Home Cooking Makes You Live Longer

Planning on a long retirement? Better get in the kitchen.
The ticket to a long life? Spending time in the kitchen. (SuperFantastic/Creative Commons)
May 21, 2012
Megan Bedard is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.

If you're the type of person whose idea of cooking dinner is hitting speed dial for your favorite take-out, take note: Changing your habits could lengthen your lifespan. A new study published by the Cambridge University Press has shown that people who cook at home at least five days a week have a 47 percent higher chance of being alive 10 years later. 

The study, which focused on a group of 1,888 men and women 65 years and older living in Taiwan, quizzed participants about lifestyle factors. Participants answered questions about their cooking habits, household circumstances, diets, education, shopping habits, transportation, and smoking. 

The survey took place ten years ago; at the time, 43 percent of participants never cooked, 17 percent cooked 1-2 times per week, 9 percent cooked 3-5 times a week, and 31 percent cooked five or more times each week. Recently, researchers caught up with the participants to see how many were still living. Examining the answers of participants who hadn't passed away with those who had, they found that frequent cooking factored into survival.

Women—particularly unmarried women—were more likely to be habitual cooks, and fared better in survival. That's not to say that home cooking is a silver bullet; women already tend to live longer than men, and culturally, are more practiced at cooking. And general good health also makes preparing food possible, since it requires trips to the store, shopping, and walking. 

Still, even after controlling for those factors, researchers found reason to believe that home cooking can lead to longevity. "...the relationship between frequent cooking and mortality is strong," says the study's lead author, Professor Mark Wahlquist of the National Health Research Institute in Taiwan. "It is part of physical, mental, and indeed social activity," leading those who do it to maintain good health in more ways than one.

Need a little help getting started in the kitchen? Check out TakePart's 31 Days of Vegetarian Recipes. Or, if you're already a pro, share a recipe in the comments

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