Today, I’ll be discussing the importance of chewing and how much it impacts your digestion. I will also highlight the importance of bringing mindfulness to mealtimes and how stress hinders our digestion. My hope is for you to gain a deeper appreciation for this simple thing we do every single day to bring about positive change in your mind, body, and soul!


I know a lot of you may be thinking, what’s so important about this seemingly insignificant action that most of us do so mindlessly several times a day. But, allow me to shed some light on how critical the act of chewing your food properly really is. Granted, it’s not the most exciting topic, but just humor me because there is some great value in what I’m about to share…

Many of us regularly scarf our food down and bypass all the important biological processes that take place during mastication. Chewing plays a huge role in the proper digestion of our food. Digestion actually starts in the brain, which is called the “cephalic phase” of digestion, and cephalic just means relating to the head. So, the thought, sight, and aroma of the food will trigger the release of saliva as well as the secretion of stomach acid in preparation for the breakdown of your food. The longer your food stays in your mouth and is liquified, the less energy will be used to digest your food. And, the less energy you need for digestion, the MORE energy is then freed up to perform other important physiological processes, especially those that are energy-intensive, such as the brain, which consumes about 20% of the body’s daily energy. And who doesn’t want more energy?!

Most people aren’t aware of this, but the process of digestion is actually one of the BIGGEST stressors on the body!1 If you think about it, our digestive system has to be able to efficiently pulverize the 1-6 meals we eat day in and day out so that we are able to extract all the various types of microscopic nutrients, then usher them into the bloodstream to be delivered to our cells. And, you might not realize it, but that’s a lot of labor! Food is essentially “information” for your cells, so chewing more will greatly impact your ability to bring those nutrients, or information, to your cells for their optimal function. (I’m reminded of this You Tube video called, “The Inner Life of a Cell,” which was actually done by Harvard, and I just think it is SO fascinating! There are a few versions of the video, but I suggest you watch the one that’s about 8 minutes long, and for those of you who want to go deeper, there’s a narrated version too. Anyway, it may just strike a chord with you as to how miraculous our bodies are. I was just in awe as I watched the everyday activities of this unseen world inside of us, and it just gives me another level of reverence for the exquisite complexity of the human design! And it’s so crazy to think that we’ve evolved from a single-celled organism! I know! I can really geek out when it comes to this stuff, but again, I highly recommend you guys check it out when you can!)

Alright, going back to what I was saying…The fact that our bodies have to work so hard to digest our food is one reason why we can sometimes slip into a food coma after a large meal. Especially a meal with unhealthy fats or carbs, which can also result in a huge blood sugar spike, which for some people is followed by a steep drop in blood sugar, which can also cause you to feel like taking a nap, among many other factors, but that’s a WHOLE other topic! So, we should try to be more conscious of how much and how long we chew to take some of the load off of our digestive system.

Chewing alone can eliminate bloating, gas, and abdominal pain.1 So, these symptoms may cause you to think that there is some other more serious reason for your indigestion, but it could very well be the simple fact that you just didn’t chew enough! So, if you don’t chew enough and eat too fast, the  stomach and intestines then become overworked, and this sort of traffic jam builds up as they try to break all the food down as it passes through the GI tract, when it should have been broken down more in your mouth!

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always chewed fast and gulped down my food. It wasn’t until I worked with a health coach in 2019, who illuminated the importance of chewing. I used to put our little timer in the middle of the table as a “prompt” to remind us to chew our food better. While this little method did help, and I have adopted the habit of chewing more over the last few years, I STILL catch myself eating too fast every now and then. So, as with everyone else, I’m still a work in progress! Generally speaking, it’s all good if you fall off the habit on occasion, but some people may really depend on getting this right every single time they eat especially if they are struggling with chronic fatigue or advanced stage cancer, or other illnesses that totally zap their energy. Remember, I mentioned earlier that proper chewing can free up energy that would have been used for digestion. So, for the said individuals, this can really go a long way with conserving their energy.

