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Sharing Food can Make You a Better Person, Study Finds

Update Date: Nov 10, 2014 12:26 PM EST

Sharing your food will help you become a better person, a new study reported. According to the researchers, food sharing promotes social behaviors within a group.

For this study headed by Charlotte De Backer of the University of Antwerp in Belgium, the researchers recruited 466 students to complete a survey. The survey asked them how often they ate home-cooked meals with their families as children as well as any altruistic acts they made towards others.

Overall, the team discovered that the students who reported sharing their meals during childhood had more altruistic behaviors. These behaviors included helping strangers with directions, giving up a seat on public transportation, helping friends and volunteering.

"I think our Western individualized societies can benefit from sharing food more than ever," De Backer wrote in an email to TIME. "Sharing food primes people to think about fairness (do I get as much as everyone else at the table?), authority (who is being served first?), and greed (Sometimes I cannot take as much as I would personally want.)"

The researchers noted that eating with friends but ordering separate entrees is not the same as sharing plates of food. In order to increase group bonding, the researchers recommend families and friends to try to have more family-style meals or go to restaurants that promote food sharing. For example, an Asian themed restaurant will most likely have family-style plates that encourage food sharing.

"Asian countries have a strong tradition of food sharing. Even in Western countries most Asian restaurants will still serve food in platters to be shared with everyone seated around their table," De Backer explained.

De Backer added that teaching young children how to share food early on could help boost their social skills.

The study, ""Our" food versus "my" food. Investigating the relation between childhood shared food practices and adult prosocial behavior in Belgium," was published in the journal, Appetite.

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