Home Cooking Lowers The Risk Of Diabetes

In our fast paced society, making time to cook dinner or even sit down at a table for a meal can be difficult. As time constraints impinge on our ability to cook on a regular basis, restaurants and food companies continue to produce solutions in the form of takeout and prepared frozen meals. As a result, more Americans are eating outside of the home than ever before. According to a report by the United States Department of Agriculture, a whopping 43.1 percent of food spending was on food away from the home during 2012. That's 32 percent of the total calories consumed by the average American.

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The rising popularity of eating out has contributed to the proliferation of chronic diseases, such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, among Americans today. This is due to the fact that meals and snacks prepared away from the home contain more calories on average than those made at home. They are also higher in nutrients we over-consume, such as saturated fat, and lower in nutrients we under-consume, like calcium, fiber, and iron. Essentially, eating away from home saves us time, but leaves us malnourished and at risk of developing a host of diseases. 

It's no surprise, then, that researchers at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions in Orlando reported on Sunday that cooking more meals at home can protect against obesity and diabetes. Researchers analyzed data from 58,000 women in the Nurses' Health Study and 41,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. They followed both groups for 36 years between 1986 and 2012. They looked at eating patterns in terms of lunch and dinner, but did not have enough information to include breakfast.

According to their analysis, people who ate about two homemade meals per day, or around 14 per week, had a 13 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who ate less than six homemade meals a week. They also found that those who ate homemade meals gained less weight over an eight-year period. These findings demonstrate that eating home-cooked meals can protect against weight gain, which can stave off cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Those who are overweight or obese are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, this is a major risk factor for heart disease.

While researchers do not suggest how many homemade meals can protect against disease, Geng Zong, Ph.D., a research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, says the more home cooking the better. That being said, he acknowledges that while homemade meals contain fewer calories and fat on average, they aren't always healthier. "If your mom is really good at cooking like mine, you need to be careful to balance your energy intake," Zong says. As always, it's important to enjoy everything in moderation and be mindful of what you put in your body.

The accompanying slideshow is provided by fellow Daily Meal editorial staff member Bridget Creel.