Another reason why chewing is important is that it creates an automatic delay factor when eating.1 Meaning, the body doesn’t realize it’s full until about 20-30 minutes after you start eating.1 So, the more you chew, it gives the body time to process the amount of food that is in the stomach helping to avoid overeating. And it’s not only about how many times you’re chewing, but it’s also important to slow down a bit, and don’t just chew 30 times super fast, then swallow the food. Speaking of which, there really isn’t an established “magic number” for the amount of times you should chew, but I know there are some people out there that do count their chews, which can help them with cementing the habit, or it may be because it’s a way of practicing mindfulness. So, you do whatever works best for you! The amount you chew really depends on how thin, soft, hard, or caloric dense the food is. It also depends on how much saliva you actually produce to help break down your food as age, medications, dehydration, some psychiatric and autoimmune conditions, and even stress can all negatively impact saliva production. However, no matter what it is, whether it be more solid or even a liquid, like a smoothie or coconut water, let it linger in your mouth a bit before you swallow. And even though that smoothie has already been broken down in the blender, it’s still important to chew on it some more and let your saliva have it before you swallow. Because the longer the food is mixed with your saliva, it’ll allow for the chemical digestion of the food to take place, giving ample time for your salivary enzymes to start breaking down your food before it even enters your stomach.

So, I’m going to go into some very brief biology. I promise I’ll keep it easy to digest! Okay, we have mechanical digestion and chemical digestion. Besides the mechanical churning of food in your stomach, the process of chewing is another critical form of mechanical digestion, which is the process of physically breaking your food down. Meanwhile, the enzymatic activity on the food is known as chemical digestion. The more your food is broken down into smaller bits by way of chewing, it increases the surface area of the nutrients from the food, in turn, allowing your digestive enzymes in your stomach and small intestine to have better access to them to break them down more efficiently in order for them to be absorbed properly by the body. So, if your digestion is hampered, even just by inadequate chewing, your body may not be able to absorb enough nutrients from your food to fuel your cells. Especially as we get older as the amount of digestive enzymes gradually declines. So, you don’t necessarily have to count 30 or 40 chews before you swallow (I know how daunting that can sound for some of you!), the key is to chew your food enough to where it is as liquified as possible to give your body a better chance of absorbing as many of the nutrients in order to nourish your cells to keep them humming along and functioning efficiently. Otherwise, what’s going to happen is you’ll just poop out so many vital nutrients! And, come on guys, do we really want to do that?! Food is not cheap nowadays! So, if I’m eating cashews, for example, you better believe I’m going to chew them into a cashew butter before I swallow it because I want my body to be able to absorb all the good stuff in those cashews! I paid for that iron, and zinc, and protein, and copper, and vit B6, and magnesium (which is a powerful mineral when it comes to alleviating stress, by the way!). So, it’s just another way of looking at it—chew more to get your money’s worth!

Although this post isn’t centered on mindfulness, the very act of bringing awareness to your chewing can be an easy way for you to be more present in the moment. You can also take it a step further and just “eat” and not watch TV or be on your cell phone or perform other work duties. Instead, on occasion, I invite you to devote all your attention to your meal because even doing those things while eating can create some level of stress depending on what you are watching, reading, or working on. I know it may be difficult in our fast-paced, modern world, but becoming more mindful during mealtimes can produce wonderful health benefits as I’ve alluded to. Taking a few slow, deep, diaphragmatic breaths before you eat will help to switch on your parasympathetic nervous system, which…”Guess what?! It’s also known as your “rest and DIGEST” state! So, it’s not only about chewing more, it’s also incredibly important to feel relaxed during your meals in order to activate this phase of our nervous system, which should really be our default state and what we are predominantly functioning in. Even taking some time to feel grateful for your meal before you eat can also help with the process of digestion because the feeling of gratitude itself lessens stress and puts you in a more relaxed state. Try to carve out maybe a few more minutes during each meal to slow down, savor your food, and chew a just a little bit more. And again, doing so will result in better digestion and nutrient uptake by your cells, and it can bring more mindfulness to your meals. This will, in turn, pull you out of that less favorable sympathetic state, otherwise known as your “fight, flight, or freeze” state, which is not inherently a bad thing, but can become detrimental to your health if it is chronically activated. And unfortunately, many of us seem to be perpetually stuck in this state as a result of chronic emotional, mental, or physical stress. And, when we’re stressed, our bodies can’t digest our food properly because evolutionarily, during times of stress, our bodies were designed to flee from danger, which back in the day, that danger was mostly escaping from some kind of wild animal. So, we get this flood of stress hormones that signal our heart rate to increase, and our blood is shunted to parts of the body that actually matter in those moments in order for us to escape successfully. Blood is shunted to our muscles in our arms and legs to deliver more oxygen in order to run away and our senses are heightened as well. So, this explains the inability to digest while we’re under stress because blood is re-directed away from our GI tract because the body doesn’t care about digesting food when it’s faced with a tiger! It’s just trying to survive! So, while it is an intelligent design, it doesn’t always serve us in our modern world since that tiger has now been replaced by a lot of mental or emotional stressors such as problems at work, financial hardships, strained relationships, and the list goes on. Despite this, our survival mechanism remains the same regardless of our modern day “threats.”

