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Eat Fewer Calories By Eating Slower

“Nature will castigate those who don’t masticate”
Horace Fletcher

“Drink your food and chew your water”
–Paul Chek

These two phrases come from different nutritionists, whose view on the importance of chewing your food ( a lot) matters – a lot.

But what does it mean? What can you gain, or lose, from more thoroughly chewing food? Can it really help you eat less and cut your calories down as much as many claim?

In brief, aside from some special cases like nuts, chewing more should help you cut calorie intake. Chewing more has many effects on feeding behavior, appetite, and digestion – some good and some questionable, depending on your goals.

Why You Should Chew More & Eat Slower

In one study, participants were fed small (5 grams) or large (15 grams) mouthfuls of chocolate custard, and allowed to chew for 3 or 9 seconds prior to swallowing1. Then, for the next 30 minutes they were allowed to consume as much or as little chocolate custard as they wanted. The results showed that significantly less chocolate custard was eaten if they were initially fed small bites and/or allowed to chew it more prior to swallowing. In fact, comparing the two extreme conditions (small bite size & longer chew time vs. large bite size & shorter chew time), the difference in subsequent intake amounted to 294 vs. 447 kcal – that’s a 52% increase!

Similarly, another study showed that subjects assigned to chew their food 40 times ate 11.9% less than those assigned to chewing it 15 times2.

Collectively, these data suggest that taking the time to enjoy your food, eat slowly & savor it, can cause you to eat less. Eating slower may be particularly important because it takes our brain and stomach about 20 minutes to register feelings of fullness.

The Curious Case Of Nuts

Nuts are a phenomenally complex food, consisting of a blend of proteins, fats, carbs, and fibers, all packaged tightly into small calorie-dense bundles. And the release of those calories may depend more on how well you chew than on anything else.

In one study, participants were given roughly 2 ounces of almonds per day and instructed to chew 10, 25, or 40 times3. The results showed that significantly less fat was absorbed when the almonds were chewed only 10 times. The subjects who chewed more reported feeling fuller and less hungry, but this may be due as well to the fact that they absorbed more calories, not only that they chewed their food more.

These findings were confirmed in another study, albeit indirectly. In this one, subjects were given either peanuts, peanut butter, or peanut oil, and fat absorption was subsequently monitored4. The peanuts most closely resembled the 10-chew condition in the almond study, peanut butter the 25-chew, and peanut oil the 40-chew condition. And the results were similar – peanut ingestion was associated with significantly less, and peanut oil significantly more absorption of the fat in peanuts. What this study suggests it that when it comes to nuts, sticking to whole nuts may result in less calorie absorption than nut butters and nut oils. While this is not a direct, chew vs less chew scenario, it does relate the idea that in either case, chewing seems to be our friend when it comes to less caloric intake.

Chewing More & Eating Slower Can Cut Your Calorie Intake

Based on the research examine here, when eating a mixed meal, smaller bites and longer chewing times may result in less hunger and eating less food overall. Chewing more not only allows for more absorption, but also seems to signal to the body that you have eaten enough, allowing your brain (which is slightly behind your stomach’s reaction to this) to register a feeling of fullness.

Show 4 References

  1. Zijlstra N, de Wijk RA, Mars M, Stafleu A, de Graaf C. Effect of bite size and oral processing time of a semisolid food on satiation. Am J Clin Nutr. Aug 2009;90(2):269-275.
  2. Li J, Zhang N, Hu L, et al. Improvement in chewing activity reduces energy intake in one meal and modulates plasma gut hormone concentrations in obese and lean young Chinese men. Am J Clin Nutr. Sep 2011;94(3):709-716.
  3. Cassady BA, Hollis JH, Fulford AD, Considine RV, Mattes RD. Mastication of almonds: effects of lipid bioaccessibility, appetite, and hormone response. Am J Clin Nutr. Mar 2009;89(3):794-800.
  4. Traoret CJ, Lokko P, Cruz AC, et al. Peanut digestion and energy balance. Int J Obes (Lond). Feb 2008;32(2):322-328

