How Learning to Cook Can Save Your Life

The eating habits of modern Americans have been described as, “eating breakfast in their cars, lunch at their desks and chicken from a bucket.” Within the last few decades, Americans are eating out more and more and cooking fewer meals at home, which is typically the healthier option, with meals containing less saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, and more fiber. Therefore, the benefits to preparing healthy food at home may include the prevention of chronic disease. Even when food is prepared at home, it still may not mean much — microwaving a frozen pizza isn’t exactly home cooking.

One of the problems is many people no longer know how to cook. For example, one study reported that 25% of the men in the study had absolutely no cooking skills whatsoever. Another study in the UK compared the nutritional content of meals created by television chefs with TV dinners, and both to the nutritional guidelines published by the World Health Organization. The researchers looked at a hundred of each, and not a single one complied with the nutrition standards. And the TV chef recipes were even less healthy than the TV dinners!

Many people don’t know how to make healthy food taste good. This is not a new problem; an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association bemoaned the same issue back in 1913. In the United States, “vegetables are frequently boiled in a way which deprives them of their characteristic odor and their toothsomeness. ‘Villainous and idiotic’ are the only adjectives that can describe our methods of cooking vegetables.”

Researchers in Taiwan recently found that in a group of elderly Taiwanese people, those who cooked their own food were not only healthier, but also lived longer. In a 10-year study, those who cooked most frequently had only 59% of the mortality risk. This took into account the exercise people got grocery shopping, physical function and chewing ability. So why did they live longer? Those that cooked typically ate a more nutritious diet with a higher consumption of vegetables.

The effect on mortality was much more evident in women than in men. It turns out that “men were, with doubtful justification, more positive about the nutritional value of convenience foods compared with women.” Women who cooked made better food choices in general.

As one author noted in the book “Something from the Oven,” over the last century:

“we began the long process of turning over to the food industry many of the decisions about what we eat….Today our staggering rates of obesity and diabetes are testimony to the faith we put in corporations to feed us well. But the food industry is a business, not a parent; it doesn’t care what we eat as long as we’re willing to pay for it. Home cooking these days has far more than sentimental value; it’s a survival skill.”

With the onslaught of health information out there, access to simple, healthy recipes has never been easier. While cooking at home requires more effort, energy and cleaning, the results, health aside, are often more rewarding. Learning to cook is a simple art, and with the right amount of patience and delicious ingredients, it can help us take back control of our own lives.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

P.S. If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of DeathMore Than an Apple a Day, and From Table to Able.

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103 comments

Nina S.
Nina S1 years ago

tyfs

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

I taught my boys to cook and clean, You just don't know what the future holds for your children.

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N B.
Nancy B2 years ago

thank you

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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MJ J.
Past Member 2 years ago

ty

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Lola S.
Lola S2 years ago

bottom line is eating healthy cost more

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you

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Feather W.
Feather W2 years ago

thanks..

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you

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Laurie Mazzeo
Laurie Mazzeo2 years ago

Thank you for the info ...Health benefits aside I really like my own cooking

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