It isn’t uncommon to hear about the mental health benefits of cooking at home. Many promote this practice because it can save you money, improve our health, and boost your culinary skills. Yet, despite all the obvious benefits, many can find cooking to be a chore they haven't fully embraced. (Cooking at home can actually be quite fun!)
We agree that when you're cooking at home, there comes the extra trips to the grocery store, dirty dishes piled up, potentially setting off your home’s smoke alarm, and a potentially inedible dish here and there. For these reasons, cooking at home can be a divided topic: Some of us love it, and some of us hate it.
Regardless of which side you’re on, cooking your own food is scientifically proven to support your mental health. But... don’t just take our word for it! Keep scrolling to learn about the different ways preparing your meals can boost your mental health, plus some tips + tricks on how to get started!
1. Cooking at Home Promotes a Brain-Boosting Diet
Did you know that certain foods can boost your cognitive functioning? A 2014 study highlighted the connection between poor mental health and "unhealthy" diets.
(It's so important to acknowledge that the term "unhealthy diet" can be riddled with stigma and often negates the factors that lead to unhealthy food choices, including a lack of access and poverty. If you find that fresh whole foods are inaccessible to you, consider checking out your local Community Supported Agriculture organization (CSA). This offers fresh fruits and veggies weekly that are often more affordable than farmers' markets and grocery stores.
Cooking at home means you're probably more aware of what ingredients you're using, and in turn more aware of what you're putting into your body. If you're looking to boost your mental health, try cooking at home and watch your mood improve!
2. Cooking Increases Social Connection
How often does a recipe yield just one serving? It is pretty rare. Food is meant to be shared, and cooking offers an easy excuse to build community. It can be as simple as hitting up your farmer’s market and chatting with some of the vendors for recipe ideas.
You could enlist a buddy to experiment in the kitchen with or invite some loved ones over to break bread.
The socialization linked to cooking your meals at home is grounded in actual science. A 2017 study published in the Health Education & Behavior Journal cites cooking as a great intervention used in therapeutic and rehabilitative settings. If you’re not sure where to begin, take a look at some of our online and in-person cooking classes!
3. Cooking Can Boost Your Self-Esteem
Nailing a recipe you’ve been hoping to perfect can bolster your self-esteem significantly. Even if it is as simple as a three-ingredient pasta dish (noodles, butter, parmesan – voila!), cooking is clinically proven to be a significant confidence booster. This is because the feeling of creating something tangible that others can enjoy can be very gratifying.
4. Cooking Expands Creativity
A recent study states that incorporating creative activities into your daily life can significantly boost moods and overall well-being.5
Another study qualifies cooking as a creative activity, going as far as to highlight the connections between cooking and mood improvement. So we can’t deny the science—donning your chef hat and courageously exploring your kitchen can lead to feeling better than ever.
But, How Do You Start??
At this point, you may be totally into the idea of cooking at home to boost your mental health but might have no idea of where to begin. We've got you.
Here are some ideas:
Reflect on your favorite foods. Perhaps you love food that feels extremely intimidating to attempt yourself, like sushi or filet mignon. That is OK—you can still use that as an idea of what flavors you might like. For example, you could try baking salmon in your oven or making a simple burger in a skillet. Start simple, and then expand! (We can help...)
Take a cooking class! You’re likely to be around others who are also gaining confidence in the kitchen, which may help the experience feel much less stressful. If you’re nervous about going alone, enlist a friend to join you, or take an online cooking class and enjoy cooking from the comfort of your own kitchen.
Reach out to your friends and family. Asking them to show you a few tips + tricks for preparing meals can be a comfy way to get started. Plus, it offers some social interaction that may feel like great solace during challenging times.
Stretch your cooking muscles and give yourself the mental health boost we all need by making more meals at home!
Looking for an easy way to get started? Check out some of our upcoming cooking classes: