In our fast paced society there is no time for chewing, we devour our food without giving it a second thought. What if chewing is needed by the body for more than just breaking down food?
This is an excerpt from Lino Stanchich’s Power Eating Program book where he explains how chewing saved his dad’s life under dire circumstances. You’ll learn why paying attention to a simple thing like chewing can make a real difference to your health!
Surprisingly, even if you don’t have time to eat or prepare healthy foods, your body will be able to survive better just by how you chew. Your body receives messages not only from the food you put in your mouth, but the action of chewing itself! Chewing stimulates the endocrine system, putting glands and organs into communication with each other. It also sends oxygen to the brain and helps maintain short term memory. Most of us are so often rushed in life, that we swallow down our food quickly and our digestion suffers, but also our connection with our whole body. Read on…
“In 1943, during World War II, my father, Antonio Stanchich, was taken prisoner in Greece and sent to a concentration camp connected to a German factory, where all the prisoners were forced into hard labor.
That winter was bitterly cold. The barracks were poorly heated, clothing inadequate, and the food substandard. My father told me, “I was cold most of the time and hungry all the time.”
In the morning he was given a cup of chicory coffee and a slice of bread. For lunch and dinner he had a bowl of soup made of potatoes and some other vegetable, a grain or bean, and occasionally a bit of meat. Inmates died of starvation daily. Deaths from exposure to the elements increased constantly. Life was a constant fight for survival.
When my father was thirsty, he kept the cold water in his mouth to warm it and intuitively “chewed” it for a while, ten to fifteen times, before swallowing. One day, when the water was especially cold, he chewed it fifty times! And he discovered something that would save his life.
Aside from quenching his thirst, the water actually seemed to give him energy. At first he felt it must be his imagination. Eventually he realized that chewing water fifty times or more did indeed give him more energy. Puzzled, he asked himself how plain water could impart such a miracle. It took forty years to clarify this mystery.
My father experimented by chewing his food fifty times a mouthful. Then he tried 75, 100, 150, 200, even up to 300 times or more. He determined that the magical minimum number of chews was 150 and the more he chewed, the more energy he had. The morning and noon meals were restricted in time, but the evening meal was not. In the evening he could chew water as much as he liked.
My father’s technique was simple: Put one tablespoon of food, either liquid or solid, in the mouth, and count your chews. Most of his friends scoffed at his discovery. But two men became interested in these experiments and joined my father in his chewing sessions, Comparing notes, they both concluded that this technique did give them more energy. And they also felt warmer and less hungry.
In 1945, after two years in the concentration camp, the prisoners were liberated by the U.S. Army. In time my father, skinny but alive, came home to us in Fiume-Rijeka, formerly part of Italy, now Yugoslavia. Of his crew of thirty-two from the concentration camp, only three survived: my father, and the two men who joined him in his practice of chewing.
The following year, when I was 14, while on a family picnic, my father told me of his experience. He attributed his survival exclusively to chewing. He gave me some important advice, saying: “If you are ever weak, cold, or sick, chew each mouthful 150 times or more.” I never forgot those words, even though we had plenty of food and I was in good health.
Nineteen forty-nine found Yugoslavia in political turmoil. The communist government forbade Italian citizens to enter Italy. Many who opposed the government tried to escape Yugoslavia. I was one of them. On March 10, 1949, I was captured at the border and sentence to two years of hard labor. Now, at 17, I too became a prisoner.
My prison experience was extremely difficult, if not as horrible as my father’s. The diet was similar to the one he had described: one bread roll with chicory coffee in the morning, a bowl of soup, usually with barley and beans, at noon; and the same in the evening. Once a week the soup included some meat. If there were twenty beans in the soup, I considered the meal a good one. Like my father, I was hungry most of the time.
I was allowed one small package a month from home. Because parcels often failed to arrive, I asked my mother to send me raw onions, salt, and dry whole wheat bread. I reasoned that no one would steal such things, and sure enough, I received each one.
This supplementation made a big difference. I sliced the onion into wedges, dunked them in salt, and chewed them along with some bread. This was followed by one or two glasses of water, which filled me up. When properly chewed, the water gave me great energy and a strange feeling of confidence and courage.
I chewed as my father had taught, 150 times or more, but I introduced an important feature: I chewed with my eyes closed. This way I could “escape” my depressing surroundings. Closing my eyes also internalized my energy. By not looking outward, my energy went inward, strengthening me more.
The next year my family was allowed into Italy, and in 1953 we immigrated to the United States, where food was so plentiful. I went into the restaurant business with my brother. Without any fear of starvation, I abandoned my chewing regime.
The years passed and in 1969, I began to suffer the effects of my high-stress life. I was startled to realize that I was digging my own grave with my fork! Nutrition and health foods became my main interest. I tried many diets, from raw foods to fruit-only, from high-protein to lacto-vegetarian. The years passed and in 1969, I began to suffer the effects of my high-stress life. I was startled to realize that I was digging my own grave with my fork! Nutrition and health foods became my main interest. I tried many diets, from raw foods to fruit-only, from high-protein to lacto-vegetarian. All worked temporarily. Then I discovered macrobiotics, which I enthusiastically studied and adopted. I was once again determined to survive. Through what we consume, we change the quality of our mind, body and spirit. Each of us is responsible for his or her own destiny. We are our own masters, and no one else can chew for us.” – End of excerpt
Chewing your food more, while savoring the taste or texture or just the sheer pleasure of being alive, can enhance your health.
Ideally, for food you want the food in your mouth to reach a rather soupy consistency. Even if you’re having juice, a smoothie or stew, if you chew well, your body can start making and using its digestive enzymes, and the endocrine glands will go into communication with each other.
So why not test this out at your next meal or even between meals? Try more chews and see how you feel.
You can learn more about Lino Stanchich and his valuable insights into natural health and a macrobiotic diet, which is famous for chewing discipline, from his book available on Amazon.com called Power Eating Program.
While we are not macrobiotic, we appreciate the wisdom Lino has passed on.
Read our What To Eat Page for more to consider about proper diet.