When you travel to the nook and crannies of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, you will find one thing in common. You’ll see many people eating with their hands instead of using forks, spoons and knives.
Perhaps to your surprise, it can actually be good for you, despite all the times that your parents told you it was poor manners.
Eating is a sensual and mindful process. Employing all the senses – sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch – can make the whole experience even more fulfilling. Using your hands to eat adds a tactile connection with your food as well as body, mind and soul.
It also softens the formality of fine dining. This is one reason why many restaurants in Western countries are encouraging eating with one’s hands.
While some people find eating with their hands unhygienic and disgusting, it is considered a relaxed and convivial style of dining. Plus, it has many benefits.
Here are some of the benefits of eating with your hands.
1. Makes Eating a Sensory Experience
Eating is a sensory experience that can evoke emotion and passion. According to Ayurveda, each finger of the hands is an extension of the five elements. Specifically:
- The thumb is related to space.
- The forefinger is related to air.
- The middle finger is related to fire.
- The ring finger is related to water.
- The little finger is related to earth.
When you enjoy your food with your hands, the whole process stimulates these five elements and helps energize the food you are about to eat. This is important to keep all the elements in balance and remain healthy.
Also, the senses of touch, smell, hearing, sight and taste become more active. Stimulation of the five senses makes you more conscious of the taste, textures and aroma of the food.
2. Works as a Natural Sensor
When you eat with a spoon or fork and put your food directly in your mouth, your mind cannot sense the temperature or texture of the food ahead of time. This is why you often end up burning your tongue when you put food that is too hot in your mouth.
But when you eat with your hands, the nerve endings in your fingers sense the temperature of the food and effectively prevent you from scalding your tongue.
The nerve endings also send a signal to your brain about what you are going to eat. This triggers the release of the appropriate digestive juices and enzymes to help you taste your food better.
3. Improves Digestion
There are “good” as well as “bad” bacteria present on the palms and fingers of your hands. The good bacteria protect you from many damaging microbes in the environment. When you eat with a spoon and fork, these bacteria do not reach your gut.
On the other hand, when you eat with your hands, the flora from the fingers transfers to the mouth and is swallowed and travels to different body parts. This promotes healthy digestion in the gut and prevents the buildup of harmful bacteria in the intestines.
Plus, when you touch the food with your hands, a signal is sent to the mind for the release of digestive juices and enzymes. Depending on the type of food, the mind arranges for the metabolism to work accordingly, which is needed for better digestion.
A healthy digestive system is important for a healthy body and mind.