Nowadays people eat under all kinds of strange circumstances – while walking down the street, while driving their vehicles, while sitting at their desks working, while reading the newspaper, while watching a movie.
Eating is no longer something that deserves a dedicated setting or time frame.
It does not call for our undivided attention – multitasking has become the way of life.
But while we eat, we also incorporate the energy from our surroundings along with the nutrients from our food.
If we have a meal in a place with an unpleasant atmosphere, we absorb something un-pleasant with that meal, while if we have a picnic in a beautiful park or by the sea, we absorb something much more wholesome.
Have you ever noticed how much more enjoyable it is to eat outside in the fresh air? How foods served at a picnic in nature are so much more appetizing?
When dining together with other people, we also assimilate their temperaments and their conversation – as well as their neuroses.
While there is nothing wrong with eating in company and having a spirited conversation, eating while discussing an important business move will most likely be detrimental to the proper digestion of food and absorption of nutrients.
In order to get the most out of your food, it is best to eat while relaxed, unoccupied with intense mental work, and ideally in a pleasant environment.
Pressure and stress can shut down the digestive system.
Make it a habit to consciously relax before you begin to eat.
Sit quietly for a little while and take a few deep breaths!
That will greatly enhance your eating experience and also give your body a chance to fully focus on the task at hand: the chewing, the tasting and the enjoyment of your food.
An action taken with awareness is more powerful than an action taken without awareness.
For example, if you choose to feed yourself with nourishing foods and consciously take good care of your body in non-food ways, your choices send a powerful message: They confirm to your body that it is well taken care of and can therefore relax, move out of survival mode, function better and use its resources to heal and rejuvenate itself. You put your body at ease.
Awareness will allow you to digest, absorb and assimilate the nutrients from your food more effectively.
Digestion begins right away in the mouth, as we chew our food.
Complex carbohydrate-rich foods, such as vegetables, grains and legumes in particular benefit from thorough chewing.
Saliva contains an enzyme called amylase, which starts to break down complex carbohydrates into simple carbohydrates or sugars while the food is still in the mouth.
As we chew, our food mixes with amylase, and the inherent sweetness of vegetables, grains and legumes gets released.
Is Mother Nature seducing us to chew our food thoroughly by giving us a little sweetness in return? She is very resourceful indeed!
The mouth is the only place in the digestive system where food is ground mechanically into smaller pieces.
It makes all the sense in the world, that well-chewed food is a lot easier on the entire digestive system and is much better prepared for nutrient absorption in the small intestines.
But there is more to chewing than helping with digestion, absorption and assimilation.
The physical action of chewing itself stimulates the creation of T-cells by the thymus gland.
T-cells are a type of white blood cell known as a lymphocyte.
Lymphocytes protect the body against cancerous cells as well as cells that have become infected by pathogens, such as bacteria and viruses.
T-cells develop from stem cells in bone marrow, then migrate to the thymus via the blood. The thymus, a lymphatic system gland, functions mainly to promote the development of mature T-cells.
The “T” in T-cell stands for thymus derived.
T-cells are necessary for the activation of immune cells to fight infection.
T-cells function by actively destroying infected cells, as well as by signalling other immune cells to participate in the immune response.
Therefore, anytime you need more energy, healing, or strength – chew well.
You can even chew your beverages!
There is a Buddhist saying: “Chew your drink and drink your food.”
I like to do the following experiment with my coaching clients, an experiment I learned from Lino Stanchich, author of Power Eating Program: You Are How You Eat. Take a clock with a second hand, fill a glass with water and have a seat.
Sit with a straight back, close your eyes and assess your energy level at the moment.
Make a mental note of it. Then, open your eyes, take a sip of water and begin chewing the water as if it were food.
Look at the clock and chew for one whole minute.
Then, swallow the water. Take another sip of water and repeat one minute of chewing, then swallow.
Take a third sip of water and chew for one minute.
Swallow and assess your energy level again, comparing it to your level prior to chewing the water.
You will most likely sense a rise in your energy level. It will be subtle but definitely noticeable.
This is a great way to experience the power of chewing.
If chewing water turns into a boost of energy, imagine what thoroughly chewing food can do for you!
By the way, many a headache has been cured by chewing water as well.
Fennel Casserole with Cream
A lovely and comforting casserole made with roots and fennel in a rich cream sauce, vegetarian.
Serving size Serves 4
Cooking time 60 minutes
Prepare time 20 minutes
Cooking level easy
Food Recipe Ingredients
2 large or 3 small bulbs of fennel, cut into bite-size pieces
3 large or 4 small carrots, cut into chunks
2 potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks
salt and pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
¾ cup (200 ml) heavy cream
a few parsley leaves
Food Recipe Instructions
1 Preheat the oven to 450°F (250°C).
2 Butter a deep baking dish, around 10 inches (25 cm) in diameter. Place the fennel, carrots and potatoes into the baking dish and sprinkle with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Pour in the cream.
3 Cover with a lid or aluminum foil and bake for 60 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
Garnish with parsley and serve with cooked whole grains.