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Learn About the Health Benefits of Eating Slowly

Learn About the Health Benefits of Eating Slowly

Benefits of Eating Slowly

It might not seem obvious, but slowing down while you eat can actually help you lose weight and the  health benefits of eating slowly are many. Research has shown that people who eat their meals more slowly end up eating less and feeling less hungry after their meal.

Many people eat too quickly, and when food is consumed too quickly the brain doesn't have time to tell you that you're full. It takes about 15 minutes after you start eating for your brain to start telling you that you're full. If you end up scarfing down your meal in just a few minutes you will likely eat more calories than you need to.

Studies have shown that people who are overweight eat less when they slow their eating pace down. Another study found that gastric bypass patients were less likely to lose weight when they were not aware of their eating pace compared to other patients.

In another study by Texas Christian University, one group of people was allowed to eat a meal slowly without time constraints and instructed to chew thoroughly and pause between bites. Another group was told to eat quickly as if they were in a rush and to not pause

The group that ate more quickly ate 88 more calories than the group that slowed their eating pace down, again proving that the speed of eating makes a substantial difference in the amount of calories consumed per meal.

When you add up 88 calories per meal over a week, assuming that a person eats three meals per day, you may be eating 1,800 or more calories per week unnecessarily just because you're eating too fast. That's a great incentive to slow your meals down, and you may see weight loss results just by doing that.

The biology and health benefits of eating slowly

 Science has an explanation as to how eating slowly helps you feel satiated. There are several signals that the body uses to tell the brain that you should or shouldn't be eating. If you haven't eaten for about three hours, your body begins making a hormone called ghrelin which tells your brain to feel hungry.

When you eat, your stomach and digestive tract makes two hormones that tell your brain that you should stop: cholecystokinin and leptin. It takes about 15 minutes for the messages to reach the brain after you take your first bite, and even after you start to feel full your brain will not tell you to stop eating until a few minutes after this.

If you eat slowly, you have less of a chance of overeating during that 15 minute period. For instance, you may have 1000 calories on your plate, but you only need 500 calories to reach your daily maximum. If you eat too quickly you have a much greater chance of eating the whole 1,000 calories because you aren't giving your brain enough time to register that you're full. But, if you slow down, you may just eat 500 or 600 calories, and after 15 minutes have passed it won't be long before your brain tells you to stop eating - and thus you avoid overeating.

Of course overeating can be prevented by controlling your portions and knowing how much you are eating per meal, but even if you limit your portion sizes carefully you still want to eat them slowly. This is particularly useful on diets like the HCG diets where portion sizes are limited.

Drinking plenty of water between bites is also important for avoiding overeating. When you drink water you help to fill your stomach, and as your stomach fills up it activates stretch receptors. These receptors also tell your brain that you should stop eating. If you eat without drinking fluid you stomach will only start to expand once you've eaten a substantial amount of food, and that isn't good when you are trying to lose weight.

Another one of the health benefits of eating slowly is that your body can absorb food much easier when you thoroughly chew it. Chewing breaks down larger particles of food into smaller more easily digestible particles, and prevents undigested food from entering your body and causing health problems.

Not only can eating slowly help you lose weight - it makes food more satisfying

Obviously when you slow down eating you get to enjoy your meal that much more, and you get more time to enjoy the sensory experience of eating. Food can be much more enjoyable when you take just a little bit more time out of your day to enjoy it.

Also, social eating is an American tradition that has fallen by the wayside with the fast pace of modern society. More people are becoming aware of the benefits of cooking at home with friends and family rather than eating fast food or junk food.

Slow down when eating junk foods to wean yourself off of them

Most of us know that junk foods are not good, yet they can be very addicting. Ideally you never want to eat junk foods, but the reality is that many of us still have our favorite packaged foods that end up being an Achilles' heel for weight loss. Slowing down when you eat packaged foods may help you stop eating them altogether.

The sensation of eating which includes the taste of food, its texture, and smell are all important for appetite. Junk food manufacturers create foods that have texture contrasts which are very appealing to the brain, such as crème filled cookies that have both a crunchy and soft texture.

Also, the nutrient makeup of food is important for appetite, and junk food manufacturers always try to create the perfection combination of sugar, salt and fat that tells your brain to keep eating.

And junk foods are also designed to melt quickly in your mouth. When food melts quickly it avoids some of the signaling that tells your brain that you are eating too many calories. This is why people eat several servings of packaged cookies and chips without thinking twice.

One of the ways you can start eating less junk food is to make a conscious effort to slow down when eating them. Knowing that they are designed to make you eat faster, you should do your best to control portions and slow down your pace.

You will likely find that many pre-packaged foods are not very appetizing when you slow down to eat them. By giving your digestive system more time to tell your brain that you are full, you are also less likely to eat too much junk food.

So take a few minutes to relax and enjoy your meals, especially if you are known for being a fast eater or if you are overweight, and you will most likely find that you need less food to feel full and you'll experience the other health benefits of eating slowly. Also try to eat multiple small meals per day, and try not to go for more than three or four hours without eating.

About the author

Dr. Constance Odom, MD

4 min read