Researchers from the American Heart Association wanted to know what could be done to help manage the rampant stress that leads to chronic conditions such as heart disease. They surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults nationwide had a simple solution. Nearly all parents report lower levels of stress among their family when they regularly connect over a meal.
Eating together. Remember that?
“Sharing meals with others is a great way to reduces stress, boost self-esteem and improve social connection, particularly for kids,” said Erin Michos, M.D, M.H.S, associate director of preventive cardiology at Johns Hopkins and a co-author of the American Heart Association’s statement on Psychological Health, Well-being, and the Mind-Heart-Body Connection.
Connecting with friends, family, coworkers and neighbors benefits people beyond stress relief. In fact, the survey found 67% of people say sharing a meal remind them of the importance of connecting with other people, and 54% say it reminds them to slow down and take a break.
Those surveyed say they are more likely (59%) to make healthier food choices when eating with other people but have difficulty aligning schedules with their friends or family to do so, according to the survey. Overall, respondents reported eating alone about half of the time.
“We know it’s not always as easy as it sounds to get people together at mealtime. Like other healthy habits, give yourself permission to start small and build from there,” Michos said. “Set a goal to gather friends, family or coworkers for one more meal together each week. If you can’t get together in person, think about how you can share a meal together over the phone or a computer.”
The take-home message is actually one of the principles of the Mediterranean dietary approach:
- Return To The Family Table
I just love that science is coming around to confirm the cultural eating practices of some of the healthiest people on the planet.
91% of parents notice their family is less stressed when they share family meals together.
65% of surveyed adults say they are at least somewhat stressed, and more than a quarter (27%) are very or extremely stressed.
84% of adults wish they could share a meal together more often.
Overall, respondents reported eating alone about half of the time.
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