Why you should be eating with chopsticks

Despite not always being the easiest, most of us have tried eating our Chinese takeout with chopsticks.  Even while stumbling over our own ineptness, the experience is always fun and eating feels a bit more exotic in our dining rooms.  If you are one of the 1% who happens to be very good at picking up food with chopsticks, then you’ll notice your eating is unhurried compared with fork, spoon or knife meals.  Have you ever tried to get a lot of food in your mouth using chopsticks?  If you have, you would know it’s not possible.  You are forced you to slow down, and take smaller bites of food – giving your stomach time to process that you are eating and getting full. This way you end up eating less over a longer period of time.

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While the origins of chopsticks are unknown, there has been recorded use of them by the Shang dynasty in China which was in existence by 1766 BC.  Clearly this was a lasting trend, as it was popularized in China and is still the utensil of choice in most Asian countries.   If you think of Chinese food, you think of stir fry and many dishes with a mixture of small pieces of food. So it seems only logical to use utensils that are easily used with this cooking style.  Although it unclear whether chopsticks or Asian cooking styles and methods came first.

A recent study suggests that there is another benefit of using chopsticks to eat with.  Eating with chopsticks may reduce your risk of chronic disease according to scientists at the National University of Singapore and the Clinical Nutrition Research Centre in Singapore.  So it seems that it is not only WHAT you eat but also how you eat it that matters.  The researchers compared participants who used spoons, hands and chopsticks. Blood sugar levels rose at a much slower rate for those who ate a bowl of rice with chopsticks compared to those who ate with spoons or hands. This means their glycemic response was reduced by using chopsticks, but still maintaining the same food eaten.   According to earlier studies a lower glycemic response can reduce your risk for Type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases, like obesity and heart disease.

It is a very interesting concept to be able to eat the same food, but make it healthier just by the way we are eating it.  The study recruited 11 people, who were equally good at eating with chopsticks, their hands, or with spoons.  They measured baseline blood glucose levels with finger prick test on three days.  Eating methods for rice bowls were assigned at random, and electrodes on their cheeks measured the number of mouthfuls they took, the number of chews per mouthful and the time taken to finish each mouthful. After meals, periodic blood samples were taken again to check glucose levels over the next few hours. The findings? Eating with chopsticks equated to a much lower glycemic response. So blood sugar levels didn’t spike as they wood when eating with a hand or spoon. Those who ate with chopsticks also ate about half as much per mouthful and took double the amount of time to finish each bite.

Other benefits of eating slowly (aka with chopsticks):

1.      Eating slowly makes you feel fuller, thereby eating less

2.      People who eat fast are more likely to be obese

3.      Eating slowly is good for digestion

4.      Appetite reduction

5.      Portion size control

6.      Weight control

7.      Reduces risk of heartburn and acid reflux