Preheating happiness to 350°F: The benefits of cooking

Scrambled tofu. Monday, June 11, 2018. (Photo by: Kevin McCutcheon)
Scrambled tofu. Monday, June 11, 2018. (Photo by: Kevin McCutcheon)

Written by: Kiana Oliver

Editor’s note: The following article is written by a counseling graduate student in partnership with Counseling Services and the Southern Accent.

Picture it: You feel the cozy warmth of the stovetop as you add chopped onions into a simmering pan. You shuffle through your spices to find the perfect combination — maybe some dried rosemary and a pinch of black pepper. 

With those savory aromas in the air, you start craving something sweet. You do a quick search on Pinterest for a recipe for chocolate fudge brownies or an old-fashioned apple crisp. 

Is your mouth watering yet? 

According to 2021 data from FoodInsight.org, approximately 44% of respondents in the United States reported cooking more often since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Because of lockdown restrictions, maybe you don’t see this increase in home cooking as a positive thing. However, 25% of the respondents also revealed that they cook more with family members. 

Although we can always appreciate the financial and health benefits of home cooking, studies have shown that there are also psychological benefits. According to a 2020 survey conducted by Mosko and Delach, using cooking as a way to express creativity was a key theme among participants. The study’s results also suggested that cooking may help improve moods, social connections and personal acceptance. 

A recently published 2022 study from Edith Cowan University also found that after joining a seven-week cooking program, participants reported significant improvement in self-reported general health, self-esteem, mental health and subjective vitality. During an interview, lead researcher Dr. Joanna Rees said she believed the findings emphasize the importance of diet for mental health. 

“Improving people’s diet quality can be a preventive strategy to halt or slow the rise in poor mental health, obesity and other metabolic health disorders,” Rees stated. 

Here are some tips to help you get started cooking: 

  1. Start simple. If you’re a beginner, you’re probably not going to be able to make a flawless cheesecake on your first try. Try something easy like tofu stir fry to build your confidence in the kitchen.
  2. Carefully read the recipe. Even seasoned cooks make mistakes with ingredient quantities. Did you read a tablespoon or teaspoon of salt for your blueberry muffins? 
  3. Have fun. As previously mentioned, cooking doesn’t always go as planned, so remember to enjoy the process. Once you become more comfortable with your cooking skills, you can share your newfound joy with a loved one. 

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