The food we eat plays a major role in helping or hindering our health. But something that isn’t spoken so frequently about is the importance of how we eat. The rituals, actions and environment we eat our food in have a major impact on how well we digest it. Below are three simple things you can do the next time you eat.
Your brain and digestive system are in constant communication with one another. When in a stressed state appetite and bowel habits can change, with blood being diverted away from the intestines and out to your peripheries. Taking deep breaths and eating in a relaxed environment increases digestion and relaxes sphincter muscles in the digestive tract. The stomach and esophagus are particularly dependent on these pathways and are most benefitted by being in a parasympathetic state, also known as your rest and digest response.
Taking your time to chew your food has countless health benefits. Firstly, it is important to remember that the mouth is the first part of the digestive system. When we take the time to chew our food it mixes with saliva and saliva contains enzymes that help to break down our food. Taking your time to chew your food also allows your body to release the hormones to tell your brain you have had enough to eat. One study even found prolonged chewing at lunch decreased later snack intake.
Connecting as a family over a shared meal is associated with healthful dietary intake patterns. A study found those who ate as a family consumed more fruits and vegetables, less fried food and soda, more fibre and micronutrients from food. Eating meals together (without TV screens) allows for more connection and communication.
Most importantly, make mealtime an enjoyable and stress-free experience.