As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” The human body is made of trillions of cells involved in a continuous cycle of cell death and rebirth. Although genetics plays a large role in susceptibility to disease, you have an opportunity each and every day to feed your cells with vital life energy from the food you eat. The food you take in quite literally becomes the building blocks of your physical self.
These days, there is no shortage of fuel options. You can buy frozen meals, eat out at a nice restaurant, or grab something on the fly through a drive-through. With pre-packaged and dining-out options become increasingly inexpensive, it can be difficult to remember why you might ever choose to spend time in your kitchen!
The following are three benefits to choose to cook at home.
1. Higher Quality Ingredients
Cooking your own food enables you to be involved in every step of the ingredient-selection process. Pre-packaged and restaurant foods are typically prepared using inexpensive and low-grade salad oils, such as soybean or vegetable oil. These types of oils promote inflammation.
Most home-cooked recipes, however, feature ghee, butter, coconut, or olive oil. By cooking your own food, you control the type of fats you consume; therefore, you can optimize your diet to prevent inflammation.
Real-food spices and seasonings
At home, you are in complete control over the spices used during the cooking process.
You may add less salt, opting instead for fresh or dried herbs. Herbs are medicinal plants. Rich in polyphenols (beneficial plant components), they deliver antioxidants to your body while helping your meals taste complex and satisfying.
Pre-packaged foods often contain fewer fresh or dried herbs, yet higher levels of salt. They also often contain isolated monosodium glutamate (MSG), a lab-created, powdered flavor enhancer, which has been linked with symptoms of intolerance in many individuals.
By cooking at home, you can limit your fuel to only real-food, whole ingredients.
2. Cooking as a Mindfulness-Based Practice
Western society has moved toward a culture of “hurry up to slow down.” You buy your food pre-made and eat it on the go, then slide into yoga class for an hour to slow down.
While yoga and meditation are healthy routine practices, you can work mindfulness into every aspect of your live—starting with meal preparation.
You can practice awareness through every step of the cooking process:
- Notice the colours of fruits and vegetables at the grocery store
- Savour the aroma of onions and garlic simmering in olive oil
- Pay close attention to the sounds of cooking: a boiling pot, peeling potatoes, dicing vegetables, or searing meat. All food prep stages have distinct sounds.
- Try to identify each of the six Ayurvedic tastes within your meal: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. If you notice a flavor, shift your attention to the part of your mouth or tongue that senses that flavor the most distinctly.
3. Cooking for Connection
Food connects people—it gets you talking, lets you show your love or support for friends in need, and helps add to feelings of comfort and well-being. When a loved one is ill, you show your concern by cooking a pot of soup. When you celebrate a birthday, you bake a cake. Food is connection, comfort, and celebration that connects us all.
Cooking with children is important not only for creating memories, but also for their health.
Fewer Behavioral Problems in Children
Research conducted by the American Medical Association found that adolescents who had family meals seven times weekly, compared to those who reportedly had family meals two times or less per week:
- Were less likely to use tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana
- Had higher grade point averages
- Had lower depressive symptoms
- Were less likely to attempt suicide
Establish a Foundation of Food Variety
As you know, eating habits are formed in childhood and are difficult to change as an adult. Research shows that children who eat meals at home are more likely to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as drink fewer soft drinks. Furthermore, children who are engaged in the cooking process are more likely to grow to be adults who feel comfortable cooking for themselves and loved ones.
Undeniably, cooking does take time. However, by focusing on whole food ingredients, staying mindful throughout, and involving your friends or family in the process, you can change the process from seemingly time-consuming to time-fulfilling.