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9 Comments

  • cesar says:

    Hello marc.. i have a question that is on my mind lately. is there any difference between metabolic workout and strength circuit? which is more better for maximizing calorie burn or to lose fat? or are they the same? thanks

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      @Cesar - The difference is really semantics. A strength circuits workout is typically more metabolically challenging, but depending on the exercises chosen, the weight used, and the specific squences, a strength circuits workout can be very metabolically challenging. So strength circuits can become a metabolic workout. I hope that makes sense. I wouldn't get too caught up in the minutiae. The point is you can do two things regarding body composition and aesthetics (1) lose fat, or (2) build muscle. I think using strength circuits is an amazing framework to help get great workouts that are efficient. I think strength circuits workouts that are a bit more metabolically challenging (i.e. you are using larger muscle groups and compound exercises) is an excellent way to burn fat and improve your hormonal profile. Ultimately, nutrition is what will make the biggest different in terms of fat loss, not the specific workout.

  • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

    Thanks for looking into this research, Bill. It's hard to eat slower, but it definitely makes a difference. I find when I have whole foods like salad, chicken, veggies etc., it forces me to eat slower because it's much harder to wolf down. Nutritionists often recommend putting your fork down and taking a break a couple times during each meal, along with stopping to drink water.

  • Sam says:

    I'm glad to see another article on this topic, because it is something I have ALWAYS struggled with. For most of my life I have practically inhaled my food, and I never worried much about it until I made the decision to pursue a healthier lifestyle. Now I am always having to be mindful of how fast I am eating, and have been trying to make it a habit to eat slower and chew more. It is NOT easy to break the habit of fast eating.

    One thing I'd like to point out... if someone is already setting up meal plans for the day, and already know exactly how many calories they will be consuming, then technically speaking, the way they eat their food is irrelevant in terms of calorie consumption (clearly it is still healthier for your body and digestion to eat slower, chew more, etc.) but the point I am making is that they won't consume more or less calories based on how they eat, because they have already set the amount. As long as they have the discipline to stick to the amount, then there are no variables that can change that.

    Personally, I have been trying to chew my food as much as possible, but 40 times (again, I say this personally...) is excessive, and from my experience - practically impossible. The ratio of saliva becomes far greater than food, and I'm afraid I do not enjoy the feeling of moving that much saliva around in my mouth. I've made my goal 15-20 chews, and I am comfortable with that.

    On a semi-humorous note, sometimes I like to be like Remy from Ratatouille, and close my eyes while chewing. I've read a lot of articles about experiencing food with all of your senses. When you close your eyes after taking a bite, you eliminate a distraction, and there is more focus on the food in your mouth. Ever notice how often people do it in television commercials? (think Dove chocolate) yes, you get it now ;)

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Thanks for sharing, Sam.

    • Bill Lagakos says:

      Hi Sam,
      Thanks for the insights. I think the point of the article is that even if you measure an exact amount of calories to eat during the day, chewing more might make you absorb more of the calories then you would have otherwise. But of course, ymmv.
      best,
      Bill
      http://www.builtlean.com/author/william-lagakos/

  • sumit says:

    hey marc...
    thanks 4 this useful article..i am actally trying to lose weight. I am doing hiit and steady state cardio on alternate days and not doing any weight training. Will protein powder be helpful for me to loose fat or i just stick to high fiber low calories diet like fruits n cegies. please guide me whats best for me . I also want to improve my physical fitness and play basketball on daily basis.
    thanks

  • Rick R says:

    Marc,

    When I read this article, I'll admit I was skeptical at first. As a former service member I learned to eat fast or not eat at all and after leaving the military I really never broke that habit. After I read this article, I decided to give it a try and after two meals, my eating (chewing) habits are changing. After chewing more, I am eating less and I get a fuller sensation much quicker than I have before. Thanks for the great article! Your tips are helping my transformation from 215 lbs to 170 lbs in the last 7 months. Not bad for a 48 year old man. Thanks!

    • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

      Thanks for sharing Rick and congrats on your impressive results. Keep it up.

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