The richness of Indian culture can be gauged from the fact that the traditions, practices and conventions of cooking and eating food were based on tested merits. Many of these practices continue even today even though these might not be popularly followed.
Popular conventions still followed while eating food
Let us have a look at some of the popular conventions followed by people during ancient times and which still continue, though to a lesser extent.
Eating sitting on the ground makes me eat less. I slouch while sitting on the ground and it feels it partially closes my stomach pouch – makes me eat less. I feel satiated faster – Aashish Nanda.
Some communities sprinkled water around the meal plate and said a prayer before beginning to eat. It was a way of thanking the God and by doing so, being mindful of the fact that they are beginning their meals.
It was believed that one shall not rush with eating of food, rather proper time was required to be given to eating (20-30 minutes).
Another belief was that one shall drink water some time before the meals (say, about 20 minutes) but not during the meals. It was considered good to have about 20-25% water in stomach before taking the food. Further, it was said that one shall not eat to the fullest level of his hunger and shall stop a little before.
Another traditional practice was of eating only two meals in a day which was based on the premise that body required good time for digesting it. This two meals practice has morphed into the new age concept called intermittent eating, where in people follow an ideal schedule of 8:16 – 8 hours for eating and 16 hours for digestion process.
Eating while sitting on ground
Among these traditional practices which had solid scientific basis was the practice of eating food while sitting on the ground cross-legged, in what is called as the ‘Sukhasana’.
Before Indians became accustomed to sitting on chairs and tables for eating their meals, they used to sit on the ground in this posture. This is followed even now in many homes around the country. But, the “chair-table” culture has largely taken over and “sitting on ground” has largely gone out of popular culture.
Scientific rationale in favour of eating while sitting on ground
So, what is it that sitting on ground does to your body and mind that it is now being credited as a healthy practice? Here are some of its major benefits along with the scientific explanation.
Though eating, feeling hungry, satiation is a game played by our hormones like NPY, AgRP, ghrelin, GIP and GLP-1 and dozen more hormones, popular wisdom can help optimise their functioning.
1/7. Aids digestion
In a sitting posture, a little forward bend leads to some pressure being exerted to abdominal muscles which helps in secretion of digestive juices.
2/7. Mindful Eating
Sitting on ground relaxes the muscles of lower back, pelvis, around stomach and in upper and lower abdomen. Further, being mindful while eating triggers relaxation in mind by reducing stress levels and allows us to savor flavours and taste of food.
3/7. Slow Eating
By being relaxed and mindful while having food, the speed of eating slows down. We tend to eat less because mind gets the signal of fullness of stomach about 20 minutes after beginning to eat. So, when we eat slowly and give it time, say 20 minutes or so, we are able to better judge how much full we are. This, in turn, reduces calorie intake.
4/7. Increases blood circulation
Sitting on ground in cross-legged position increases flow of blood in whole body. This means it eases transfer of oxygen and nutrients to different parts of the body. This also makes muscles stronger and more flexible.
5/7. Increases life expectancy
According to a study published in European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, the people who sit in the cross-legged position and are able to get up without using any support, they are generally live longer. Now, by eating food in this position makes for a good habit.
6/7. Improves flexibility of body
If you are not habitual of sitting down cross-legged, try it once feeling the changes that happen. You would find that the muscles of knees, hips, spine, chest and ankles are stretched while sitting down or getting up from this posture. This proves that being habitual of sitting in this posture, you are improving the flexibility and strength of the muscles and joints.
7/7. Sitting down and the Vagus Nerve connection
Vagus Nerve plays an important role in telling the brain that you are satiated and do not want more food. This nerve functions the best in cross-legged sitting position while having food. Working in tandem with mindful eating, it prevents you from overeating.