Home Cooking: The Nutritional Benefits of Culinary Inefficiency

When 20th-century feminist utopian Charlotte Perkins Gilman looked at home cooking, she saw only a primitive tangle of inefficiencies.  It is far more efficient, she opined, to have professionals prepare meals using modern culinary equipment suitable for quantity production. What Gilman failed to see, however, were the considerable benefits that come with home-cooked family meals. A number of studies have concluded that children, especially adolescents, are much better off psychologically and socially when they regularly eat meals at home with their families.  And now a study recently completed at Tulane University finds that even in relatively impoverished areas, children who regularly consume home-prepared meals are nutritionally well ahead of peers who do not.   The authors of the new study justify their inquiry into the prevalent dietary patterns in impoverished urban areas in terms of the health consequences of such patterns. Underscoring the role of diets as “important determinants of health,” the researchers focus on “fruit and vegetable (F/V) consumption” as a key antecedent to good health and a proven safeguard against “diseases such as CVD [Cardiovascular Disease], type 2 diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, and cancer due to their concentration of nutrients including vitamins, folate, potassium, minerals, and dietary fiber.” In contrast, when they lack fruits and vegetables, diets often entail “frequent consumption of food high in calories, fat, salt and sugar.” These fruit-and-vegetable-deficient diets are thus “associated with overweight and obesity, risk factors for developing CVD, diabetes, and hypertension.” Because of the causal links between diet and health, the authors of the new study believe that “understanding the determinants of food consumption” is “crucial to the prevention of chronic diseases.” To identify the determinants of healthy food consumption, the Tulane scholars examine data collect
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