It’s amazing how health beneficial chopsticks are for your health. The first time I came to Vietnam, I was a true chopsticks virgin. I was truly amazed and slightly jealous of watching the locals to easily pick up pretty much any kind of food from their little bowls. Noodles, rice, meat or a vegetable, you name it, it didn’t matter what they ate with the chopsticks, they managed to do it with pure elegance and ease. As if the chopsticks were two elegant extensions of their fingers. And then, there was me. A solo female backpacker struggling to eat my egg fried rice for about 50 minutes.
A year later and I can proudly say I can master even the most slippery, soft rice noodle in my pho. For a whole year, I kept wondering how a vast majority of the Vietnamese population stays slim. Just like their rice noodles.
Vietnam and diet
Vietnamese dishes are one of the healthiest and most balanced in the world. As an English teacher for nine hot and cold months, I had a huge opportunity to witness and experience the true Vietnamese traditional home cooking.
As a teacher, I enjoyed every meal I was offered, but as a nutritionist, I secretly observed and admired the beauty of their eating. And it wasn’t as much what they ate, but how they ate their meals. A traditional family dinner lasted for over an hour. Yes, over an hour if not longer, that’s when the rice wine was introduced to the table.
And by family, I mean, parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers, uncles… pretty much anyone who lived close by. They all sit together in a circle and they eat, talk, drink, laugh and eat more. All with chopsticks!
Therefore, the way they eat food is a crucial factor that influences the nutritional value of food. Eating with chopsticks, using multiple dishes that are shared with people allows them to eat more slowly and to chew the food properly which ends in better digestion and assimilation of nutrients, without overloading their digestive system.
Vietnam is one of the countries with the lowest rate of obesity in the world. However, a consistent increase in obesity has been observed in children and teenagers, who are being more and more influenced by western diet.
Yin and Yang theory of chopstick
Chopsticks themselves represent the principle of Yin and Yang in Traditional Chinese Medicine. One stays still while the other moves. While the moving chopstick helps the digestive system to function better, the other chopstick massages the first index finger, which is where the large intestine energy meridian begins.
Surprise, surprise! Chopsticks, index finger, large intestine, gut, microbiome, healthy gut…somehow it all comes together and makes sense.
Helps in weight loss
Did you know it takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to send a message to your brain that you are full? Gobbling food while watching TV, trying to catch a train or just being casually late to work makes us overeat and therefore to consume more calories than we actually need. Not to mention, we don’t even prepare our stomach for the huge amounts of food, mostly unchewed well, because we are in a rush.
Chopsticks simply solve the problem of overeating, because no matter how skilled you are, having a large chunk of food between your chopsticks won’t happen. Eating with chopsticks forces you to slow down and take smaller bites of food.
Better glycemic response
A study conducted at the National University of Singapore and the Clinical Nutrition Research centre in Singapore found that eating with chopsticks resulted in a lower glycemic response compared to eating with a spoon.
Glycemic response refers to the changes in blood glucose after consuming a carbohydrate-containing food. It has a number of potential health benefits, including reducing blood sugar levels, aiding weight loss and lowering risks of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. So basically, the most common health conditions that we all aim to avoid developing.
The use of chopsticks lead to different chewing times and amount of food taken per mouthful and therefore it positively alters our glycemic response.
Chopsticks can be a bit tricky to use at the start, and surely require a lot of patience. But once you get past the hassle stage of eating your fried rice for 50 minutes, and master them they can be very useful for your brain and body. Eating with chopsticks forces your brain to work thus improving your coordination.
They also help your brain by boosting your circulation which helps eliminate waste products that can prevent nutrients from reaching your brain.
No matter how skilled or unskilled you are in using chopsticks, they will force you to eat slower, take smaller bites and masticate your food. Overall, this will lead to slower digestion which may help you lose weight, prevent chronic diseases and improve your coordination.