I just happen to like chewing gum. A lot.
Three packs a week, I’d guess to be the average. I’m one of those people who has to change out my gum every hour, sometimes more. I might even open a second piece right after opening the first — as a way to ensure full flavor and enjoyment.
My lifelong habit is filed in the back somewhere with all of my earliest memories. My grandmother always had a pack of Freshen-Up (remember that square-shaped gum with goo in the middle?) in her “pocket book”. Grandpa chewed Black Jack and Clove gum, which I assumed to be gum for grown-ups. My mom has to this day the gifted ability to create not just one loud snap, but a whole series of envy-worthy pops while chewing her gum. My own rebellious notoriety in high school probably began with getting caught chewing gum in the second grade and being told to wear it on my nose for the remainder of the school day (I’m not joking). I was not deterred.
Now, I know that gum chewing doesn’t have the best reputation: Valley girl, slacker, New Jersey*. An image of someone smacking and snapping away, and worse — blowing pink bubbles — doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence.
What if I told you that chewing gum can be healthy, help you to lose weight, and sharpen your mental acuity?
Try to temporarily suspend all preconceived judgments and hear me out.
- Gum is good for your teeth: Found on the American Dental Association website, “chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes following meals can help prevent tooth decay.” How? The increased flow of saliva brought on by the act of chewing helps to neutralize and break down the acids that would otherwise prep your chompers for inevitable decay.
- It can reduce acid reflux: An independent study published by CNN Health suggests that the aforementioned increase in saliva production created an antacid effect in the stomach, reducing the symptoms of acid reflux disease.
- Help you lose a few extra pounds: Or keep off what you’ve worked so hard to shed. One of the first pieces of advice I give to those who ask for simple, attainable changes they can make to their diet that will put them on track is to chew gum. Not that the calorie burn itself from chewing is enough to shake a pretzel stick at (usually around 11 calories per hour), but if you have a piece of gum in your mouth, how likely are you — really — to dive in to a bowlful of M&Ms? Bonus: peppermint oil is a known appetite suppressant, so pick a pack of gum that will also leave your breath minty-fresh.
- Expand your mind, Man: Observed in a study performed at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Japan, chewing gum reportedly “accelerates cognitive processing speed” by up to 10 percent. Other studies involving school-aged children have noted a marked improvement in both alertness and performance.
Converted yet? Take a look around the office and tell me who’s chewing gum and who’s mindlessly inhaling a bag of Fritos. So what if you think chewing gum makes you look silly? It’s a whole lot more attractive than puffing on a cancer stick or chewing the caps from company pens.
Believe me, this is by far the simplest exercise I’ve ever dished out. Try it for 30 days and just see what a difference such a small change can make.
*disclaimer: if you happen to hail from New Jersey, please understand that along with my New York State birth certificate, I am legally bound to occasionally poke fun. Not to worry, the Empire State will continue to give you plenty of material with which to retaliate.