Published 10th October 2023
Is there a certain number of times I should chew my food?
Some sources claim that chewing food 32 times before swallowing is best, but there’s no research to support this.
So, rather than aiming for a number, chew your food until it’s small and soft enough to swallow easily.
Different food needs different amounts of chewing. For example, you’d chew a strawberry less than an almond.
Scientists have investigated whether the speed at which we eat influences our health. They refer to this speed as your eating rate.
Research suggests that a faster eating rate can lead to increased energy intake, which may be associated with weight gain.
In some cases, a slower eating rate may be linked with more chewing and better health outcomes.
Below, we take a closer look at how much chewing you should be doing, the factors that influence this, and how chewing benefits us.
We also dive deep into the latest research on eating rates and how chewing kicks off the digestive process.
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How many times should you chew?
Some sources have 32 bites per mouthful as a magic number, but this isn’t backed by science.
The right amount of chewing depends on your food’s texture. If you’ve got a tough piece of meat, for example, you may need to chew it more than 32 times.
Chewing is just one piece of the puzzle. Another factor is the amount of time it takes you to eat. Some people chew more slowly and take more time between bites.
Bite size plays into the speed of eating and how your body processes your food. Because of all of these variables, it’s hard to land on the ideal number of chews per mouthful of food.
Instead, focus on the texture of the food in your mouth, and swallow when it becomes soft.
What’s eating rate?
Your eating rate is how fast you eat.
Scientists measure eating rate by looking at the amount of grams or calories we consume per minute. A slower eating rate involves consuming fewer grams or calories in 1 minute.
Many factors can influence your eating rate, including:
how many times you chew
the texture of your food
the time you take between bites
At ZOE, we run the largest nutrition science study in the world. Our research suggests that your eating rate may influence your health in several ways.
In a recent study, we investigated eating rates in adults in the United Kingdom.
We found links between higher self-reported eating rates and increased energy intake, body weight, and blood sugar responses.
Having a high energy intake can lead to weight gain over time. So, we propose that eating slowly may be an effective way to control your energy intake.
Meanwhile, an observational study from the Netherlands found that people with faster eating rates tended to have higher overall body mass index scores than people with slower eating rates.
Similarly, a meta-analysis concluded that a slower eating rate may reduce your overall energy intake while keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
What’s more, three studies within this meta-analysis suggest that increasing the number of chews per bite of food increases levels of gut hormones that make you feel full.
Taken together, these studies make a compelling case that a slower eating rate may be a useful tool for weight loss.
Finally, another study looked at the eating rates of 33 people with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. The participants with slower eating rates had higher insulin levels 45–60 minutes after eating.
In the short term, higher insulin levels can help you get glucose from your bloodstream into the cells that need it more quickly.
The researchers suggest that chewing food for longer could help you control your blood sugar levels more easily.
If you want to learn more, watch or listen to the ZOE Science & Nutrition podcast episode on eating rates.
Benefits of chewing more
Initial research suggests that chewing more may reduce how hungry we feel and how much we eat.
This could be because it influences our appetite-regulating gut hormones.
With that said, chewing is just one factor at work: Bite size, number of bites, food texture, and the properties of the food all play a role, too.
One interesting study looked at almonds. The authors found that after participants were done chewing, most of the almonds’ cells were still intact.
This is important because fat is stored within these cells. So, if they’re not broken down, your body can’t absorb the fat, and it passes out in your poop.
This means that you’ll absorb less fat from whole almonds than, for example, almond paste. The cells of the almonds in this paste are broken down during manufacturing.
How chewing works
While your teeth are biting or grinding, your mouth secretes saliva to soften your food. Your salivary glands produce an enzyme called amylase, which breaks down starch in your mouth.
Once food loses its texture, it’s called a “bolus.” This enters your esophagus and moves down into your gut.
Again, there’s no magic number of chews that turns food into a bolus. It depends on the food’s texture and your rate of chewing.
Other tips for eating in a healthy way
Because some research has associated a slower eating rate with health benefits, you may want to slow down when eating.
Here are some tips that could help:
Put your cutlery down after each bite, and pick it back up after you swallow.
Be mindful while eating and savor your food. Ask yourself what it smells and tastes like to stay present in the moment.
Drink water frequently throughout your meal.
Opt for harder, more solid foods rather than mashed or pureed options.
Turn off any screens and ignore your phone; these distractions can cause us to eat faster.
Aim for small, manageable changes instead of huge, sweeping ones. These are easier to stick with and turn into habits.
ZOE’s personalized nutrition program can help you to make small, steady changes to your diet so you can eat the best foods for you.
You can discover how it works by taking our free quiz.
Does not chewing enough pose risks?
Several things can happen if you don’t chew enough.
As we mentioned earlier, chewing your food thoroughly leads to slower eating. This can help keep you from eating more than you need.
Chewing also signals your body to produce certain enzymes and hydrochloric acid, which help break down food.
If there isn’t enough acid in your stomach, you may experience gas and bloating.
To absorb nutrients, your body needs to break food into smaller molecules, like simple sugars and amino acids. So, without proper chewing, you may not absorb nutrients as well.
To avoid these risks, chew your food until it becomes soft. This will mean more or less chewing, depending on your food’s texture.
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There’s no best number of times to chew for optimal nutrition. The texture of your food, your bite size, and the time between bites all come into play.
With that said, some research has associated a slower eating rate with eating less. So, eating slowly may help you reach or maintain a moderate weight.
Also, chewing your food more may make you feel fuller and more satisfied after your meal.
To slow your eating, try putting down your utensils often and drinking water throughout your meal.
And food is something to enjoy, so take time to appreciate the different flavors and ingredients.
If you don’t chew enough, you may experience gas and bloating and take in fewer nutrients.
Effect of mastication on lipid bioaccessibility of almonds in a randomized human study and its implications for digestion kinetics, metabolizable energy, and postprandial lipemia. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (2015). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4266890/
Effects of chewing on appetite, food intake and gut hormones: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Physiology & Behavior. (2015). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26188140/
How important is eating rate in the physiological response to food intake, control of body weight, and glycemia? Nutrients. (2020). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7353031/
Increased oral processing and a slower eating rate increase glycaemic, insulin and satiety responses to a mixed meal tolerance test. European Journal of Nutrition. (2021). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33389082/
Self-reported eating rate is associated with weight status in a Dutch population: A validation study and a cross-sectional study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. (2017). https://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12966-017-0580-1
Slower self-reported eating rate is associated with favourable cardio-metabolic risk factors in UK adults. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. (2023). https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/proceedings-of-the-nutrition-society/article/slower-selfreported-eating-rate-is-associated-with-favourable-cardiometabolic-risk-factors-in-uk-adults/B8C5A4D18D3C9C1F6E7D2C43B109ADB2
Texture and savoury taste influences on food intake in a realistic hot lunchtime meal. Appetite. (2013). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195666312004059
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