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Many cultures around the world have been using their hands to eat their meals. However, the fast-growing impact of the Western diet has forced many to move on to using cutlery such as spoons and forks to consume their food. In an attempt to keep up with the changing world, people have adapted to it and made it a norm.
South Asian countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and some African and Middle Eastern countries have strong traditional medicinal systems that promote the use of eating with the hands.
According to Ayurveda, the hand position made during eating food forms a mudra or a yogic position that kick-starts the sensory organs and keeps the body in balance.
It is believed that the nerve endings on the fingertips send a message to the brain that the body is about to consume food, which then sends messages to the stomach and digestive organs preparing it to start the digestive process. (1)
Reasons to Eat Food With Your Hands
Here are some reasons why you should consider eating your meals using your hands.
1. Creates a better connection with food
When you touch the food using your hands, you are able to feel the different textures. This is a beneficial habit to develop as part of mindful eating as it increases the awareness of your eating experience.
2. Aids digestion
Eating using the hands allows you to slow down, which in turn ensures proper digestion. Stress plays a role in impairing digestion, which can cause diseases of the digestive tract.
People suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, distention of the bowel due to gas, and pain in the abdomen have been known to respond favorably to mindful eating practices such as eating with the hands. (3)
3. Improves diabetes
Fast eating is associated with an increased risk of diabetes as you are unlikely to feel full and often end up overeating. It triggers the release of inflammatory substances that increase insulin resistance and ultimately raise blood sugar levels. (4)
In Singapore, where inhabitants use their hands, chopsticks, and spoons to consume food, a study was conducted to assess the effect of using different eating methods on the glycemic index (the speed with which a particular food increases blood sugar levels after eating). It was found that the glycemic index of rice was lower when smaller mouthfuls were taken such as in the case of using chopsticks and fingers when eating. (5)
Therefore, eating with the hands can be beneficial for people with diabetes as part of behavioral changes to manage the disease.
4. Helps in weight reduction
The benefits of eating using the hands already discussed such as mindful eating, better connection with food, and eating slowly can all work together to be an effective strategy in preventing overeating that often directly results in weight gain. (6)
Most-Asked Questions About Eating Foods With Hands
When should I not eat using my hands?
The elderly and aging population may struggle with hand grip and find it difficult to consume foods with their hands. They can use tools such as spoons or forks, which can also help give them some sense of independence.
Can kids eat with their hands?
Yes! Toddlers and children are encouraged to use their hands to improve their motor skills and connection with food.
Can I clean my hands with sanitizer before eating?
Most commercial sanitizers contain alcohol and should not be used immediately before eating. Proper handwashing technique using a nonfragrant soap and water should be enough to clean your hands effectively before eating.
Eating using your hands is a norm in many cultures although this method seems to be dying due to the potential lack of acceptance in the global world.
Eating with your hands gives you benefits that include an improved connection with food, better satiety and satisfaction, and improved digestion, among others.