It is commonly agreed, even among the most illustrious historians, that the Greeks and Egyptians of antiquity were highly civilized. Yet, they ate with their hands. Turns out they were highly attuned to the body and we owe them our deepest philosophies of the pleasures of the table.
The great civilizations of Antiquity were deeply rooted in a holistic approach to daily life. To them, wellness was a careful balance between body, mind and spirit. Mealtime was the ideal setting to practice this mindful system, and rightly so.
For example, did you know that the nerves at your fingertips stimulate digestion? Not only are the textures and temperature of the food stimulating for the imagination (you take pleasure in anticipating the next bite), but they also provide vital information to your digestive system, tuning it to the specific nutrients at hand. Furthermore, eating with your hands has been shown to increase overall blood circulation.
Eating is a highly sensory experience, and while utensils are necessary for certain dishes, and provide an undeniable sense of decorum and even ritual, research has shown that eating by hand brings substantial benefits to the entire body. In studies, people who ate by hand took longer to finish a meal and reported fewer cravings for snacks later. Utensils add a mechanical aspect to the meal. Eating by hand is said to elicit deeper awareness.
There is another benefit to eating with your hands that those of you who are dieting will appreciate; you may even have experienced it for yourself. Since the presentation generally appears more abundant, it is easier to reduce portions and enjoy smaller meals when planning around finger foods. Picture, if you will, a hearty sandwich overflowing with bright veggies or a plate of crudités with nuts and cottage cheese. Each bite also feels more abundant, which satisfies the brain’s insatiable desire for more.
Finally, if you’re not much into meditation, a good sandwich can provide a satisfying sense of presence without years of deep practice. After all, we each have our own personal way of connecting with the moment, and food is the most delicious of catalysts.