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May 11

Why Chewing Helps Boost Your Cognitive Function, According to a … – EatingWell

When choosing what to eat, most people consider the compounds within their food: the calories, fiber, vitamins and minerals, for instance. But there is something else you might want to consider when filling your plate: how much you'll chew. It's not only your arms, legs and abs that need exerciseyou have essential body parts in your head and neck that need regular movement too.

And, as it turns out, there's some pretty compelling research pointing to the impressive benefits that come with exercising your head and neck muscles via chewing, from helping you feel fuller for longer to improving your cognitive function and protecting you from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

Most of us chew daily, be it noshing on a granola bar between meetings or chomping down on chicken come dinnertimewhich should be enough to keep those muscles strong... right? Read on to learn more about why considering the consistency of your food is more important than you think, the connection between the cognitive benefits and chewing, plus the tweaks you can make to your diet to work these muscles even more.

Throughout history, humans have used their entire bodies to gather, grow and prepare food. But the amount of labor most people put into their food has been steadily decreasing over time, and this goes for the movements used to chew your food as well. While the mortar, pestle and mill have been around for a long time, the number of items that mechanically break down food so you don't have to have significantly grown. From blenders, grinders, knives, food processors and graters to even the heat from your stove, all break down food for you. Consequently, your jaw muscles have so little to do.

Modern diets have become softer, and even diets made up of "whole" foods have become more processednot chemically, but mechanically.

Whole carrots, shredded carrots and cooked carrots are all "whole," but they are not actually the same. While they might be equal in dietary nutrients, each requires different work from your jaw: the whole carrot requires big bites and tearing motions, the shredded carrots have been broken down by the grater and take less chewing movement, and the cooked carrots need just a little mashing with your tongue to make them easy to swallow.

When you chew your food, you use many body parts, including your tongue, teeth, jaw bones, skull bones and muscles. And did you know that two of your body's strongest muscles are the ones that move the jaw, called the masseters? Although these muscles are relatively small, they can exert the most pressure of all the skeletal muscles.

The forces created when you chew play a role in how your body works: chewing, ripping, tearing and swallowing stimulate your face and throat muscles and help develop optimal anatomy and function of your jaws, vocal cordsand even your brain. How does chewing support brain function? Likely multiple reasons.

According to a 2017 paper published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, chewing helps preserve the part of your brain (the hippocampus) that deals with memory and other cognitive functions by increasing blood flow through your brain. Even more so, chewing can help relieve emotional tension or stress by inhibiting the release of cortisol. Additionally, the force created when you bite helps increase your brain's neuronal activity, per a 2019 review article in the International Dental Journal.

Maybe you're going out of your way to eat brain-healthy foods, like omega-3-rich ones, but how often and how hard does your jaw work daily? Your chewing muscles might be doing the equivalent of sitting in a chair all day! Make sure you're not missing other opportunities to feed your brain while eating.

How much muscle use can you feel? Try again, now, with something chewyjerky, cheese, or dried apricots and again with something crunchy that you have to grind. Can you feel the difference?

You can buy jaw exercisersrubber squares to bite down on repeatedly to help deal with atrophying tissues of the face. But as a food lover, you can also shape your anatomy by what you put on the plate.

Of course, there are times when soft food is warrantedeating with braces, fresh dental work or oral injury. Outside of these times, though, you can approach meal preparation not only to receive the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals but for your recommended amount of daily movement.

Begin by considering the food movement found in your average day. How many of your calories do you drink versus chew? How soft is your food?

Let your daily meals cross-train your mouth. Certainly, smoothies are handy and full of dietary nutrients, but what about mechanical nutrients?

You sure want to get the most out of your foodthe most flavor, the most nutrition, the best value. Chewing, grinding, tearing, and all the other movements that come with eating foods that haven't been mechanically processed for you are yet another way to think about not only eating but eating well. Start working out your chewing muscles today!

See the article here:
Why Chewing Helps Boost Your Cognitive Function, According to a ... - EatingWell

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