We often think about what are the “right” or “healthy” foods to eat. As we research and read information on nutrition, it’s easy to get confused and not know where to begin. Do you ever get stressed about making choices at the grocery store or in a restaurant?
If you find yourself in this situation, the first thing to do is relax. Make the healthiest choices you can with what you know right now. Then, keep your eye out for health and nutrition information, and if you learn something new tomorrow, you can adjust your choices then.
For right now, let’s set aside what to eat and instead focus on how we are eating. Did you know that HOW you eat is as important as WHAT you eat? I know it might sound crazy, but it’s true. The following tips on how to eat can have a significant positive impact on how well your body will absorb the nutrients in the food you’re eating.
Sit Down While You Eat
We’ve all done it … eating while standing at the kitchen counter, on the way out the door, or in the car. Sometimes we are hungry and in a hurry! But when we are rushing around, our body’s “fight or flight” response is activated. This means that we are working in our sympathetic nervous system where digestion is reduced in favour of more important functions such as muscle power and movement.
If we can stop for the length of time it takes to eat … park that car, take a few breaths, put away your phone and eat mindfully … our body will thank us for the added nutrients.
Eat With Good Posture
Poor posture has become a more common occurrence as we spend much of our day hunched over our computers, desks and while driving. Many of us now have standing desks and a more ergonomic desk set up to help us maintain our posture, but have you ever considered that your posture while eating may be impacting your digestion?
Slouching constricts the stomach, diaphragm, and intestines so that they are not functioning optimally. This study discovered that people complaining of bloating and IBS had poor control of diaphragm and other core muscles, and when corrected their symptoms were significantly reduced.
Saying grace before a meal is a long time religious tradition of giving thanks for the meal to be received. This helps us to stop and pause before eating so that we eat mindfully and enjoy our food. Our bodies actually respond physiologically to foods upon sight and smell prior to eating. This is called the cephalic phase of digestion. The traditional practice of expressing gratitude prior to eating puts us into a positive frame of mind that supports optimal absorption of nutrients from our food.
This moment of pause does not have to be religious or said out loud. It can be just a moment you spend with yourself, done anywhere, and without anyone even noticing!
Chew Your Food Well
This practice not only helps reduce the risk of heartburn but also helps your body to ultimately absorb more nutrition from your food. Chewing food well breaks down food into smaller pieces and also allows digestive enzymes in saliva more time to get to work on pre-digestion. This makes it easier for your small intestines to absorb nutrients from the food as it passes through further down.
Not only that but chewing our food thoroughly also helps us to slow down our eating, which is also helpful to aid our body’s digestive process.
Share Your Mealtime With Friends
Not only is sharing mealtimes with friends and family fun to do, but it is a ritual that helps your nutritional status as well. When we eat together with our loved ones we are often laughing, eating more slowly, and having a good time. This positive attitude reduces stress which is correlated with improved digestive function.