Tough food makes your tougher

Live life to the fullest – perhaps is my most common sentence, being creative and having music around always bring me tons of joy. I feel free in nature, exploring the woods or seashore; hearing the soothing sounds of moving water, or watching the river flowing brings me so much peace and love. I like all those feelings, they comfort me, and that is why I constantly look for them. However, I wasn’t fully aware of the effects of food – apart from knowing that a chunky burger would do that for sure (juicy and cheesy nam!).

So it was a Tuesday evening when I joined a mindfulness workshop recommended by a friend. The teacher starts the session by saying ” we are gonna start practicing mindful eating”. He took a raisin… yes a raisin, what a treat right? and then a salty, milky piece of chocolate, and then I thought this session is getting interesting :D. He gave us one each and he asked us to close our eyes.. in silence.. eat the raisin, and the chocolate. After 5 minutes, I realize I have felt flavors I haven’t ever felt before with. My suspicious mind as Elvis Presley would say though: ‘Uhm, maybe he injected something to it’ – but no, I was tasting my first raisin properly after eating many of them over the years.

This brought me to think about the tender miracle of chewing. Honesty, my mindful eating has been on and off after this session – I tend to focus on the conversation, my thoughts, or whatever I am watching while I am eating, so now and then – despite what is surrounding me – I remember to taste what I am eating.. chew it and taste it again.. and repeat – while I am writing these lines I declare I want to make this happens more and more, it takes me to the underrated ‘now’.

You might have heard it said that food well chewed it easier to digest. However, it is also worth knowing that properly chewing our food can help to protect us from infections. Researchers recently discovered this when they took a closer look at what are known as the Th17 cells in our mouths.

These cells are part of the immune system and can ward off bacteria that are harmful to our health while leaving friendly bacteria in peace. Th17 cells form in the mouth: the more we chew, the more cells are produced. These immune cells are important in protecting against bacterial and fungal infections that are commonly found in the mouth.

The immune system performs a remarkable balancing act at barrier sites such as the skin, mouth, and gut by fighting off harmful pathogens while tolerating the presence of normal friendly bacteria. Our research shows that, unlike at other barriers, the mouth has a different way of stimulating Th17 cells: not by bacteria but by mastication. Therefore mastication can induce a protective immune response in our gums.

Chewing your food properly can boost your mouth’s immune system to protect you against illness.

Eating foods with a tougher consistency, or simply chewing well, ensures a better immune defense in the mouth.

However, these Th17 cells also have a bad side. Increased damage from mastication could also exacerbate bone loss in gum diseases. In summary, make sure you include hard food in your diet and you got enough time to eat!

Eating with awareness helps us to eat the right amount of food, avoid overeating, and helps us to identify how certain foods make us feel. When we listen to what our body is telling us we can learn tons about ourselves.

Before bringing the curtain down…

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