Many people find cooking their own food laborious, time-consuming, and intimidating. However, the predominant similarity among my most successful clients is not their training split, their gym set up, or their experience level. It has nothing to do with their macros or what nutrition protocols they are given. The common denominator is relying on themselves to cook the majority of meals they consume on a weekly basis.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 44% of meals eaten by Americans in 2018 were purchased and consumed outside of the home (1). That means 44% of the meals eaten by Americans on a daily basis come from sources where the quantity, quality, and addition of chemicals and preservatives are completely unknown. It doesn’t come as a surprise that during that same timeframe, nearly the same percentage of Americans were classified as “obese” by the CDC.
Many people don’t realize that optimal digestion starts before you even take a bite of food. You might be surprised to know that two-thirds of adults are consciously or unconsciously dealing with some variety of digestive issues right now. The first stage of digestion is the secretion of saliva in your mouth ducts. This secretion plays a critical role in optimal digestion and begins at the first sight and smell of food. The enzyme amylase begins breaking down your food before you even swallow it. The acts of cutting up ingredients, seasoning, and smelling the aromas created while cooking trigger your brain to start releasing saliva. This happens even well before you sit down to eat, unlike with take-out or other store-bought food where this step of digestion is delayed. Proper digestion can help eliminate gas, bloating, and similar issues. Aside from the digestive benefits gained from the simple improvement of what you eat, how you prepare it matters too.
One of the biggest mysteries in consistently consuming foods outside of the home is the quality of what you are eating. Just about anything that comes prepackaged is going to have added preservatives, chemicals and sodium. These additives exist solely to prevent the food from spoiling while it sits on the shelf waiting for you to buy it. Studies show that many of these chemicals and additives have negative consequences for our health, especially in the sheer quantity that we Americans consume them. Some of these common additions to your favorite foods include high fructose corn syrup, sodium nitrite, artificial sweeteners, and sodium benzoate. The problem with these chemicals is that our bodies weren’t meant to digest them. Many of them have been linked to hyperactivity (especially in children), increased chances of diabetes, and are even connected to certain kinds of cancers (2). Cooking your own food keeps the focus on REAL ingredients, ones that don’t need to be preserved or filled with chemicals to enhance their taste due to prolonged amounts of time in storage.
An additional aspect of cooking your own food that puts you in better control of your health is the tight grasp on the quantity of food you are consuming. Whether dining out or purchasing something pre prepared, it is incredibly difficult to understand the quantity of calories, and even more complex to glean their macronutrient content. Most prepared foods are so calorically dense in relation to their volume that it is incredibly easy to over-consume them. Have you ever looked at the nutritional label of some of your favorite foods? At first glance you may think that the calories, fat, protein, and carb totals aren't so bad...until you realize those are just indicative of a single serving. I don’t know about you, but one serving of most of these foods is far from satisfying for me. If you are someone who is practicing tracking your food to stay in optimal ranges for fat loss or muscle gain, going to a restaurant or getting take-out is all but a guess. And let’s be honest, we are going to guess a little liberally in favor of our appetite. Without even going as far as weighing and measuring what we cook, you will have the clearest picture of the quantity of food you’re about to consume by preparing it in your own home. You will know exactly what ingredients you are putting in your body and how much of them. Whether the goal is to lose, gain, maintain, or perform, putting yourself in the driver seat and being deliberate in how much you ingest is paramount to your success.
Join the herd of those most successful with their health. Pick up a knife, cast iron skillet, and your favorite seasoning. Gain optimal digestion; rid your body of unwanted & harmful toxins, and dial in your consumption for ultimate control of your nutrition.