Lastly, proper chewing will also help you avoid overeating leading to possible weight loss if that’s your goal. So, bottom line: Every time you eat, you can choose to embrace it as an opportunity to slow down and be mindful so that you are able to switch into the more favorable rest and digest state, which will lessen the amount of stress you are afflicted with in your everyday life. So, at the end of the day (or meal!) you will have possibly fed your cells more nutrients than you normally would have AND mitigated some stress at the same time all because you took a little bit more time to chew! So, what more can I say? It’s a win-win!

So, I hope this has resonated with you and that you’ll take this into consideration going forward, and you’ll try to chew your food better the next time you eat. You can use some object to help remind you to chew more like I did, or maybe write it down on a sticky note until you’ve mastered “the art of chewing.” And just remember, one of the most important first steps to achieve optimal digestion starts with chewing. So, let’s not skimp on it! There’s a quote by Paul Bragg, who is the developer of that popular apple cider vinegar brand, he said, “Chew your liquids and drink your solids!”

So, to recap: slow down, take more time to savor and chew your food, and cultivate a sense of gratitude with each meal. Trust me! Your body and mind will thank you for it!


Blog Highlights

  • Key Benefits of Chewing:
    • Enhances digestion by allowing your body to absorb more nutrients into your body.
    • Frees up energy that would have been used for digestion to allocate to other organs.
    • Helps to eliminate bloating, gas, or abdominal pain.
    • Increases mindfulness which, in turn, may help to lessen overall stress.
    • Helps to avoid overeating leading to possible weight loss.

Medical Terms

Cephalic Phase: The sight, sound, smell and thought of food that triggers the brain to transmit signals

down your central nervous system.

Chemical Digestion: Involves degradation of the molecular structure of the ingested compounds by digestive enzymes into a form that is absorbable into the bloodstream.

Diaphragmatic breathing: A form of breathing that involves contraction of the diaphragm, expansion of the belly, and deepening of inhalation and exhalation. It is also known as “belly breathing” or “abdominal breathing.” This allows you to use your lungs to their full capacity. (We normally breathe by expanding our lungs; however, this form of breathing involves expansion of the belly while keeping the chest still.)

Digestive Enzymes: Substances produced by the mouth, stomach, pancreas, and small intestines which are catalysts that help break down food for proper nutrient absorption.

Mechanical Digestion: Involves physically breaking down food substances into smaller particles to more efficiently undergo chemical digestion.

Parasympathetic Nervous System: A network of nerves that relaxes your body after periods of stress or danger. It also helps run life-sustaining processes, like digestion, during times when you feel safe and relaxed.

Sympathetic Nervous System: A network of nerves that helps your body activate its “fight-or-flight” response. This system’s activity increases when you’re stressed, in danger or physically active.


You Tube Video Links as Referenced:

Diaphragmatic Breathing Demonstration: “Diaphragmatic Breathing” (3 Parts):

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

“Inner Life of a Cell” (8 minutes):

“The Inner Life of the Cell” (With Narration):


  1. Nakayama, A. (2020). Digestive Intensive: Class #3, Full Body Systems [Online course].
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