MANY of us go through the motions of eating while watching TV or scrolling on our phone.

But experts say it's worth paying attention to your food – and how you eat it.

Especially if you're noticing that you've cleaned off your plate in just a few minutes, without enjoying or savouring your meal.

Some experts you need to chew each bite 32 times.

This 'magic number' won't work for all foods though.

If you think about it, a soft fruit like a strawberry or banana will take much less effort and time to chew than a crunchy almond or a tough piece of meat.

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Writing for personalised nutrition platform ZOE, registered dietitian Natalie Rizzo recommended that "rather than aiming for a number, chew your food until it’s small and soft enough to swallow easily".

And she said it's worth slowing down how fast you eat your food – also known as your eating rate.

Studies suggest that eating more slowly may be a useful tool for weight loss.

How much should I be chewing my food?

You need to chew each bite of food until it loses its texture and becomes soft, Natalie said.

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Dietitian and British Dietetic Association spokesperson Nichola Ludlam-Raine has previously said 20 is the magic number when it comes to chewing and eating.

She told the Telegraph: “For those who’ve had bariatric surgery, we use the 20:20:20:20 rule: a 20 pence-sized piece of food, chew it 20 times, put your knife and fork down for 20 seconds between mouthfuls, and take 20 minutes to eat the meal.

“Obviously, if you haven’t had weight-loss surgery, you can eat bigger mouthfuls, but you should still take 20 minutes over a meal and aim to chew each mouthful more.”

Her advice doesn't just apply to people who've gone under the knife – it's worth trying it if you feel uncomfortably full shortly after eating, suffer from bloating or excess wind, or crave more food after finishing a decent meal.

What are the risks of not chewing food enough?

There are a few risks to not chewing your food thoroughly enough, some more serious that others.

Firstly, you might be eating more food than you need to.

Natalie cited research conducted in 2020 suggesting that a faster eating rate can lead to increased energy intake, which may be associated with weight gain. 

A study conducted by ZOE supported this too.

Published in March this year, it found that Brits who reported eating faster ate more calories and had a higher body weight.

Natalie pointed out that chewing also signals your body to produce certain enzymes and hydrochloric acid, which help break down food.

If there isn’t enough acid in your stomach, you may experience gas and bloating, she warned.

Another issue with gulping down your bites is that your body might not be absorbing the nutrients from your food as well.

"To absorb nutrients, your body needs to break food into smaller molecules, like simple sugars and amino acids," Natalie wrote.

Meanwhile, Healthline warned that when you don’t chew your food enough, the rest of your digestive system becomes confused.

It said this could lead to symptoms such as:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Heartburn
  • Acid reflux
  • Cramps
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Skin problems
  • Irritability
  • Malnutrition
  • Indigestion

Tips to eat healthily

Overall, eating slowly seems the best way to go.

There are other things you can do to slow yourself down except concentrating on your chewing, according to Natalie.

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Her tips included:

  1. Putting your cutlery down after each bite, and picking it back up after you swallow
  2. Being mindful while eating and savouring your food by concentrating on what it smells and tastes like
  3. Drinking water frequently throughout your meal
  4. Opting for harder, more solid foods rather than mashed or pureed options
  5. Turning off any screens and ignoring your phone, as being distracted by them can make you eat faster

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