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Health Benefits of Simply Enjoying a Meal

Light a candle, set the table, and join loved ones as you share a meal together. The science is there to show that sharing a meal and creating a nice setting while you do so is beneficial to your health. It’s not just pretty to look at, it actually helps your digestion, which in turn, helps boost your nutrient absorption and overall health on a cellular level. Unfortunately, the average American eats very few meals in the company of loved ones, at a table, and without a TV. This fact alone is being linked to an increase in the rate of diabetes, obesity, and poor overall nutrition our nation is facing. In our culture, we often view food and mealtimes from a more quantitative perspective (i.e. “what can this food do for me?” or counting calories and macronutrients, etc.). When really, we should be looking at food and mealtimes as something to enjoy and get pleasure from. We beat ourselves up when we eat too much of something and too little of something else, but we really need to be kinder to ourselves and our bodies and get back to the art of enjoying a meal.

The act of enjoyment tells your parasympathetic nervous system to send messages along your vagus nerve to begin the digestion process. This stimulates increased salivation in your mouth, which contains enzymes that are crucial to the overall digestion process. The Parasympathetic Nervous System also stimulates the stomach and the intestines to release bile to help the body to digest fats. So you can see how resting and enjoying a meal can really benefit your health! However, the opposite can occur as well. If we eat most of our meals in the car, in front of a TV, or with a lot of food guilt we trigger our body’s sympathetic nerve system, or the “fight or flight” response, to partially shut down digestion, increase insulin spikes, store fat, and cause a digestive upset like gas and bloating.

Did you know that your eyes are actually part of your body’s digestive system? Digestion starts well before your first bite of food and is actually triggered by the smell and visual appeal of your meal. Several studies show that nutrients, like iron, are actually better absorbed by your body if your meal is pleasing to look at. Visually pleasing meals and meal experiences also help increase satiety. When we’re not fully engaged with our meal, we may continue to feel hungry well after we’ve crossed the line into physical fullness. This is because satiety is more than just feeling full. It’s also about feeling fulfilled with your meal.

As you can see, having fun with your mealtime is really a matter of health. Good food, good wine (in moderation of course), and good company are all essential to a healthy lifestyle. If you’re interested in all three of these, join us on Wednesday, February 9th from 5-8 pm for a culinary experience that is sure to bring some enjoyment to your meals. Woodside’s own Chef Devon Hammer will be delighting us with a fresh farm-inspired menu to be paired with Richmond’s best beer, cider, and wine from Garden Grove Brewing and Urban Winery. Learn more about Sip & Savor here and purchase your tickets today!

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