The Perils of Hasty Eating

Potato Croquettes on plateA hundred years ago people believed that food should be well-chewed before swallowing, and that eating food too rapidly was not healthy. Here is what it said in a 1921 book:

Hasty Eating

 Digestion begins in the mouth. But when food is improperly masticated, it enters the stomach with only slight alteration. The ptyalin of saliva is not present in sufficient quantity, under such conditions to produce any effect on the preliminary digestion of starches, with the result that the food passes through the duodenum practically unchanged, and in coarse particles, where it is likely to produce irritation. One authority says: 

“Although much of the mechanical preparation and mixing of foods is of a necessity done in the stomach, some of it may advantageously be done in the mouth. The stomach should not be required to perform the function of the gizzard of a fowl.” –Human Foods, page 227.

Hasty eating, or bolting of food, is a fruitful cause of over-eating. The food does not remain in the mouth long enough under this condition, to give the satisfaction that it gives when thoroughly masticated; so, in an effort to satisfy the craving for food, more is taken than the body requires. This habit leads, moreover, to the taking of too large a quantity in too short a time, which serves to paralyze, as it were, the nerve impulses that communicate with the brain, and as a result the important message “Enough” does not reach the brain until an excess of food has been consumed.

When farinaceous foods (breads, cereals, potato, etc.) are well chewed and intimately mixed with saliva, they are more efficiently digested, and go farther, less food being required than when not well digested. Bread made from the entire grain requires more mastication before it can be swallowed than does spongy white bread, and itself promotes good digestion. Dry foods, which induce mastication should have a prominent place in the history. 

The Science of Food and Cookery (1921) by H.S. Anderson


27 thoughts on “The Perils of Hasty Eating

  1. That overly-done language always makes me laugh. Still, there’s some truth in those paragraphs, like this: “the important message “Enough” does not reach the brain until an excess of food has been consumed.” I’ve found that to be true with ice cream 100% of the time!

  2. That seems to be a long explanation of advice I’ve heard all my life. My dad inhaled his food. Mom enjoyed every bite. Husband John races through a meal, and I take my time. We were/are healthy and happy doing things our own way. I just thought that John’s parents were opposites, too. Perhaps it’s an unwritten requirement to marry opposites in chewing!

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Sheryl. I personally loved the language–lilting, thought-provoking as they “pronounced it trippingly on the tongue.” I think I will go enjoy some farinaceous foods now.

  4. I tend to “bolt” my food and totally agree it is a habit that increases weight. Bad habits die hard. Bill savors and yes, we are attracted opposites.😊

    1. When I read this advice in the old book, it made me think that I should eat more slowly – but then, of course, I forget to follow it by the next meal.

    1. I found it fascinating that the author used mastication to describe people chewing their food. I tend to think of cows masticating not people.

  5. Oh my grandfather chewed every bite 50 times… he was TORTURE to go out to eat with! I wonder if he had gotten that habit growing up, from my great-grandmother taking an article like this to heart!

    1. You may be right about him getting into the habit when he was a child. I’ve seen several articles written in the early 20th century that stressed the importance of thoroughly chewing food.

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