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Being in the Kitchen is Good for you, and Research Supports it

I've always loved being in the kitchen. It's my happy place. Even when at other's houses I find myself drawn into the kitchen as much as possible even if we are simply standing around talking. To me it's a place of life and love. My family always gathers in the kitchen, it's where I work on my craft as a chef to become better, and it's where I get to put my heart into something and in turn share it with others as a delicious pastry or loaf of bread. Those that love their kitchen and cooking probably agree it brings them joy of some type, there's even research out there in support that you need to get back into the kitchen.

In a 2016 study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology (1) they followed multiple young adults for two weeks seeing how various creative activities affected their mood and their day to day life. They found that after performing a creative activity, there was a positive impact on the subjects’ mood and flourishing in their daily activities the following days. I’ve seen a lot of people my age in the past six or so years getting into more creative activities outside of their typical work. Many that I have talked to about these have talked about how it makes them feel better and they typically like to have something to show for their work at the end. This movement of young adults being more creative and doing DIY activities is actually considered to be a “Maker Movement”. People are staying home and making things in some form and being creative.

A 2017 survey published in the Journal of Happiness Studies (2) looked further into this “Maker Movement”. They surveyed over 450 college students about what “maker undertakings” they’ve done, time spent, why they did it, and how it has changed things since. On average people spent about three hours a week making things. The most common making they were doing? Cooking, baking, and gardening. And they all showed some benefit. Many students reported benefiting from mood repair and being present and focused. Some also mentioned an increase in socializing. Makes sense to me, I always talk about what I’m doing at home and I love hearing about what others have made. Plus, I love seeing the things I make in my own house. Using planters I make, homemade art or décor on the wall (even better seeing it on someone else’s), every time I shop I have my homemade bags that give a little insight of my other interests and I love when people ask me about them. Making things are great especially when they have multiple uses and bring positivity later on down the line and not just at first.

The mood repair the students saw in that study isn’t the only time we can find those benefits from making and cooking. In a 2017 study in the Journal of Palliative Medicine (3) workshops were used where those that have recently lost someone can learn how to meal plan and cook for one. With the help of a local community college culinary arts department, regular workshops were set up where people can learn to grocery shop, meal plan, and prep the food to make meals for one at home. They noticed that the same people seemed to benefit from the workshops and continue to return to others. They also noticed an increase of participants consistently each time. This is a novel study that has a lot to look into, but it does show that these workshops help take away the grief associated with making a meal after a loss.

Cooking not only can benefit metal health but of course there is a lot in support of cooking for physical health. By cooking and baking at home you are taking a lot of random things out of your diet and using more pure ingredients that are better for you. Cooking also will help you reach nutritional requirements more easily. A 2010 and 2011 survey published in Appetite (4) in 2013 looked into the correlation of cooking skills and frequency of various food groups. First off I want to state that there’s some funny information I found that I will get into but this research specifically is based off a group of 4436 adult Europeans. The information is very skewed to western culture and does not reflect other cultures. That being said, my favorite part is that woman had higher cooking skills in all age groups. Typical for cultures with traditions of the woman running the home kitchen. What really needs to be taken away from the survey is that higher cooking skills correlated to a positive impact on fruit and vegetable consumption and a negative impact on convenient food consumption. So cooking means you eat more fruits and veggies and less prepackaged or fast foods. That’s really good for your health, even more reason to learn to cook and make more at home.

One major group that’s important to look at is youth. Especially with research that cooking means eating more healthily. I found published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior in 2016 a survey of 4800 students throughout Secondary school in New Zealand. 80% of kids reported that they can cook easily or fairly easily. In these students they noticed an association between those who cook and an improvement in nutrition, better mental health, and even stronger family connections. So not only can cooking and baking increase the health of your diet, help your mental health and deal with the grief in the passing of a loved one but the ability to cook at a younger age shows a better chance to have strong family connection.

At the end of the day this is just a sample of a lot of data and information out there but this does shine a light on why being in the kitchen needs to be a priority of everyone. Not only for your physical health and making sure you are strong, but for your mental health and to help with your relationships throughout your life. If you are new to being in the kitchen reach out for a private cooking class or lesson. That’s why chefs like me exist to help others for their future. Try a new recipe, bake a cake or some cookies, and take the time to share what you learn with others and learn from them at the same time.

- Harry

1. Conner, Tamlin S., et al. “Everyday Creative Activity as a Path to Flourishing.” The Journal of Positive Psychology, vol. 13, no. 2, 2016, pp. 181–189., doi:10.1080/17439760.2016.1257049.

2. Collier, Ann Futterman, and Heidi A. Wayment. “Psychological Benefits of the ‘Maker’ or Do-It-Yourself Movement in Young Adults: A Pathway Towards Subjective Well-Being.” Journal of Happiness Studies, vol. 19, no. 4, 2017, pp. 1217–1239., doi:10.1007/s10902-017-9866-x.

3. Nickrand, Heather L., and Cara M. Brock. “Culinary Grief Therapy: Cooking for One Series.” Journal of Palliative Medicine, vol. 20, no. 2, 2017, pp. 181–183., doi:10.1089/jpm.2016.0123.

4. Hartmann, Christina, et al. “Importance of Cooking Skills for Balanced Food Choices.” Appetite, vol. 65, June 2013, pp. 125–131., doi:10.1016/j.appet.2013.01.016.

5. Utter, Jennifer, et al. “Adolescent Cooking Abilities and Behaviors: Associations With Nutrition and Emotional Well-Being.” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, vol. 48, no. 1, Jan. 2016, doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2015.08.016.



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