takes approximately 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to send out signals that you feel full. Eating leisurely allows ample time to trigger this signal from your brain, and you eat lesser when you get the feeling that you are full.
Researchers at the University of Rhode Island studied how eating speed affected the early stages of digestion by observing 60 adults eating a meal. They observed that fast eaters consumed more food than others who ate at a normal or slower pace. Fast eaters also took larger bites and chewed less. This means that food is not well processed before it goes down to the stomach. This makes it more difficult for the stomach to process it, leading to indigestion or potential problems in the digestive tract.
"Practices that impose some mindfulness and discipline on eating may help with both losing weight and staying healthy"
- Dr David Katz, President of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine
Dr Katz suggests that slow eating makes us more mindful of the food we eat. People tend to make healthier food choices consciously and also appreciate food for quality and not for quantity.
A study led by Dr Haruhisa Fukuda from the Department of Healthcare Administration and Management at Kyushu University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Fukuoka, Japan, says that, compared to people who ate in a hurry, those who ate at a normal pace were 29 per cent less likely to be obese, but those who ate slowly were up to 42 per cent less likely to be obese. In addition, slow eaters tended to be healthier than those who ate at a normal or quicker rate. Researchers also noted that the eating speed could not prevent or cause obesity but was definitely associated with it.
Being hydrated helps your body work efficiently, keeps the muscles energised and the kidneys working efficiently. Turns out, eating slowly can help you with this too.
Another study by the University of Rhode Island compared the amount of water that people drank while they ate. It was noted that people who ate slowly drank more water than the people who had a rushed meal. This also made the researchers wonder if drinking more water helped them feel fuller for a longer time. They went a step further and presented the participants the same amount of water to drink. The participants ate almost the same amount of food regardless of the eating pace, but an hour after the meal, the slow eaters were still feeling full and had a lower desire to eat than the fast-paced eaters.
So, eating slowly and drinking more water can help you consume lesser food and feel satisfied for a longer time! Don't we all want that?
It is true that eating slowly and taking smaller bites can be difficult to start, when you have been accustomed to eating at a faster pace, and when you are busy or tired. Let us see how you can hitch a ride on the slow eating wagon.
Slow and mindful eating can help you eat less, while also enriching your dining experience. To start the practice, put on some music, turn off the TV and other distractions, and focus on your meal. Engage your senses of taste and smell to savour your meal. Slowly take a whiff, enjoy the aroma and pay attention to the texture of food to enhance your eating experience. This will automatically ensure that you enjoy the meal at a slower pace.
Chew each bite slowly, at least 20 times, or for 15 seconds. Chewing thoroughly helps your digestive tract as the food is broken down better, and hence, easier to digest. The more you chew, the slower you eat. Along with chewing, reduce the size of your bites to eat at a slower, relaxed pace.
Pausing between bites helps slow down the pace of eating. Take a bite, set down your food and take a break. Listen to your body and stop when you get the feeling of fullness.
Food might be a requirement to satisfy your hunger or a part of your daily routine till now. Change the way you perceive food - add a little emotion to it. Focus on each bite, savour it, discuss it, embrace it and enjoy the experience of eating with your family.
Europeans love to linger over their meals, taking it slow and enjoying their time. So, why not take a page from their style of eating slowly and appreciate mealtimes at home with your family? This way, you will also adopt a healthier lifestyle and sway towards nutritious food.
About the author:
Written by Kerina De Floras on 4 September 2020.
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