Cooking to Live Longer

Cooking to Live Longer
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Does cooking meals at home lead to improved health outcomes? And how do TV dinners compare nutritionally to TV-chef recipes?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Modern Americans are described as “eat[ing] breakfast in their cars, lunch at their desks and chicken from a bucket.” Within the last few decades, Americans are eating out more and more, and cooking fewer meals at home. And, “[f]ood prepared at home” tends to be healthier—”less…saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium,…more fiber.”

And so, the “benefits to preparing healthful food at home [may include] chronic disease prevention.” But, even during the recession, folks were found “resistant to dietary change,” and kept going out to eat, or bringing it home. “Almost half of all fast-food…eaten by children [is eaten] at home.” So, just because they’re technically eating at home doesn’t mean they’re eating healthy.

“Even when [food is] prepared at home,” it still may not mean much, as most dinners were found to incorporate “processed commercial foods.” Microwaving a frozen pizza ain’t exactly home cooking. One of the problems is many people no longer know how to cook. For example, one study reported that “25% of the men…had absolutely no cooking skills” whatsoever.

“It is encouraging to see the new wave of interest in cooking, in numerous [TV] shows.” But, what are they actually cooking? A study in the UK compared the nutritional “content of…meals created by television chefs with ready meals,” like TV dinners, “to compare both with nutrition…guidelines [set forth] by the World Health Organization.” They looked at a hundred of each, and not a single one complied with the nutrition standards. And, the TV chef recipes were even “less healthy” than the TV dinners.

Many people just don’t know how to make healthy food taste good. This is not a new problem. As an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association bemoaned back in 1913: In the United States, “vegetables are frequently boiled in a way which deprives them of their characteristic odor and [their] toothsomeness. ‘Villainous and idiotic’ are the only adjectives that can describe our methods of cooking vegetables” in the United States.

Is there any research showing that cooking meals at home actually improves health outcomes? Do people who cook live longer? We didn’t know, until now. Researchers in Taiwan found that those “who cook their own food are healthier, and [do, indeed, appear to] live longer.

“In a 10-year study, [they found that] those who cooked most frequently “had only 59% of the mortality risk.” And, this took into account the exercise people got grocery shopping, and “physical function and chewing ability.” So, why did they live longer? Well, those that cooked ate more nutritious foods—”as evidenced [by] their higher consumption of vegetables.”

The effect on mortality was much more evident in women than in men, though. Turns out that “men were, with doubtful justification, more positive about the [nutritive] value…of convenience foods.” So, their idea of cooking was like microwaving a Pop-Tart®, whereas “women who cook [actually make] better food choices.”

As one author noted, last century, “we began the long process of turning over to the food industry many of the decisions about what we eat…Today, our staggering rates of obesity and diabetes are testimony to the faith we put in corporations to feed us well. But the food industry is a business, not a parent; it doesn’t care what we eat as long as we’re willing to pay for it. Home cooking these days has far more than sentimental value; it’s a survival skill.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to dno1967b via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Modern Americans are described as “eat[ing] breakfast in their cars, lunch at their desks and chicken from a bucket.” Within the last few decades, Americans are eating out more and more, and cooking fewer meals at home. And, “[f]ood prepared at home” tends to be healthier—”less…saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium,…more fiber.”

And so, the “benefits to preparing healthful food at home [may include] chronic disease prevention.” But, even during the recession, folks were found “resistant to dietary change,” and kept going out to eat, or bringing it home. “Almost half of all fast-food…eaten by children [is eaten] at home.” So, just because they’re technically eating at home doesn’t mean they’re eating healthy.

“Even when [food is] prepared at home,” it still may not mean much, as most dinners were found to incorporate “processed commercial foods.” Microwaving a frozen pizza ain’t exactly home cooking. One of the problems is many people no longer know how to cook. For example, one study reported that “25% of the men…had absolutely no cooking skills” whatsoever.

“It is encouraging to see the new wave of interest in cooking, in numerous [TV] shows.” But, what are they actually cooking? A study in the UK compared the nutritional “content of…meals created by television chefs with ready meals,” like TV dinners, “to compare both with nutrition…guidelines [set forth] by the World Health Organization.” They looked at a hundred of each, and not a single one complied with the nutrition standards. And, the TV chef recipes were even “less healthy” than the TV dinners.

