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Why Tough-to-Chew Food Is Crucial for Optimal Health

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Last Updated: Aug 26, 2022

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Did you know that the strength of your jaw muscles (or lack thereof) can significantly impact the development of your jaw and facial structure, your airways, and your overall health?

It wasn’t until I read the book Breath by James Nestor a couple of months ago that I began to understand how our facial structure (including our jaw and upper airways) impacts our health and well-being. 

For example, chronic mouth breathing leads to poor facial structure, crooked teeth, and many other issues. And if you’ve been following me for a while, you also know that highly processed foods negatively impact your metabolic health. 

But what most people don’t know is that it’s not only the inflammatory ingredients (e.g., added sugars and seed oils) and a lack of nutrients that make those foods unhealthy. It’s also their consistency. 

In other words, most processed foods are relatively soft and don’t require a lot of chewing. 

In the 1930s, the Canadian dentist Weston Price had already discovered a relationship between nutrition and the physical deterioration of those who followed a Western diet. He published his findings in a book titled Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.

His research, and that of others (including Dr. Steven Lin), has shown us that people who eat more refined foods have smaller and less developed jaws than those who eat traditional diets comprised of tougher foods.

In an article published by Smithsonian Magazine, the author Laura Clark concluded: “The emergence of agricultural practices initiated major changes to the jaw structure of ancient humans, leading to dental problems we still experience.”

So in this newsletter, I’ll share the importance of chewing and the downsides of consuming predominantly soft and mushy food.

But before we dive in, I’d like to thank Othership* for sponsoring this month’s newsletter. The Othership Breathing App offers 500+ music-driven guided breathwork classes to shift your emotional state. Othership’s sessions are designed to increase energy and focus, calm your nervous system, and create space to process emotions. Scroll to the bottom to learn more about Othership and how I’ve used the app.

Modern Humans Don’t Like to Chew

Let’s be honest. If you had to pick between a rack of ribs where the meat falls off the bone and one where you have to tear the meat from the bone with your teeth, you’d pick the fall-off-the-bone ribs any day of the week, wouldn’t you?

I don’t blame you. I used to judge ribs by their tenderness. Even when I smoked ribs at home, my goal was to replicate what I was used to from the ribs I’d had at restaurants.

The same principle applies to steak. Nobody wants a chewy steak. That’s why some people prefer the meat of grain-fed versus grass-finished cows — because the latter often produces chewier meat that has less fat but more connective tissue.

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a tender filet or ribs that melt in your mouth, the problem is that banning tough-to-chew foods from your diet causes your jaw muscles to deteriorate. 

That can have crippling consequences on the surrounding tissue.

Jaw Muscles Need Regular Exercise

Think about it: if you never lift heavy weights, your muscles (and bones) will become weaker. That’s because the body is incredibly good at adapting to the stimulus of your environment. 

But what’s the big deal with having weak jaw muscles, you might ask? After all, you don’t need them for anything other than chewing food, right?

Here’s the thing: the condition of your jaw muscles directly influences surrounding tissue, including the shape and form of your airways and the structure of your jaw and other facial features.

In other words, weak jaw muscles can lead to a narrowing of the face, jaw and airways — in a similar fashion as chronic mouth breathing does. 

A narrow jaw causes your teeth to have insufficient space, leading to crooked teeth. Narrow airways make nasal breathing more difficult (especially at night), leading to snoring, sleep disruption and a drop in blood oxygenation. The latter can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular issues and other metabolic diseases.

On the flip side, dysfunctional airways can negatively impact your dental health

It’s a vicious circle.

Why You Should Feed Your Kids Chewy Food

While I encourage everyone to chew more, doing so is particularly important for children because their bones, ligaments and soft tissue are all still developing. 

In other words, you can positively shape the form of your kids’ facial structure by encouraging them to chew their food vigorously.

Doing so will dramatically reduce their risk of developing narrow jaws (requiring braces as they grow older) and airways, causing mouth breathing and other respiratory issues.

While it’s more challenging to change the shape of your jaw as an adult, you can undoubtedly strengthen your jaw bones and tighten the muscles around your airways, thus positively influencing your overall health and preventing further deterioration. So I encourage you to chew your food with purpose and to serve chewy food a few times a week.

One of the best (and least expensive) ways of doing that is to get some grass-fed stew meat or stir fry. Those are among the cheapest cuts of meat, and they’re often chewier than steak cuts because they’re lean and full of connective tissue.

I made some stir fry the other day, and the kids and I enjoyed an extended chewing session. After the meal, I explained how chewing tough food can have a positive impact on our health (and teeth).

New Articles and Videos You Might Have Missed

Since the last newsletter, I’ve been busy creating new content and updating older articles with fresh information, including the following:

I’ve also been working on the launch of my new organ meat supplement. If you’d like to help push the product over the finish line, make sure you answer this one question.

More About Othership

Othership* is an app I’ve been using to discover new breathing techniques that can help me upregulate or downregulate my sympathetic nervous system. When I’m stressed or anxious, I leverage short breathing sessions to get me back to my baseline. It’s amazing how a few minutes of intentional breathing can completely change your state of mind. 

The cool thing is that Othership* also offers breathing sessions to fire you up and get you in the right mindset for an important call, project, discussion or workout. I’ve used “fire breathing” techniques before workouts with incredible success. 

My favorite aspect of Othership* is how easy the app makes it to get started and to find the proper breathing session based on what you’re trying to accomplish, previous experience, and how much time you have. 

Othership offers a free trial* before deciding on a monthly or annual subscription.

That’s it for August!

Stay healthy,
Michael

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