Can cooking skills be the key to health?

Cooking could prevent chronic diseases and improve your overall well-being.

cooking-1

Nutrition is a major component of health but far too often, most go for easy solutions.

This goes from eating out at lunch breaks, picking up frozen dinners or prepared food at the grocery store, and eating chicken in buckets in the evening.

In fact, it’s easy and practical in modern times no to cook at all and only use the fridge to stock up on prepared food. That goes from adolescents, busy professionals to ambitious mums. And when there is cooking, it involves convenience food such as canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables and ready-made ingredients.

Industrial corporations also know how to make cheap food full of fat, salt and sugar that gives a temporary satisfaction to stressed modern workers.

Studies suggest however that poor cooking skills and lack of confidence contributes towards lower fruit and vegetable intake, as well as unhealthy weight increase. Eating food prepared away from the home and eating on the run is linked to a poorer diet, with higher intakes of total fat and saturates. Other studies suggest that better cooking skills could be an effective strategy to promote healthy eating.

On the other hand, research shows those cooking more are more likely to meet dietary guidelines, with higher intakes of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts. In another study in Taiwan, those who cook are healthier and live longer. Those who cook only had 59% of the mortality risk of those who don’t. Watch this summary video:

What do we found in processed food that we don’t have in cooking?

High Fructose Corn Syrup (or HFCS), used without reserve by the North American food industry, is associated with inflammations, insuline resistance, higher risk of metabolic syndrome, prediabetes and diabetes, higher risks of cancer, hypertension. HFCS alone might explain the obesity epidemic in the United States.

Saturated and hydrogenated fat is another key ingredient in processed foods. It makes your crackers last longer. It allows chips made in Mexico to be sent north and kept in shelves for months. It also allows convenience stores to keep nuts or biscuits for almost forever. Hydrogenated fat will clog your arteries, provoke inflammation and increase your weight.

Refined food, such as refined white flour, sugar and generally refined carbohydrates have been removed of essential fiber. Instead of being digested slowly in our digestive system, they will go directly in the blood. That means a spiked blood sugar or stocking even more fat.

Processed food also have preservatives, food colorings, and exposed to various contaminants during its fabrication process.

Simply, skipping cooking and buying ready-made food expose your body to chronic inflammation and irritants. That’s a recipe for long-term disaster!

Recommendations:

  • Cook with fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole grains. It takes time and might be more expensive, but the investment will contribute to your health and well-being. Plus you will get popular with friends. In short, cooking contributes to your well-being!
  • Stay away from processed food. If you need to, bring nuts or a fruit as snacks.
  • Include friends, kids, spouses, family in cooking. Invite strangers and family to come over at rest day and make cooking a key part of it.. Nothing beats getting together around warm, fresh food.
  • At the grocery store, generally stay away from anything that has more than one ingredient. Simple, isn’it?
  • Don’t go to restaurants just because you can. Restaurants have financial motivations to use cheap and durable ingredients. Go to restaurants because it’s a special occasion. An amazing chef, a wedding, or a very special date.
  • If you are starting from scratch, there are free apps on Android/iPhone. I use Mealime which has meal planning features as well as vegan / low carb / no-gluten free options. Recipes take at most thirty minutes and tasty.

References:

  • Engler-Stringer R. (2010). Food, cooking skills and health. Can J Diet Pract Res 71:141-145.
  • van den Horst K et al. (2010). Ready-meal consumption: associations with weight status and cooking skills. Pub Health Nutr 14: 239-245.
  • Larson NI et al. (2007). Family meals during adolescence are associated with higher diet quality and healthful meal patterns during young adulthood. J Am Diet Assoc 107:1502-1510.
  • Larson NI et al. (2006). Food preparation and purchasing roles among adolescents: associations with sociodemographic characteristics and diet quality. J Am Diet Assoc 106:2001-2007.
  • Susanna C Larsson, Leif Bergkvist, and Alicja Wolk (2006). Consumption of sugar and sugar-sweetened foods and the risk of pancreatic cancer in a prospective study. American Society for Clinical Nutrition
  • George A Bray, Samara Joy Nielsen, and Barry M Popkin (2004). Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity. American Society for Clinical Nutrition
  • Alice H. Lichtensteina, Arja T. Erkkiläa, Benoit Lamarchec, Ursula S. Schwabb, Susan M. Jalberta, Lynne M. Ausmana. Influence of hydrogenated fat and butter on CVD risk factors: remnant-like particles, glucose and insulin, blood pressure and C-reactive protein. Atherosclerosis Volume 171, Issue 1, November 2003, Pages 97–107

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