A new study conducted by researchers from Edith Cowan University explored how home cooking can affect our mental health. According to the findings, cooking healthy meals at home, and feeling confident in the kitchen, can improve consumers’ confidence and life satisfaction.
“Improving people’s diet quality can be a preventative strategy to halt or slow the rise in poor mental health, obesity, and other metabolic disorders,” said researcher Dr. Joanna Rees.
“Future health programs should continue to prioritize the barriers to healthy eating, such as poor food environments and time restrictions, whilst placing greater emphasis on the value of healthy eating via quick and easy home cooked meals, rich in fruit and vegetables and avoiding ultra-processed convenience foods.”
Cooking confidence improves mental health
For the study, the researchers analyzed data from over 650 participants who completed a cooking class at Edith Cowan University between 2016 and 2018. Over the course of the seven-week classes, students learned how to make healthy dishes at home. After seven weeks, a group of researchers assessed the participants’ behaviors with food, their mental health, their confidence in the kitchen, and their satisfaction with cooking.
The researchers observed notable shifts in the participants’ mental health – even six months after completing the healthy cooking course. Completing the cooking class was linked with improvements in both physical and mental health and overall vitality.
Participants also reported specific improvements to mental health. They felt better able to adopt healthy eating patterns and had gained more confidence in their cooking abilities.
This confidence also translated across genders. Before the study began, nearly 75% of female cooking students and 23% of the male students felt confident in their cooking abilities. That gap narrowed considerably by the end of the seven-week period, with both men and women reporting similar levels of confidence in their cooking skills.
“This change in confidence could see change to the household food environment by reducing the gender bias and leading to a gender balance in home cooking,” Rees said. “This in turn may help to overcome some of the barriers presented by not knowing how to cook, such as easing time constraints, which can lead to ready-made meals, which are high in energy but low in nutritional value.”
The researchers also found that these findings held up regardless of what the participants’ diets looked like after completing the class. Though the courses were focused on healthy eating, participants were left to their own devices once the class was over.