Individuals who regularly cook healthy meals are more likely to have a positive mindset compared to those who rarely cook nutritious meals, a new study has suggested.

Researchers from Edith Cowan University in Australia have found that people who are confident cooks have a better diet and mental health than those who are less confident in the kitchen.

During the study, the team of academics assessed the mental health of 657 adults who took part in a seven-week nutritious cooking programme. In addition, they examined the participants’ eating behaviours and cooking confidence.

They found that the physical and mental health of the participants improved for up to six months after the cooking course.

Healthier eating habits and improvements in cooking confidence were also identified by the researchers.

Senior academic Dr Joanna Rees said: “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.

“Future health programs should continue to prioritise 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.”

Prior research has detected a connection between a higher fruit and vegetable intake and better long-term mental health, therefore suggesting a healthier diet improves wellbeing.

According to the findings of the current study, improvements in mental health were recorded in both participants who were overweight or obese and those with a healthy BMI.

“This suggests a link between cooking confidence and satisfaction around cooking, and mental health benefits,” said Dr Rees.

The results also identify that cooking confidence was much greater amongst females at the start of the programme, but it became equal across both genders by the end of the cooking course.

Dr Rees said: “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.

“This in turn may help to overcome some of the barriers presented by not knowing how to cook, such as easing the time constraints which can lead to readymade meals which are high in energy but low in nutritional value.”

The results from this study can now be accessed in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

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