Why a Home-Cooked Meal Can Help Your Waistline

Pulling out the pots and pans to make a home-cooked meal can improve your waistline. The data back that up. The food-loving French and Italians spend nearly 20 minutes more a day cooking than Americans do. They’re also less likely to prepare a meal by zapping it in the microwave. And, as the figure below shows, Italy and France rank in the lower half of the obesity scale, well behind the United States, which is at the No. 1 spot.

The Brits, it seems, could learn from this. Italian and French adults “spend about 19 more minutes per day cooking than Americans, whereas those in the United Kingdom spend almost exactly the same amount of time as Americans,” noted a 2003 study published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. (Click here to see the study.)

Sure enough, the British are right behind the Americans on the above obesity scale, at No. 2.

We heard about this relationship between cooking and obesity from David Eisenberg, director of the Osher Research Center at Harvard Medical School. He was speaking at health and culinary conference in California’s Napa Valley.

We asked Eisenberg why firing up the stove and wielding a knife would make the French and Italians less obese. “They’re not spending as much time eating processed foods that go right into the microwave,” he replied.

The Journal of Economic Perspectives study — entitled “Why Have Americans Become Obese” — suggests “a revolution in the mass preparation of foods” has changed the way we eat.

Vacuum packing, improved preservatives, deep freezing, artificial flavors and microwaves have made it easier for food manufacturers to “cook food centrally and ship it to consumers for rapid consumption,” according to the study.

The net result: People spend less time cooking food, but eat more of it. A married woman who didn’t work in 1965, for example, spent more than two hours a day cooking and cleaning up after meals.

“In 1995, the same tasks take less than half the time,” the study added. “The switch from individual to mass preparation lowered the time price of food consumption and led to increased quantity and variety of foods consumed.”

Which brings us back to the microwave oven. The study noted that more than 80% of U.S. households have microwaves, as do 66% of British households. In Italy, by contrast, only 14 percent of households have microwaves.

Time to fire up the stove, get out the pots and pans, and grab the extra virgin olive oil.

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch