The age-old advice to chew your food properly may not always be best for your health. Research shows that taking bigger bites and chewing less was better for people watching their weight.

Lincoln’s Plant & Food Research scientists have been on a six-year mission to discover what foods make us feel satisfied and how best to eat them.

Team leader food structure engineering Marco Morgenstern said taking bigger bites and chewing less was better for people watching their weight as the food was broken down more slowly in the stomach.

This meant people felt fuller for longer and the slow release of energy could be burnt off over time.

However, sportspersons need the quick energy hit from partially digesting food in the mouth, so they would be better off eating softer foods and chewing for longer.

“The way people chew the food depends more on the food’s properties, not the individual, so you can design food which people won’t chew much and [food they] will chew a lot,” Mr. Morgenstern said.

Baking technology scientist Arran Wilson spends his days making different sizes and structures of muesli bars to test the research.

Bars could be made to help people with diseases such as diabetes who needed slow-release food to keep their glucose levels stable.

Business manager Tim Lindley said the research team had tested 3,000 foods for their effect on blood glucose levels, reflecting how quickly they released energy into the body.

Their findings included the benefits of eating whole-oat muesli and wholegrain bread which made people feel satisfied for longer. Pasta was also found to have slow-release energy.

Mr. Lindley said fad diets that encouraged people to stop eating carbohydrates were unhealthy. About half of a person’s food energy intake should be carbohydrates, the key was knowing which ones to eat and when, he said according to a University of Canterbury release.

The research team has created an online diet programme called Aspire for Life which has been clinically tested at Otago University.