Eating with hands is a common practice in many parts of the world including parts of Asia and much of Africa and the Middle East. But until few years ago, restaurants in the States were not very fond of this habit, especially the upscale ones.
Thanks to the widely spreading knowledge about the benefits that eating with your hands entails, a growing list of eateries are encouraging their customers to dig in. Many have made silver ware an optional accessory while a few have done away with the utensils all together on occasions by filling their menu with dishes that do not require utensils at all.
But why has this age old tradition suddenly made a comeback to the Western world? Well, that in part has to do with people realizing the benefits that come with it. The other reason is of course the sizeable population of people who either belong to or were born in Asia, Middle-East or Africa.
If you still use your fork and knife to eat dosa in your neighborhood Indian diner, we suggest you read the following benefits that will make you realize why you need to start eating with your hands.
1. Enhances the Food Eating Experience
A number of chefs and food scientists believe that eating food with hand creates a connection of mind and food via the sensation of touch.
When you touch your food with your fingers, the nerve endings in your fingers sense the temperature and texture of the food, thereby preparing your brain for what you are going to be eating and triggering the release of the appropriate digestive juices and enzymes.
It also prevents you from eating food that might be too hot for your mouth and end up burning it.
All of this makes you really appreciate the taste of the food thereby enhancing your overall eating experience.
2. Leads to Improved Digestion
Found on the palm and fingers of the hand are harmless bacteria known as normal flora. When we eat with our hands, the bacteria get transferred to your stomach.
It is beneficial for health and for various body parts such as the mouth, throat, and intestine, and it promotes healthy digestion in the gut.
The nerve endings in your fingers also relay the message that you are about to eat thereby preparing your stomach for digestion by triggering the release of digestive juices and enzymes.
This leads to easier and faster digestion of food, which prevents constipation and other problems related to ineffective digestion like acid reflux, ulcers and others.
3. Promotes Personal Hygiene
It might seem counter – intuitive but eating with hands actually promotes personal hygiene. In countries where eating with your hands is commonplace, washing your hands before eating is given undue importance.
This also results in keeping hands always clean, especially after using the toilet since you have to use hands to eat. And it is pretty well known that close to 75% of the Americans do not wash their hands properly after using the toilet; perhaps having to use their hands while eating may promote hygienic practices.
Following good hygiene practices is an extremely important part of the practice of eating with hands, and is followed in almost every country in Middle East, and part of Asia and Africa.
4. Helps Develop Proper Etiquettes
Etiquettes while eating are also extremely important. As mentioned, hand washing comes first. In many cultures, prayer for thanks comes second. You start eating only after serving those older than you. And you only use right hand while eating.
Also, making a mess on your plate is frowned upon. Don’t use all your fingers to eat; just the thumb, the pointer and middle finger. Do not make that chewing noise while eating food.
Eating with hands actually entails a bunch of rules regarding etiquettes so you really should stop thinking it as uncultured or animalistic, because it really is not.
5. Prevents Mindless/Binge Eating
Eating with your hands will cause you to eat healthier. When you eat with your hands, they are engaged in eating and thus cannot multitask.
The problem with multitasking while eating is that you are unable to give your full attention to food. If your brain in busy with watching television while eating, or if you are messing around with your laptop while snacking, your brain does not immediately register that you are full.
This leads to mindless eating which can lead to feeling guilty which in turn can lead to binge eating. The vicious cycle of binge eating can only be broken when you are paying attention to your food.
When you concentrate completely on eating your food, you are watchful of what you eat. Mindful or watchful eating stops you from binge eating or mindless eating thereby preventing you from a bulging waist and breaking the cycle of binge eating.
6. Slows Down your Eating
Another benefit of eating with hands is that it helps you portion your food. Because you are mixing small portions of food to eat, there is a chance that you may end up eating less.
Additionally, using your hands to eat slows you down. This means that you are putting less morsels of food in your mouth in a given time. Slower eating leads to better digestion and also gives time to your stomach to register that it’s full, thus making you eat less.
So if you are looking to lose weight or just wanting to adopt a healthier eating habit, use your hands!
7. Leaves you More Satisfied
As mentioned before, when your fingers touch the food, it creates a connection between your mind and your food.
Eating with your hands makes you appreciate your food more. Due to the production of saliva in your mouth and release of digestive enzymes in your stomach, which are a result of finger nerves sending the signal to the brain, your food tastes more delicious.
When you thoroughly enjoy your food and feel satiated at the end of it, it leaves more satisfied. This leads to you being in a better and jovial mood since good food makes everyone happy.
So do yourself a favor and start eating with your hands. While it may seem strange in the beginning, you will realize that it’s actually a better and more enjoyable way to eat your food.