Eating slowly

Altering the speed at which you eat can have one of the biggest beneficial effects on your health.

You might have the best diet in the world but if you eat too fast you aren’t able to digest and absorb important nutrients. Below, you will learn some major benefits from slowing down your eating along with some hints and tips to help you incorporate this practice.

Digest more nutrients

So that food nutrients can be fully absorbed by the body, it needs time to dissolve in our stomach acids.

We don’t have teeth in our stomachs and food is the same size when it stomach as it was when it swallowed.

If you think about it, fine powder dissolves faster than large lumps so simply chew it more!


Fewer calories consumed

In one study it was calculated that slow eaters consume 60g of food per minute 1.

Medium-speed eaters consume 70g of food per minute, and fast eaters consume 90g of food per minute.

Fast eaters also take larger bites and chew less before swallowing.

Another study found that for women when they eat quickly consume 646 calories in 9 minutes but when they eat slower consume 579 calories in 29 minutes.

Increase water consumption

Research shows 2 that the more water is consumed during a meal the slower someone eats so drinking more water might be important to helping us eat less during a meal. Eating slowly also seems to decrease hunger and lead to higher levels of satiety between meals.

Good hydration helps maintain the balance of our body’s fluids, energises muscles, helps our kidneys and bowels work more efficiently and improves the appearance of the skin. Another advantage of eating slowly is that it seems to increase water consumption during meals.

Feel fuller for longer

One of the most important benefits of eating slowly is that it gives your body time to recognise that you’re full.

It takes about 20 minutes from the start of a meal for the brain to send out signals of satiety. Most people’s meals don’t even last that long!

You can, therefore, see how many extra calories you might ingest simply because you don’t allow your body time to register that it no longer requires food.

Also, feeling fuller for longer will reduce the need for snacking in between meals which can also affect the amount you eat at a proper meal. This is particularly evident with children.

Improved eating experience 

Taking time to eat will also heighten your awareness of what you are eating.

In Mediterranean countries, it’s normal for dinner to last two hours because people will enjoy the smells and flavours and savour their meal whilst enjoying the social aspect of mealtime too.

Taking breaks in between mouthfuls and actually putting down your knife and fork can help here.

Reduce overeating and binge episodes

At times we may feel a powerful urge to eat and/or binge. More often than not,  this is accompanied by getting the food in as fast as possible. The act of speed eating has been proven by research to be one of the hallmarks of binge eating.

People who suffer from compulsive eating often feel out of control in their eating behaviour and regularly suffer from feelings of guilt, regret and shame.

Whilst we may want to eradicate these eating situations, they are often the result of high emotions and the curve balls that life throws at us from time to time. So rather than try to eliminate binges, it’s better to be aware of them so we can use an element of control. Slowing down the eating speed is a great way to do this and can derail a binge or an overeating episode.


Tips for eating slowly

Like with most things we’d like to work on or improve, the hardest thing is finding the time. Time is also the number one reason the majority of us eat too fast and although you’ll find some tips on how to eat slower below, to improve your eating habits to reap the important benefits listed above, you are simply going to have to make time. 

That said, it doesn’t have to be every meal as sometimes it is just impossible to avoid eating on the run, in between meetings, or while making food for others because you have to go out. 

Even if you start with one meal every other day, this is an improvement. Here are some more tips to help you slow down your eating.

1. Aim to finish last if eating with others.

2. Think about what you are eating, the tastes and textures.

3. Finish and swallow your mouthful before preparing the next.

4. Take a break, put your cutlery down once or twice and take a few breaths during your meal.

5. Choose high-fibre foods that take more time to chew, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

6. Use smaller plates or different utensils (such as chopsticks).

7. Diarise your meals setting aside a certain time to eat your meal such as 20/30 minutes.