/ Nutrition

Cooking for Cognition: Why Making a Meal Is Good for Your Brain

If you feel at home in the kitchen, planning and preparing nutritious meals, congratulations. You’re not only refueling your body. You’re stimulating your brain with the type of workout it needs to remain healthy.

“A nourishing, home-cooked meal, shared with friends or family, is a familiar activity that exercises the brain,” says Marwan Sabbagh, MD, Director of Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. “It provides the nutrition our bodies crave and encourages social interaction, all of which are critical to preserving cognitive fitness.”

Why it’s so much more than just cooking

Many brain processes involved in getting dinner on the table are classified as executive functions, Dr. Sabbah says. That means they help us plan and control goal-directed thoughts and actions.

“Executive functions test our ability to organize, prioritize, sustain focus, solve problems, retrieve memories and multitask,” he explains. They are located principally in the prefrontal regions of the brain’s frontal lobe, with connections to other brain regions.

Hosting an intricate dinner party will surely tax your executive functioning, but smaller-scale meals demand equivalent skills:

No matter a success or total kitchen flop

Executive function also applies to another dimension: managing frustration and controlling emotions.

You may have to draw on these cognitive resources if your meal preparation goes awry or your dinner falls flat, despite your best efforts.

“Don’t despair,” Dr. Sabbah reassures. “Grace under pressure is just one more sign of a healthy brain!”

Related Articles

September 17, 2019 / Brain & Spine
September 17, 2019 / Brain & Spine

Why Exercise Protects Your Brain’s Health (and What Kind Is Best)

December 22, 2020 / Nutrition
December 22, 2020 / Nutrition

Is Red Meat Bad for You?

April 21, 2021 / Wellness
April 21, 2021 / Wellness

Why Self-Care Isn’t Selfish: Advice for Women

April 30, 2021 / Wellness
April 30, 2021 / Wellness

Self-Care: Small & Powerful Ways to Celebrate You

February 21, 2020 / Nutrition
February 21, 2020 / Nutrition

A Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Meal Prep

October 15, 2020 / Digestive
October 15, 2020 / Digestive

How to Manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome With Your Brain