Everyone has that friend who just takes forever to eat their food. But as annoying as it can be to dine with those who agonize over every bite, the latest science suggests that you’d be wise to join them—especially if you’re looking to lose weight. “It turns out that most people eat really quickly and very few chew their food properly,” says Norma Lowe, M.A., NASM, C.P.T., a certified sports nutritionist and fitness coach based in New York City. “Far too many people eat so quickly that they don’t realize how full they are and end up overeating.”
In fact, if you’re the type who whoofs down food, your chances of becoming obese are upwards of 115 percent higher than someone who takes their time, says one study in The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. And that’s just part of a growing body of research suggesting that if you take your time eating—and even chew your food more slowly—your body will reap the benefits. (Related: 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.)
According to a study published last year in the journal Nutrients, eating your food at a much slower rate has a direct impact on your hunger levels. Study participants who ate their meals at slower speeds reported being fuller and with a reduced appetite afterward. The group also indulged in 25 percent fewer snacks overall, and, interestingly, they were able to vividly remember their meals with much greater accuracy than those who ate their meals faster. (The big downside worth noting? “The slow rate group reported reduced enjoyment after their meal.”)
But reducing your food intake overall isn’t the only reason why you should consider embracing your inner tortoise while you’re enjoying your dinner. “Chewing your food slowly leads to better digestion and allows the food to be used for energy,” says Lowe. “Chewing more slowly and longer releases nutrients from the food more efficiently.”
Taking your time chewing may also boost your body’s ability to burn off the calories and activate its natural defenses. One study published in Obesity found that the more you chew while eating your meal, the more activated your metabolism will be, as participants could expect to burn an extra 10 calories per 300-calorie meal. And a joint study published in the journal Immunity conducted by teams from the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. and The University of Manchester in the UK found that proper chewing activates your mouth’s immune system to help protect you against illness.
So how slowly should you chew? According to many experts, the magic number is 32 chews. “Chewing 32 times appears to be an average number applied to most bites of food,” write the folks at Healthline. “Foods that are harder to chew, such as steak and nuts, may require up to 40 chews per mouthful. Foods like watermelon may require fewer chews to break down—as few as 10 to 15.”
So take your time! And if you’re naturally a slow eater, take comfort in knowing that you’re doing the right thing—and also know that your deliberate eating habits mean that you’re likely to be confident, “even-keeled,” and you “know how to appreciate life.” And for more amazing advice to help you shed unwanted pounds, don’t miss our complete list of The 200 Best Foods for Losing Weight!
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