You’ve heard about fast food but what about fast eating? We have all lived through this scene: You’ve had a really busy day at work and have only eaten a sandwich for lunch. By the time you get home you’re starving, but to make matters worse you only have 45 minutes before having to rush out again to go to the cinema with a friend. To get round this problem you go for a quick-and-easy pasta dish. Fifteen minutes later, the pasta is consumed and you are out of the door. Sounds familiar?
Many of us are guilty of fast eating in our increasingly fast-paced world, but did you know that this seemingly harmless routine can have surprising effects on our health and wellbeing? In this blog I explore fast eating, why it is crucial for our digestion system that we slow down and how savouring our meals can contribute to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. More importantly, after reading this you’ll see just how easy it is to adopt healthier eating habits, so let’s dig in!
The Science Behind Digestion.
To truly understand the impact of fast eating, let’s take a quick dive into the world of digestion. Digestion is a complex biological process that allows our bodies to break down food into smaller, absorbable components that can be used for energy, growth, and maintenance of various bodily functions. The process involves both mechanical and chemical actions and occurs in several stages throughout the digestive system.
- Mechanical Digestion: The first step of digestion begins in the mouth, where food is mechanically broken down by chewing and mixed with saliva. This process helps to create a smaller and more easily digestible food ‘balls’
- Chemical Digestion: Once swallowed, your food it travels down the esophagus and enters the stomach. Here, gastric juices containing hydrochloric acid and enzymes help break down proteins and prepare the food for further digestion. The partially digested food, now called ‘chyme’, moves into the small intestine.
- Absorption: In the small intestine, the majority of nutrient absorption takes place. Enzymes from the pancreas and bile from the liver further break down the chyme into simpler molecules (such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats), which are then absorbed through the intestinal walls and enter the bloodstream.
- Elimination: Any indigestible or unabsorbed substances, along with waste products, move into the large intestine. Water and electrolytes are absorbed in the large intestine, and the remaining waste….well you know about that bit!
The Surprising Impact of Fast Eating.
Now, back to points 1 & 2, here’s where eating too quickly becomes really problematic. As we rush through our meals, we often swallow large chunks that haven’t been adequately chewed. These big pieces can put a strain on our digestive system, making it work harder to break down the food. This extra effort can lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as indigestion, bloating and even acid reflux. Additionally, eating this way interferes with our body’s natural hunger and fullness cues.
When we consume food rapidly we override this signalling system and often end up overeating, leading to weight gain and a host of other health issues like heartburn, gastrointestinal disorders and potentially type 2 diabetes. This comes from the rapid consumption that causes a sudden influx of glucose; leading to sharp spikes in blood sugar levels which, in time, can contribute to insulin resistance.
A Better Way to Eat for Digestive Glow.
Now that we understand the negative impact, it’s time to make a conscious effort to slow down and savour our meals. Here are some practical tips to help you adopt a more sensible eating approach.
1. Set the scene: Create a pleasant eating environment by sitting at a table, we are not talking white linen and silverware here, but mostly an setting that is free from distractions like electronic devices or work. Try and say Goodbye to scoffing down a sandwich whilst walking between meetings!
2. Chew your food thoroughly: Aim for around 20-30 chews per bite. This allows your food to mix well with saliva, which will start the digestion process and make it easier for your stomach to break down.
3. Slow down: Take breaks between bites, put down your chop sticks and engage in conversation, or simply enjoy the flavours and textures of your meal. This mindful pause helps you reconnect with your body’s hunger and fullness cues.
4. Portion control: Start with smaller portions and give yourself time before going for seconds. This way you can assess whether you’re truly still hungry.
5. Try to eat within 1 hour and leave 5 hours between meals. Give your gut enough time to reset, which can help with digestion. Eating a balance of protein, fibre, and fat at each meal will go a long way in making your food more satisfying so you aren’t constantly on the search for a snack.
When we adopt a healthier relationship with food we’re immediately being kinder to our bodies and improving our digestive systems. Taking time to eat not only makes for a more enjoyable dining experience but also leads to proper digestion that boosts nutrient absorption and gives way to improved control of blood sugar levels.
Just remember to follow those easy steps of chewing slowly; tasting and savouring each mouthful – and relax – before long you’ll notice a difference in how you feel after meal times and how your energy levels stay constant through out the day. Your digestive system will thank you. Bon Appétit!