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Will eating slowly actually improve my health?

The question

How does how we eat our foods - chewing 24 times, drinking slowly, etc - affect our health?

The answer

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Eating slowly can help prevent digestive problems such as gas, bloating and stomach upset and it can aid in weight control.

In fact, one recent study found that people who wolfed down their meals and ate until they were full were three times more likely to be overweight than those who ate slowly and modestly. Previous research has revealed that fast eaters consume more calories and at a rate 3.5 times faster than slow eaters.

It takes roughly 20 minutes for appetite-related hormones to kick in and tell your brain you've had enough to eat. So it makes sense that eating quickly can cause you to eat too much before you're fully aware of it.

  • It can be challenging to eat slowly, but it's not impossible. Changing the way you eat requires concentration and awareness. If you think you eat too fast, try the following tips to slow you pace - and keep practicing since it's hard to break lifelong habits.
  • Drink 8 to 12 ounces (250 to 375 ml) of water before eating your meal to help fill your stomach. Take sips of water between bites.
  • After every bite, put down your knife and fork and chew thoroughly. Do not pick up your utensils until your mouth is 100 per cent empty.
  • Push your plate away as soon as you feel satisfied.
  • To resist the temptation to eat seconds, don't serve food "family style" and cook only one serving per person.
  • If you feel famished, you're more likely to eat quickly and more food than you need. Go no longer than four hours without eating to prevent becoming overly hungry. Include between meal snacks such as fruit and yogurt, a handful of almonds, or part skim cheese and whole grain crackers.
  • Plan family meals. Sit down to meals with your partner or family and make conversation part of the meal. Talking during a meal slows down the rate of food consumption. Studies also suggest that more family meals mean less fried and sugary foods and more fruits and vegetables.
  • Ban distractions. Eating in front of the TV, while reading, or while driving leads to mindless eating - and overeating. Reserve the kitchen or dining room table for meals and pay attention to the fact you're eating.

Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Leslie Beck.

Click here to see Q&As from all of our health experts.

The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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