Many people just don’t know how to make healthy food taste good. This is not a new problem. As an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association bemoaned back in 1913: In the United States, “vegetables are frequently boiled in a way which deprives them of their characteristic odor and [their] toothsomeness. ‘Villainous and idiotic’ are the only adjectives that can describe our methods of cooking vegetables” in the United States.

Is there any research showing that cooking meals at home actually improves health outcomes? Do people who cook live longer? We didn’t know, until now. Researchers in Taiwan found that those “who cook their own food are healthier, and [do, indeed, appear to] live longer.

“In a 10-year study, [they found that] those who cooked most frequently “had only 59% of the mortality risk.” And, this took into account the exercise people got grocery shopping, and “physical function and chewing ability.” So, why did they live longer? Well, those that cooked ate more nutritious foods—”as evidenced [by] their higher consumption of vegetables.”

The effect on mortality was much more evident in women than in men, though. Turns out that “men were, with doubtful justification, more positive about the [nutritive] value…of convenience foods.” So, their idea of cooking was like microwaving a Pop-Tart®, whereas “women who cook [actually make] better food choices.”

As one author noted, last century, “we began the long process of turning over to the food industry many of the decisions about what we eat…Today, our staggering rates of obesity and diabetes are testimony to the faith we put in corporations to feed us well. But the food industry is a business, not a parent; it doesn’t care what we eat as long as we’re willing to pay for it. Home cooking these days has far more than sentimental value; it’s a survival skill.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to dno1967b via flickr

Doctor's Note

Check out your local public library for cookbooks—I’ve been amazed at the selection in all the cities where I’ve lived. Or, for those for which books are just so 20th century, the online Rouxbe Cooking School holds healthy cooking classes. Check them out: www.rouxbe.com/plant-based

More on fast food:

Some other unsavory bits about the food industry:

I think this is the only other mention of celebrity chefs I have:
Paula Deen: diabetes drug spokesperson

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

45 responses to “Cooking to Live Longer

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  1. What does the science say about sprouting grains to make bread VS. using unsprouted grains to make bread? Is the sprouting-thing that is so often “pushed” in the health community just a myth?

    I have the option of buying organic sprouted corn tortillas VS. regular organic corn tortillas. Is there any quality studies that have resolve the debate on this topic?

      1. So many folks claim that sprouting grains eliminates the anti-nutrients, as well as promotes better utilization and digestibility/availability of vitamins, minerals, proteins, etc.

        1. Adrien, Dr Greger recently discussed this point, at least for phytates. Others have discussed as well and pretty much it was all based on bad conclusions. Proving that a little knowledge can be a bad, or at least wrong thing. I used to believe this info from the Weston Price Group and others too. But after reading more, I side with those who believe there is no truth to it. Good luck in deciding for yourself. For me it was a long hard process.

    1. AFAIK, the major advantage of breads from sprouted grains over breads from whole-grain flours is as their kernel structure is more intact their glycemic index is lower (ca. 55 vs 75). Corn tortillas, like other unleavened breads (including wheat tortillas) have relatively low GIs (40-50), so I doubt sprouting helps in this respect.

  2. Excellent video. How much cooking skills does it take to assemble a salad or soak beans overnight and boil the next day; or steam veggies? Next to none. I think it has been simply more of a cultural shift to convenience food consumption. I watch cooking shows when I can and (forgive me) I wonder what the chefs total cholesterol is; or what his/her glucose level is or do they have high blood pressure…. because, so much bacon and butter and salt is required by most chefs. I play around with making dishes by substituting things to make it vegan. Again, thanks Dr. Greger for another amusing, informational and educational video! Excellent.

    1. You are right. My wife and I do not have television and rarely see advertisements but I just saw a burger advertised with 1/2 pound of hamburger, 6 strips of bacon, two slices american cheese, refined flour bun, and whatever sauces added. These should be taxed like cigarettes to pay for the associated health care costs.

  3. I love these videos. I would love to use some of your statements as quotes but alas I can’t copy them down as quickly as you say them. Sure wish you also published the text. But…even without that I benefit tremendously from the information. Thank you.

