Chewdaism: The theory that chewing food slowly and thoroughly delivers health benefits. A portmanteau of chew and (probably) Judaism.
In a new book, Drop Dead Healthy, A.J. Jacobs includes chewdaism among the various diets and techniques he tried during a two-year experiment to improve his health. (Other practices included calorie restriction, the paleolithic diet, and pole dancing.) In a progress report published in the March 2010 issue of Food & Wine, Jacobs wrote:
We are a nation of underchewers. And while that may seem like a pretty minor food sin—along the lines of drinking brandy from a wineglass instead of a snifter—it actually has real health implications. If we all started using our molars more, it would improve both our waistlines and our digestion. Chewing a lot would make us eat more slowly—which, some studies show, means we would eat less. And we would get more nutrition out of every bite: A recent study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that when people chewed almonds at least 25 times, they absorbed more unsaturated fat (the good kind of fat) than those who chewed only 10 times.
Jacobs claims that the chewing movement has a strong presence on the Internet, and that “one wag”—not he—coined “Chewdaism.” I found little evidence to support his claim; most of the citations for chewdaism are connected with Jacobs and his book. I did learn that actress Alicia Silverstone, known for her vegan lifestyle, is an advocate of chewing every mouthful 30 times. I also discovered a video tutorial from September 2009—the earliest “chewdaism” reference I found.
“Chewdaism” may be new, but the concept of chewing for health goes back to the late 19th century. Back then it was called Fletcherism (or Fletcherizing), after its founder, the self-taught American nutritionist Horace Fletcher (1849–1919). Known as “The Great Masticator,” Fletcher advocated chewing food deliberately and at great length, until it “swallowed itself.” According to Fletcher, “prolonged chewing precluded overeating, led to better systemic and dental health, helped to reduce food intake, and consequently, conserved money.” (Source.) He died in Copenhagen of bronchitis “after a long illness,” according to his New York Times obituary.
See also: shtick lit.