Chewing gum has been a common practice since the time of the ancient Greeks and Mayans who chewed on tree sap. Although other chewy substances have taken the place of tree sap, chewing gum remains very popular.
Today’s chewing gum is made up of a gum base, a sweetener (caloric or non-caloric), a softener (such as glycerin) and flavourings or colourings.
Some people think of gum as a type of “candy,” and an indulgence that usually provides calories without health benefits. However, researchers show that enjoying a piece of gum has some potential health benefits, along with promoting fresher breath.
Chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after a meal promotes the flow of more saliva, along with tooth-strengthening calcium and phosphate.
Some types of gum are specially formulated and may help reduce plaque and keep your gums healthy. Other types of chewing gum may help whiten your teeth. Dentists, however, caution that chewing gum does not replace brushing and flossing.
As most of us remember, chewing gum usually is forbidden in school classrooms because the gum gets deposited under desks or chairs. However, some research has shown that allowing kids to chew gum during class may improve concentration and academic performance. In a study conducted with teenagers in classrooms, the researchers noted that math scores and final grades were better among the gum-chewing teens.
According to psychologists, chewing a piece of gum may help you vent some stress and provide a psychological lift. Besides, if you’re feeling a little frustrated, you might be tempted to reach for something to munch on even though you really are not hungry. Chewing gum does not contribute lots of calories.
People trying to lose weight might want to add gum to their menu. At zero to 10 calories per piece, gum may help people control their appetites.
According to the results of one study, people who chewed sugar-free or regular gum before an afternoon snack ate a little less. When offered a snack, the gum chewers ate about 35 calories less than those who did not chew gum.
– Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, L. R. D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.