What process breaks down food into smaller and useful materials?

Digestion is the process of changing food into a form that the body can absorb and use as energy or as the raw materials to repair and build new tissue. Digesting food is a two-part process that's half mechanical, half chemical.

  • Mechanical digestion begins in your mouth as your teeth tear and grind food into small bits and pieces you can swallow without choking. The muscular walls of your esophagus, stomach, and intestines continue mechanical digestion, pushing the food along, churning and breaking it into smaller particles.
  • Chemical digestion occurs at every point in the digestive system, beginning when you see or smell food. These sensory events set off nerve impulses from your eyes and nose that trigger the release of enzymes and other substances that will eventually break down food to release the nutrients inside. The body then burns these nutrients for energy or uses them to build new tissues and body parts.