Eating with others is an age-old tradition, and it appears that this communal mode of consuming our food has huge health benefits.
The act of sitting down to eat, as a family, with friends, with a housemate or even alone with no distractions, has an enormously calming effect on us. It forces us to slow down, to appreciate the food in front of us and to make conversation.
Unfortunately, we’re doing this less and less. When dinner time comes along, it can be all too tempting to revert to checking our phones or idly watching the TV.
But if we’re watching the news or catching up with emails during mealtimes, content of an unpleasant nature – whether it’s a world-wide issue or a work worry – might cause our bodies to experience stress. When we’re stressed in this way, the body works to move blood away from our internal organs to the extremities. In this state, organ function is decreased, as is our ability to absorb nutrients from food.
Being stressed and eating don’t mix – the combination impedes our capability to digest. By turning away from our phones, tablets, laptops and TVs, cutting down on multitasking and instead sitting down and concentrating on the task at hand, we give our bodies a better chance at consuming food in a healthy way.
A good way to slow down before a meal is to stop and really focus on the food in front of you. Think about where the food has come from – the farmers and growers – and the processes that brought it all together, like combining and cooking.
This can help the body slow down and begin to de-stress. This aids autonomic nervous functions in the body, as well as that peristaltic movement – the mechanism that passes the food through your body. Put simply, your body is better able to activate the function that helps your digestion process.
European cultures, in particular, place importance on mealtimes as a time to relax, unwind and re-connect. In France, it’s not uncommon to take over an hour for your lunch break. Let’s take a leaf out of their collective book and create time for intelligent, mindful and healthy eating.