“Chew your food!” Do you remember your mom telling you that while you were eating? Mom knew what she was talking about. Here’s why -­- Chewing your food (or the technical term is mastication) is so important! It’s one of the first steps of the digesting process.

Your body has to break down the food into smaller and smaller pieces. Chewing is the first step to this. This enables our body to absorb the nutrients that are in the food. Ummm, nutrients are kind of important, right??

While your teeth start breaking down the food into small pieces, the rest of the mouth gets involved as well. Your taste buds actually detect the chemicals that make up the food we are eating – such as carbs, protein, and fats. Pretty smart of our little buds!

You know how you salivate just before you are about to eat something yummy? This usually happens to me when I’m about to eat chocolate, see chocolate or hearing about chocolate! (I think I have a problem with chocolate) But that’s another story. Hey, I’m a nutritional therapist, not perfect! Anyway, sight & smell of food trigger the salivary glands to produce saliva. Those are your eyes and nose sensing something delicious and sending a message to the brain that you’re about to eat something. Therefore, your mouth is getting ready by producing saliva. Saliva contains digestive enzymes that start breaking down food molecules as soon as you put food in your mouth.

The longer you chew the better. For instance, salivary amylase is the enzyme that begins breaking down starch/carbs. If you’re not chewing long enough, you’re not breaking down these starches, causing maldigested foods to enter your blood. Maldigested foods are full of parasites, microorganisms and undigested fats, Oh My! It can possibly lead to some digestive issues such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, cramping or constipation.

The mouth also secretes in the saliva a potent lipase called salivary lipase. It is secreted continuously and accumulates in the stomach between meals. Between 10 percent and 30 percent of dietary fat is hydrolyzed in the stomach by this enzyme. Again, not chewing properly, you’re not activating this process in order for it to due its job correctly.

Once you have chewed, your taste buds have sent the information about what you are eating, and the enzyme in your saliva starts breaking apart starches, you’re probably ready to swallow. Your tongue pushes the chewed food or bolus (technical term) to the back of your throat, you swallow the food down your esophagus and the food has dropped into your belly. Saliva makes this process much easier as it’s lubricating the food and esophagus.

Next time you’re eating, remember to take a breath, relax, give thanks and thoroughly chew your food. Now, I sound like your mother. But, seriously, chew, chew, chew. This way, your body can digest and send nutrients into your body.

Jaime Fontaine Nappi is a Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and practices out of Laguna Beach, CA. Her passion for healing foods has been with her since the age of twelve. Years later she lost her mother to cancer, her father got diagnosed with cancer and herself being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, she made a promise to educate people on healing foods and living a holistic lifestyle.