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The Benefits of Cooking Therapy in Addiction Recovery

Cooking Therapy

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) explains substance use disorder (SUD), colloquially referred to as addiction, as a complex, neurological “condition in which there is uncontrolled use of substance despite harmful consequence,” and, as such, it is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). The path of recovery from addiction is not necessarily linear, nor will it be the same for every person. A report in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics emphasizes the importance of including nutritional education in addiction recovery. The findings of their studies “support the position that nutrition education is an essential component of substance abuse treatment programs and can enhance substance abuse treatment outcomes.” Cultivating healthy nutrition habits is essential for any individual and can be particularly beneficial for a person undergoing treatment for substance abuse and/ or addiction, as a nutritious diet will foster physical and mental health and improve one’s chances for long-term sobriety.

Benefits of Cooking Therapy

Cooking therapy, also known as culinary or kitchen therapy, is an experiential therapeutic technique that combines the culinary arts, gastronomy, and personal, cultural, or familial relationships with food to address emotional and psychological challenges and improve mental health. Culinary therapy offers a range of physical, mental, and emotional benefits. Some of the key benefits of cooking therapy in addiction recovery include, but are not limited to the following, provided by The Wall Street Journal:

  • Promotes mindfulness: Cooking requires focus and attention as individuals engage in the process of chopping, measuring, and cooking ingredients. It facilitates an opportunity to anchor the mind and focus attention on sensory awareness, grounding individuals in the present moment while tuning them in to the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of the culinary task at hand.
  • Teaches healthy nutrition habits: Kitchen therapy helps individuals learn about nutrition, healthy eating habits, and the benefits of eating a varied and balanced diet such as:
    • Boosted mental clarity: Certain foods can increase the production of dopamine and/ or norepinephrine that enhance one’s ability to think more clearly and remain more alert.
    • Enhanced immunity: Eating a varied and balanced diet can help to improve one’s immune system and strengthen immunity.
    • Increased energy: Including certain foods (e.g., those rich in complex carbohydrates, protein, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, minerals, etc.) into one’s diet can help to increase energy levels.
    • Improved memory: Studies show that integrating certain foods into one’s diet can help protect against and possibly reverse cognitive decline associated with addiction.
  • Facilitates the restoration of nutritional deficiencies: Cooking therapy offers an opportunity to take an active role in restoring nutritional deficiencies. Eating a healthy diet can help an individual in recovery restore necessary vitamins and minerals that were likely depleted during one’s active substance use.
  • Reduces relapse triggers: Engaging in meaningful activities like cooking reduces idle time, lowering the risk of boredom-associated relapse. Cooking therapy provides a healthy coping mechanism, reducing the likelihood of relapse as individuals learn to manage stress and emotions in a positive way.

Incorporating cooking therapy into addiction recovery programs can enhance the overall effectiveness of treatment. Through providing practical life skills, promoting mindfulness, boosting self-esteem, and teaching healthy habits, cooking therapy contributes significantly to the holistic recovery of individuals struggling with addiction.

For Information and Support 

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous and can result in severe short and long-term consequences. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone, and we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. We are available anytime via telephone at: 213-389-9964, or you can always email us at:

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