Welp, here’s another good reason to savor your food: Recent research suggests that people who eat slowly are less likely to become obese than speed-eaters. They’re also less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
This is hardly surprising, according to Dana Hunnes, senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. “If you eat too quickly, you’re more likely to consume more calories, because you’re bypassing the normal satiation systems,” she explains. “When you eat too many calories, you put on weight and are more likely to develop chronic diseases (think obesity, diabetes and heart disease).”
You also chew less when eating quickly, which only adds to the mayhem going on in your gut. “Improperly chewed food can remain undigested as it enters the intestines,” says nutritionist David Friedman, author of Food Sanity: How to Eat in a World of Fads and Fiction. “There, it can putrefy, possibly leading to gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, cramping and other digestive problems.”
Okay, that’s messed up.
But how long should we spend eating to avoid all those issues?
“Ideally, a meal should take at least 20 or 30 minutes to eat,” Hunnes says. “It takes roughly 20 minutes to feel satiated when eating—by eating slowly, it gives the body time to feel full.” To keep you on pace, she recommends putting down your fork or taking a sip of water between bites and/or chewing 30 times per bite.
Friedman suggests some unconventional ways in which to do so: “It’s important to eat in a relaxed, non-distracting setting. That means not conducting business on the phone or responding to every text message you get during your meal. Enjoy your 20-minute meal time away from the hustle-and-bustle world. You deserve it.”
Having an uninterrupted meal and not dying an early, bloated death?
Yeah, that sounds all right.