June 1, 2010

Take Time to Dine

This article was originally posted on 360mainstreet.com

We live in a very hectic world where it is rare to sit down long enough to relax. Most people are rushed throughout the day, and at the dinner table things are no different. Fast food restaurants line almost every road you drive down, making quick, unhealthy meals easily accessible. Unfortunately, it has become uncommon for a family to sit down and enjoy a nice, slow meal together.

When eating fast, food is typically not properly chewed, leading to improper digestion. Dr. Paul Fuhrman from the Advanced Wellness Center said, “If food is not properly chewed, much can go to waste, passing through the system as a fermenting, decaying mass, including those precious vitamins and minerals that we need to stay healthy.”

Many studies support taking time to enjoy a leisurely dinner. In 2008, the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that sitting down to eat a slow dinner caused subjects to consume 10 percent fewer calories. Another study published in 2008 in the British Medical Journal found that eating quickly and eating until full tripled the subjects’ risk of being overweight. "Taking the time to chew tends to slow down the dining process, resulting in smaller portions needed to appease your hunger," said Dr. Fuhrman.

In many other cultures, it's not uncommon for a meal to last a few hours. Not only is eating a slow meal better for your health, but it's also better for your relationships. Societies throughout the world enjoy slow dinners and see them as a social time, not just a time to eat.

In 1986, Carlo Petrini foresaw the problem of fast food restaurants increasing the rate at which we eat our meals when the first McDonald's opened in Rome. Petrini started the Slow Food Movement as a result. The movement focuses on eating real, locally grown foods and enjoying them at relaxing, conversation-filled meals. Petrini wants our future generations to appreciate good, healthy foods and the interactions that go along with those meals as well.

Eating slower and appreciating real food is very important to your health. This is especially true because many fast food restaurants sell highly processed food that can lead to a variety of health problems, ranging from obesity to cancer to asthma. Try to find locally grown, organic meats, fruits, and vegetables, and make a home cooked meal. When you sit down to eat your next meal, take time to chew until there is no flavor left in the food. Enjoy the conversation, and don’t think of it as just a time to eat, but a time to both socialize with your friends and family and appreciate the food.