March 11, 2024

Te Atatu Toasted fans often comment on how chewy our cereals are. That’s because they are made from wholefood ingredients. But the good news is that this chewy consistency has an accidental health bonus - chewing your food more can improve your breathing.

Science journalist James Nestor has written a book, Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art, that looks at why we have developed bad breathing habits and what that might mean for our health.

He says that the human face, and our mouths specifically, have been shrinking in size.

One of the reasons for that is the switch in our diets – our ancestors ate wild, wholefoods and spent about four hours a day chewing their food. As a result, they built bone mass and muscles in the face and a wider mouth.

But in the past few centuries, we’ve started eating processed food - white flour, white rice, canned foods. Even some healthy foods, such as smoothies, avocados, yogurt, is too soft

So our mouths have shrunk, and the problem with having a mouth too small for your face, is that you have a smaller airway, which is one of the main reasons that we are dealing with so many chronic breathing problems in the modern world.

You can read more about James Nestor’s research here.

Why are good breathing habits so important?

Research shows that breathing well can improve asthma management, help people control their anxiety or stress response, and improve sports performance.

Poor breathing, on the other hand, can cause chest pain, anxiety dizzy spells, reflux and gastrointestinal upsets and leave people feeling tired all the time.

So, it makes sense to start chewing and enlarge those airways. Add more chewy wholefoods to your diet with grains such as wholegrain rice, buckwheat, quinoa, bulgur wheat, oats (especially wholegrain), faro and barley and nuts and seeds such as almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, linseeds and pumpkin seeds.

All my cereals are made with these superfoods – shop for those here or check out recipes using Te Atatu Toasted products.

How do I know if I’m breathing correctly?

There are a few things to look out for – firstly, you should be breathing in and out through your nose (unless you are exerting yourself through exercising or climbing several flights of stairs etc)

Your breath should be smooth, steady, and controlled. You should feel relaxed and as though you’re able to get enough air without straining.

Effective breathing is silent or quiet, not laboured, and it should feel easy to breathe. Check that your abdomen is expanding (rather than your upper chest). You should also be able to feel your ribs expand to the front, sides and back with each inhalation. Your shoulders should be relaxed and not lifting with every breath.

Try this breathing exercise recommends this exercise to practice breathing correctly with your diaphragm.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and a pillow under your head.
  2. Place a pillow under your knees to support your legs.
  3. Put one hand on your upper chest and the other below your rib cage so you can feel the movement of your diaphragm.
  4. Inhale slowly through your nose, feeling your stomach expand to press into your hand.
  5. Keep the hand on your chest as still as possible.
  6. Engage your stomach muscles and draw them toward your spine as you exhale using pursed lips.
  7. Again, keep the hand on your upper chest as still as possible.
  8. Continue breathing like this for the duration of your exercise session.
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