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Cooking as Therapy

By Chef Ambrose Poh


  • Stress relief

  • Improved physical health

  • Improved social skills

  • Improved memory, attention and focus

  • Sensory awareness

  • Treat Eating Disorders

Now a days culinary therapy is the treatment du jour at a growing number of mental health clinics and therapists' offices. It’s being used as part of the treatment for a wide range of mental and behavioral health conditions, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and addiction.

“Cooking has therapeutic value physically, cognitively, socially and inter-personally. Physically, cooking requires good movement in shoulders, fingers, wrists, elbow, neck, as well as good overall balance. Adequate muscle strength is needed in upper limbs for lifting, mixing, cutting and chopping. Furthermore, sensory awareness is important in considering safety while dealing with hot and sharp objects.”

Cooking as therapy is effective because it encourages creativity. Cooking also makes people feel good about themselves because it is a way for them to nurture others. For most dishes, there is also a sense of immediate gratification. These days, health-care clinics and counselors across the world are using cooking or baking as therapy tools for people suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mental-health problems. This type of therapy is often partly aimed at teaching healthy cooking and eating skills to people living tough, chaotic lives.

But it also functions as a method for stressed out users to focus on a task at hand and feel satisfaction at completing a task. The reward of eating together as a group and the satisfaction of having cooked a healthy meal can become a rush of healthy self-inflation. It makes sense to think of cooking as therapy because food has a lot of meaning culturally, ethnically, and religiously. It brings people together whether it is baking, cooking a meal, shopping for the food and certainly sitting down together and socializing. At Allspice Institute, we believe cooking as therapy is an important part of helping young people find healthy joys and hobbies, they can enjoy without the use of drugs and alcohol.

One obvious link between cooking and mental health is nutrition. It’s easier to control the quality of your diet when you prepare much of the food yourself. And there’s growing recognition that choosing a high-quality diet plays a major role in keeping your brain healthy.

For many people, cooking is an outlet for creative expression. “Think of the flavors you gravitate toward and try using them in different dishes. Also, rather than dashing out to buy a long list of ingredients, be inspired by what you have on hand. It’ll save you time and stress. You’ll have developed your own new recipe.” The sense of accomplishment you feel afterward can be a boost for your self-esteem.

It’s easy to dismiss cooking as just another household chore. Yet you may derive a joy from cooking that you simply don’t get from, say, folding laundry or dusting shelves. The reason: Eating is an innately rewarding experience. So cooking, which leads to eating, has a powerful, built-in reward system.

Cooking with a partner can spur communication and cooperation. “Getting a meal on the table means putting aside differences and grudges and focusing on the task at hand,”. If you don’t have the same food likes and dislikes, it’s also a chance to hone your conflict resolution skills.

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