    1. Ginger: Your wishes have been anticipated! Click the ‘Transcript’ link under the video of interest. The section will expand and show you a script of the video. :-)

    2. Ginger C, look down under the video box, and you’ll see “Transcript”; click on that, and you’ll get the entire text of the video in written form. Thank you thank you to the volunteers who make the transcripts!

    1. See Dr. Greger’s 18 videos listed in the alphabetical side bar to the upper left on “raw food.” Sometimes the nutrients from cooked foods is better absorbed as a result of the heat breaking down the matrix of fiber that they’re encased in. Carrots are a good example of this.

      1. I know hence “most raw foods” and its why all raw diet is indeed ideal if it is not based on raw vegetables like carrots and similar, it mean a diet mostly based on easy digestible raw ripe fruits, nuts ans greens~

        1. I recommend a book by Dr. Wrangham, “How Cooking Made Us Human.” You have been taken in by the raw food philosophy. It’s good for losing weight over the short term, but it’s not the healthiest way to go long-term. And I have done the diet, I did Dr. Graham’s 811rv for two years.

          1. Have you ever seen Bushmen cooking vegetables? I wonder how could they do so without pottery. Burying roots close to hot rocks?

            1. Like we used to do camping, set it on a rock or whatever, near the embers where the heat will steam it inside it’s own skin. Also, not sure if you are aware of it, but you can boil water over fire even in a styrofoam cup. The top will melt off, but anywhere the water is in contact will stay intact. Not that bushmen would be using it, but my point is any vessel (skin, organs, wood, even leaves) filled with liquid would be equivalent.

    1. Laloofah: Thanks for this post! I was aware of 2 of the 4 shows you mentioned It is exciting to learn about the other two.

      1. My pleasure! And as you know, this doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the healthy vegan cooking videos on YouTube!

  4. That online Rouxbe Cooking School has a tuition of $1500! That would buy a whole lot of kale with some left over to show this web site some love. For those of us who can’t afford such a pricey indulgence, is there anyone who can recommend a good vegan cookbook for around $20?

    1. Ten or 15 years ago, this would have been a quick and easy question to answer because there were only, like, five vegan cookbooks. :-) Now, it’s delightfully difficult to answer because there are so many, with new ones coming out every day! My advice is to check some of the vegan food bloggers and find one or more whose recipes you really like – many of them have come out with cookbooks, and that might make it easier to choose, based on your particular food and cooking preferences. Two of my favorites (of many!) are Oh She Glows and FatFree Vegan Kitchen (she doesn’t have a cookbook yet, but is promising one!) Good luck and have fun!

    2. Guest: It is so hard to pick! I’ll give you some of my current favorites:

      1) Let Them Eat Vegan
      2) Vegan on the Cheap
      3) Everyday Happy Herbivoire
      4) Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure

      And even though I just got it, I think the following is going to quickly become a favorite: Happy Herbivore Light and Lean. And I learned some great tips from Jeff Novick’s Fast Food cooking demo DVDs. (which includes recipes too).

      It really depends on what you are looking for. Are you concerned mostly about healthy foods? Easy foods? Impressive food? Fast to prepare food? Inexpensive food? Food that will help with a particular medical condition? (heart, bones, etc) Etc. You can usually find food that meets almost all of these criteria, but certain books might do better at one of these criteria over others.

      If you can afford it, I recommend buying 3 or 4 books so that if one book really doesn’t speak to you, you won’t get discouraged.

      Hope this helps and good luck!

      1. So glad you mentioned Happy Herbivore. I was looking forever trying to find vegan recipes that didn’t include 1700 ingredients and take 9 weeks to prepare. I was also looking for recipes that were oil-free. Then I found the Happy Herbivore website.

        Lindsay focuses on fast and easy, yet tasty, recipes that you don’t need a bunch of specialized tools to prepare. Some of her recipes are on her website and I believe she now has 4 cookbooks available.

        She even offers meal plans for those who are just getting started or just want to make their lives a bit easier. Most of these meals can be prepared in a few hours and then refrigerated or frozen to grab out throughout the week. This is a great option for those of us who are busy.

        I am not in any way affiliated with that website, I just found it to be a godsend for me. Nutritionfacts.org gave me the information I needed and Happy Herbivore helped me implement it into my life.

        1. Penny: Thanks for jumping in! I agree that her recipes just seem to fit the bill. I also agree that while NutritionFacts.org can give people some motivation to change, the various recipe sites and recipe books can help a great deal with the practical side of putting it all into practice. Happy eating to you!

