One of my favorite reads this year was the book Breathe by James Nestor.
Breathe is possibly the best book ever written on the science of “the breath” but also featured a highly informative rabbit trail on an unlikely subject, chewing. Including the importance of chewing, and the negative health implications of our modern diet of soft foods.
Remarkably, our lack of chewing in daily life could have negative side effects.
Our ancestors spent around 4 hours/day chewing their food. Their teeth were perfectly straight had a large powerful jaw.
In modern times, you see the prevalence of weak, pulled in jaw, a crowded shrunken mouth and restricted breathing pathways as a result . The entire field of orthodontia exists to rectify this issue. (But can actually make it worse, more about that in the book)
Why is this? Why has the modern face evolved (or devolved) into this state? The answer could be our diet…but not because of the nutritional content of our food, but because of it’s consistency.
And interestingly, this “shrunken mouth epidemic” effects both McDonalds diners and Whole Foods shoppers equally as many highly-touted “health foods” are soft and don’t require much chewing. (Think avocados, smoothies, ect.)
Without going into too much detail, (read the book!) there are many health benefits to chewing you may not know about, and they go beyond just having straighter teeth or a more defined jawline.
- Increased enzyme and saliva production. ( This results in improved digestion and better nutrient absorption)
- Stress relief. (Studies have shown that chewing relieves stress)
- Toned facial muscles and a more refined jawline.
- Increased production of immune factor cells.
- Feeling satiated faster and for longer.
- Better oxygen absorption and nitric oxide production through deep breathing.
- Increased sense of taste!
Are you reaching for the beef jerky yet? There are also some non-food ways to reap the benefits of chewing. A couple of things I have found are chewing mastic gum, and buying a Jawzercise.
Both of which are great ways to reap the benefits of chewing, but nothing can truly take the place of eating tougher, harder to chew, non-processed foods along with consciously chewing your food more thoroughly.