From the preparation of food, to the cooking, serving and sitting down to eat a meal, there is so much more to food than simply meeting your daily calorie intake. Your taste-buds aren’t the only thing that can reap the benefits of good food, so too can your mind. The very process of preparing and cooking meals can nourish mental well-being in a number of ways.
First of all, cooking is a great way to encourage creative expression. Whether you develop your own recipes or put your own spin on existing recipes, choosing how you put something together from scratch, the specific ingredients you use, and how you choose to present it are all a form of creative outlet. This can be explored in a range of ways, including experimenting with colours, flavours and taking inspiration from different world cuisines.
Another benefit of food is the physical awareness that comes with making it. Cooking often requires movement of several body parts, from the shoulders down to the fingers and beyond, meaning that the sensory awareness that comes from things like lifting cooking utensils and meal components (alongside being hyper-aware whilst chopping vegetables and other ingredients) can make you feel more mindful, present and focused.
Just as being mindful nourishes your mind, so does the sense of fulfilment that can come hand in hand with food. Making food is fulfilling in the sense that it is a form of nurturing both yourself and others, irrespective of whether you are cooking for family, friends, or on your own. Creating a dish to share with others, or enjoy for yourself, is an easy way to bring people together as well as creating a sense of immediate gratification. What better way to bond than over a lovely hearty meal?
Alongside these benefits is stress relief. Cooking gives you the chance to really slow down and focus solely on what it is that you are making, consequently meaning that past and future worries are able to be set aside, and satisfaction can be found in completing the task of cooking a meal.
Finally, another advantage of food is the many positive effects that good nutrition can have on your mind. When preparing your own meals, it is much easier to control what is going into your body. Research has shown that particular nutrients found in everyday food items have a large impact on brain health, so tailoring what goes into your meals gives you the chance to ensure your brain is getting what it needs to perform at its best, and consequently make you feel your best.
To conclude, there are a plethora of benefits surrounding food, with cooking having a clear therapeutic value in its ability to help you grow creatively, whilst relieving stress and helping you to quiet your mind and become more mindful.
xx Alana McKenna