MILAN – Savouring food instead of wolfing it down, not only to enjoy its flavour more but also to stay slim: this is one of the simplest tips which can be put into practice straight away in terms of diet. Confirming this once more is a study conducted by researchers from the Nestlé Research Centre (NRC), in collaboration with the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands, who analysed the correlation between the characteristics of a meal, the speed with which food is chewed, the sense of being “full” and intake of nutrients and calories.
Italians eat quickly
A habit, namely eating slowly, is unfortunately one which Italians do not possess: Data from the sixth report by the Nestlé Foundation Observatory ADI on the lifestyle and eating habits of our fellow countrymen and in particular, the younger generation, in fact reveal that the average duration of a meal is just 22 minutes. Moreover, 1 child in 5 eats lunch in less than 15 minutes. The study, published by Appetite, has demonstrated how solid food, eaten in small mouthfuls and chewed for a long time, is able to increase the sense of being full, with a consequent reduction in the amount consumed.
The process of chewing food
More specifically, the first phase of the study analysed the characteristics of the chewing process, during the consumption of the 35 solid foods which often make up a hot meal. These include: vegetables (boiled potatoes, broccoli, carrots), meat and fast food (chicken, tofu, lasagne, pizza), snacks (fries, fish fingers). The volunteers were asked to eat 50 grams of each dish; 7 of these being consumed over 5 consecutive days. Video recordings of the volunteers were used to calculate the quantity of food consumed per mouthful and in total, the number of mouthfuls, the number of chews per minute and the total duration of the chewing process for each of the 35 foods.
The significance of how the foods were served
A second phase of the study was focussed on the influence of the form in which the food was served on the quantity consumed: a meal composed of beefsteak in gravy, carrots and potatoes was served until the volunteers felt full. The first group received it in a typical form (beefsteak and whole root vegetables) the second consisted of chopped meat and mashed carrots and potatoes. The volunteers stated their sense of satiety before and after the meal. Food consumption was measured and compared between the various groups and in single individuals. The data collected revealed that those volunteers who had eaten vegetables and beefsteak consumed 10% less than those who had eaten the pureed vegetables and chopped beefsteak. Moreover, the latter meal was consumed 20% more quickly than the first, amounting to 10g more food ingested per minute. It was concluded, therefore, that a portion of puree chewed only 27 times is less rewarding for the appetite than the same quantity of potatoes, which must be chewed 488 times.