One study found that roughly 43% of people don’t cook at all and 28% of total daily calories come from outside the home supply. Cooking can be time intensive, which is one reason many people decide to eat out so often. However, investing the time to cook can pay significant health dividends.
One study out of Cambridge found that elderly participants who cooked up to 5x a week were 47% more likely to be alive 10 years later! Benefits still held when controlling for factors like gender, age, sickness and marital status. A major reason for the longevity benefit is that cooking has been shown to improve what people eat. Another study found that people who cooked most of their meals at home consumed less carbohydrates, sugar, fat and calories than those who ate out more often. Other mechanisms that could explain the health benefits of cooking are: greater awareness of nutrients in food (people who cook often also eat less calories when they eat out) and the light intensity activity performed when cooking and cleaning.
Do your best to cook more often. If you don’t currently cook at all, finding healthy recipes online or buying a cookbook could be a great way to start. Plus cooking can be fun. Many people find it relaxing and the effort you put into it makes you appreciate the meal more. Also, it’s less expensive than eating out all the time!
Chen, Rosalind Chia-Yu, et al. “Cooking frequency may enhance survival in Taiwanese elderly.” Public health nutrition 15.07 (2012): 1142-1149.
Smith, Lindsey P., Shu Wen Ng, and Barry M. Popkin. “Trends in US home food preparation and consumption: analysis of national nutrition surveys and time use studies from 1965–1966 to 2007–2008.” Nutr J 12.1 (2013): 45.
Wolfson, Julia A., and Sara N. Bleich. “Is cooking at home associated with better diet quality or weight-loss intention?.” Public health nutrition (2014): 1-10.