Food & drink

Nutrition: Cooking is a skill for life - and for your health

Cooking is a skill - the more you do it, the better you get at it.
Jane McClenaghan

HOW often do you cook? Studies show that the more often we eat home-cooked meals, the healthier we are.

It seems that eating home cooked foods five or more times a week is associated with higher plasma vitamin C levels, a lower body mass index, reduced cholesterol, more balanced blood sugar-insulin and reduced blood pressure.

This is not new news. We know that the less processed foods we eat the better, but when you stop to consider just how big an impact you can have when you get chopping, slicing, dicing and cooking your own food, it is powerful stuff.

This week we heard the shocking news that cases of cancer among 20-49-years-olds is rapidly increasing around the world, and scientists are pointing the finger at our diet and lifestyle.

Cooking is a skill that is essential for life. Let's embrace this lost art and get our kids and teens into the kitchen for the good of their long-term health.

No matter what age or stage of life you are at, you can change your diet for the better. You can learn new cooking skills, or build on what you already know to improve the variety, diversity and nutrition of the food on your plate.

When we eat more home cooked food, we are more likely to make choices that fit with a healthy Mediterranean-style diet - more fruit and vegetables, less red meat, some fish, legumes, wholegrains and olive oil, and that in turn keeps us healthier and better nourished.

We have the power to control our health and longevity for the better if we know how to cook a few decent, balanced, healthy meals. This is not about becoming a gourmet chef or creating recipes with weird and wonderful ingredients.

Just learning the basics will give you the power to take back control of your health. Cooking is a skill - the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Start with what you like. Learn how to cook a handful of your favourite meals for scratch. A curry, home-made soup, an omelette, chilli, stir-fry. Home-made tomato sauce, curry paste, marinades and rubs not only taste delicious, but they are packed with so much nutrition that your body will thank you for.

None of this has to be difficult or time-consuming. Check out the BBC food website, or Jamie Oliver recipes for simple, mouthwatering ideas to inspire you.

Cooking from scratch puts you in control of what's on your plate. You become responsible for your own health and wellbeing. It is powerful stuff.

When you cook for yourself:

:: You know exactly what you are eating - you can see how much salt, sugar and fat you are adding - and adjust it as you want.

:: You can control your food intake and nutrition.

:: You can save money.

:: You'll avoid all the crap that comes with processed foods - from sweeteners and flavourings to starches, emulsifiers, salt, sugar and fat.

:: You have more control over what you are eating. You can adapt the recipe and choose the ingredients you enjoy eating without having pick them out.

:: You have greater choice over the provenance, variety and quality of the ingredients you choose.

:: You will have the enjoyment and satisfaction of creating easy and nourishing home cooked food.

Your health is in your hands. Start with the basics. Reclaiming the lost art of home cooking and reducing our dependence on ultra-processed foods will transform our health for the better. Let's cook...

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