Sharing food with family and friends is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Connecting with others around food is so important to our sense of health and well-being. It is part of the fabric of life.
Good food is so much more than just the sum of its nutrients. It is central to our social and emotional well-being. We eat when we are happy, we eat when we are sad. We come together in communities to celebrate happy times and mourn sad times. It is part of our culture and identity, but have you ever stopped to think that sharing food with others could help improve your health too?
Here are some reasons why.
Share the load and try new things
Whether you live alone, or in a busy household, there are lots of benefits to sitting around a table with your tribe. This does not have to mean that you are the one slaving over the cooking, while others sit back and watch.
One of the things I encourage families to do is to share the cooking. If you have children, give them the opportunity to cook a meal for your family. You might end up eating something that would not normally be on your recipe repertoire, but it will develop their cooking skills and you may find that they will try flavours and foods that surprise you!
Sharing food with others is fun, but not if you are doing all the cooking, so the next time you invite friends for dinner, why not share the load? Most people will delight in being asked to share something that they have made. It takes the pressure off and is a great way to try new foods and ideas.
Someone on starters, the host cooks the main dish, another person on sides and someone makes dessert.
This is also a great opportunity to try new ideas and you may find yourself eating
things that you wouldn’t usually eat, just because someone else has made it. New
ingredients, different recipes and ideas are always better shared.
Of course, sharing food with others often means we eat food that has been cooked from scratch, which tends to be a lot more nutritious than pre-packed or takeaway foods.
Why not add a secret ingredient to your cooking. Linwoods milled flaxseed can be sprinkled on top of savoury dishes like salads, curries, casseroles and chilli. Set a little dish on the table and allow your guests to add a sprinkling of this versatile health food to their plate, or try adding to desserts.
The gut-brain connection
Chronic stress pays havoc with our digestion, so taking some time out to share food with others can be a chance to slow things down, eat more mindfully and enjoy the food on our plate. It is also likely to have a positive effect on your digestion.
Being more mindful and eating in a relaxed way helps to optimise digestion and improve absorption of nutrients in the food that we are eating. When we eat in a more relaxed way, we trigger our parasympathetic nervous system – also known as ‘rest-and-digest’.
It also means that we are more likely to notice when we are full and have had enough, so we are less likely to overeat.
Sitting around a table with others helps bond friendships and build communities. Social connection is vital for our emotional wellbeing and has knock-on effects on all aspects of our health and well-being.
If you live alone, meeting a friend for lunch keeps you connected, reduces feelings of loneliness and is fun.
If you live with your family, making time to sit at the table with your children helps develop social skills and connections and gives your family a time in the day to come together to connect and talk about their day. Research shows that families who sit together at mealtimes are likely to make healthier choices.
Make time to share food with others. It is fun and could even have benefits for your health!
Article by Jane McClenaghan BScHons, DipION
BANT registered Nutritional Therapist and Food Scientist
Jane McClenaghan is Northern Ireland’s most recognised nutritionist with over 20 year’s experience. Her company Vital Nutrition allows her to share her knowledge in the subject area of health and wellbeing covering health and wellbeing topics such as mental health, stress, female and male health, healthy eating on a budget, heart health, sleep, family wellbeing and more.