Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Eat, Chew, Digest

Long ago I learned the mantra "Eat your liquids, chew your solids." This is probably the most valuable lesson I learned from Macrobiotics. It opens up the whole conceptual view of digestion. First, digestion begins in the mouth. We have teeth to masticate, we have saliva for the chemical action it performs (breaks down starches). There are nerve endings and taste buds to send messages to the brain, the liver and the whole chain of the digestive tract.

First, the sensual experience helps us slow down, enjoy our food, perhaps trains us to eat less because satisfaction is a byproduct of the experience. Then, our organs prepare the way -- secrete digestive enzymes and adjuncts, and the substantial quantity of fluid that is required for the process.

How common is it to see someone inhale a meal, gobble up food, bolt his dinner? Sadly some people choke, even die because of swallowing barely chewed food. Instead of calling for the Heimlich maneuver, chew! How many people scarf down food until they are stuffed, eating too fast for the brain to register the message of satiety? Think obesity... In this land of plenty (or excess), how often are the overfed the undernourished? Without the first step in the digestive process, how well can we assimilate? In extreme conditions, the knowledge of how to chew can be lost. At the risk of being totally corny, let's chew as if our lives depend on it -- because they do.

Mitch S. was in VitaSource today and told me that he was following my chewing recommendations, and impressed by how this changes his experience of eating. Wow, one convert!