India embodies such a rich and full culture of traditions ranging from the history to the clothing down to the food. Many people review the spices and flavors that comprise different dishes across India, but there are also food practices that families partake in because of the significance these habits hold for their minds and bodies. Who knows, after we discuss a few, maybe you'll want to try it too.

Three Food-Eating Practices 

1. Eating on the Floor 

Traditionally, eating on the floor in a criss-cross applesauce position is favored because of the physical advantages that come with it. For instance, when your legs are criss-crossed on the floor, there is a better disbursal of blood to the heart whereas if your legs were dangling off a chair, blood flow would be directed towards your feet. Sitting on the floor is also advantageous because of the muscles and joints that are stretched. Your hips are more open, your legs are more extended, and this position helps with digestion. In a seated position on the floor, the vagus nerve, which sends signals from the stomach to the cerebrum, is more efficient, so an individual feels satiated and does not have to eat as much to feel full. Therefore, potential weight loss could be associated with this seated position. Additionally, moving back and forth as you reach for your food and sit back up to eat activates your digestive juices. 

2. Eating on Leaves 

Instead of a plate, eating on a banana leaf is the traditional way of consuming Indian food. There are a multitude of reasons for using a banana leaf, such as its sterility, its resilient and thick exterior, and its aroma. Firstly, eating on a banana leaf can be hygienic because the cleanup once you are finished is simple and efficient. Secondly, the exterior of the banana leaf cannot be cut through easily, so it can withstand some pressure or force when you eat with your hand (which we will discuss very soon). Thirdly, the banana leaf has a pleasant scent to it, so this can help to improve the overall taste of the food placed on it. Another reason banana leaves are advantageous is because they contain a myriad of polyphenols, which are known for preventing cancer

3. Eating with Your Hand

Rather than using a fork and knife or other utensils, it is believed that the best utensil is the hand when eating food. This is because of a spiritual belief of the Vedas that fingers and toes represent the five elements. Going from the thumb to the pinky, the elements are as follows: fire, air, ether, earth, and water. Because of how diverse Indian food is - ranging from naan, chapatis, dosas, and idlis to rice, curries, and thali - the easiest way to hold and consume these foods is to dig in with your hand. Similar to the criss-cross position on the floor, eating with your hands can improve digestion as it signals to the brain that you are prepared to eat. 

All in all, these practices are rooted in physical advantages for digestion and come from spiritual beliefs as well - marked by the representation of the five elements in your fingers and toes. As an Indian raised in America, it's exciting and pertinent to have that tether to my heritage and culture. The connection to my culture is even moreso amplified when I'm back in India, and I hope I never lose this excitement.