    3. Most vegan cookbooks I see usually call for a lot of oil and or sugar. I try to keep cooking with sugar and oil at a minimum, especially those high in omega 6. For this I think that those recipes and cookbooks by Drs. Esselstyn, Ornish, McDougall, Fuhrman, or the Firehouse Diet to be most in line with the vegan way I eat. (Many libraries seem to stock some or all.) These experts varying on how much fat is acceptable in the diet. I personally don’t worry about plant based fat (except coconut), as long as I’m keeping my omega 3 to 6 ratio close. And I recall that a pub med study I read a year or so ago that found that it’s not enough to be within a ratio of 1:4 of omega 3 to omega 6, you need to have low enough levels of 6 for the 3s to be absorbed.

      1. Your worry about coconut may well be unfounded. If you’ve been following Dr. Greger’s videos you may remember the tentative explanation he gave on why saturated fat usually correlates with greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

        In some of the videos he explains that the action mechanism could be the presence fat of animal origin of endotoxin, and trans fat in the case of unsaturated animal fat.

        On the other hand in the immense majority of cases studied (in lab animals as well as in humans) that saturated fat either came from animal food (e.g., lard), or from previously heated saturated fat such as palm oil. Coconut is rarely used in lab studies (at least alone) because it is significantly more expensive than other fat alternatives.

    4. I get most of my recipes online, Fat Free Vegan, is one of my favorites. Also, Chef AJ’s website has videos showing the preparation of different recipes; look for the “The Chef and the Dietitian”.
      Oh oh oh; don’t pass-up Dr. John McDougal’s website…lots of recipes.

    5. A trip to the library is usually a big help for me. If it’s really good and worth buying I know before shelling out the bucks I don’t have! lol

  5. Hi Dr. Greger or admins, I would like to post a translation for this video to Spanish in an attempt to spread this valuable information to everyone who does not understands English but is willing to check these videos to learn and get more informed about a whole-food plant based diet, I’ll to do a translation for all videos posted from now on (and maybe some older videos if time allows it) and I ask for nothing in exchange, just for you to keep up the great work you’re doing in getting all this amazing information for us, please let me know a way to get you the translation to Spanish, either by email or by commenting here.

  6. “Survival technique,” haha. It is sad, but true. I know I have personally done a lot of nutritional research starting years ago during my MPH, but it still blows my mind the unfathomable ignorance the general populous possesses when it comes to nutrition in general. I’d say around 75%+ of Americans would consider an unbleached “wheat” sub-sandwich with turkey, lettuce, and tomato as equivalent to broccoli and cauliflower with some whole wheat/flax pasta.

  7. What about the Vegan “Get Cultured!” Sweet Earth Burritos? Is this product fine to eat? I know it’s frozen, but it’s aimed to be healthier.

    These are the ingrediants: Tofu* (Water, Soybeans, Calcium Sulfate, Calcium Chloride), Yellow Onion, Spinach, Sweet Earth Traditional Saltan (Water, Vital Wheat Gluten, Non-GMO Soy Sauce [Water, Soybeans, Wheat, Salt, Alcohol]), Pressed Barley*, White Rice*, Mushrooms, Edamame, Carrot, Cabbage, Fermented Red Pepper Paste (Wheat Flour, Rice Syrup, Water, Red Pepper Powder, Salt, Wheat, Defatted Soybean Powder, Cooking Rice Wine, Koji), Green Onions, Roasted Red Bell Peppers (Red Peppers, Water, Salt, Citric Acid And Calcium Chloride), Non-GMO Soy Sauce (Water, Soybeans, Wheat, Salt, Alcohol), Garlic, Sesame Seeds, Toasted Sesame Oil, Non-GMO Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Flax Seed Meal, Rice Vinegar, Ginger, Gochugaru Chili Flakes, Cane Sugar*, Spices And Ganeden BC30 Probiotic. *Organic No GMO’s.

    I see nothing wrong with these, but I could be wrong.

    1. Austin,

      this is surprisingly healthy, feel free to include it in your diet. :)

      Maybe one thing that could be problem is sodium – so keep an eye on it, since I don’t know what the sodium content is.

      Moderator Adam P.

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