Your saliva begins digestion and moistens food, making it palatable to swallow. It also plays a role in our sensory experience with taste. It contains enzymes that play particular roles in breaking down food and protecting against harmful bacteria. Amylase is the primary salivary enzyme that breaks down starch molecules into glucose (sugar). When we fail to chew well and swallow food partially whole, we voluntarily avoid salivary digestive aids, as well as lose some taste pleasure.
Furthermore, nutrient absorption is diminished. Your stomach does not have teeth, so those whole food pieces have to go through a lengthy chemical breakdown in the gut, often remaining fairly large and simply passing through your digestive tract, rather than your body absorbing the nutrients from that food. This is particularly important with high-protein foods in general, and specifically cooked animal meats, because your body may secrete higher levels of acid than necessary if you chewed these foods well. This is a consequence of your body attempting to break down the proteins.
Conversely, when food is properly masticated in the mouth, your salivary enzymes attach to the food, helping to break down the molecules. Your saliva also signals your brain to chemically prepare for digestion. Your organs communicate to each other through a network of nerves and hormones.
When you drink your food and chew your liquid, you reduce the amount of stress you put on your body, increase your body's ability to absorb key nutrients, encourage healthy gut microflora (bacteria), and support immune function.
A few key things to note regarding the adage:
You may find that slowing down at meal times does not only help with digestion, but also your attitude and appreciation toward nourishment and the complex processes your body does for you daily. Appreciate your temple! It's the only one you have and you cannot trade it in.
If you enjoyed this health hack, please give it a thumbs up and share it! I encourage you to apply this practice at your next meal time. Take time to appreciate and savor your meals. Your body will thank you.