Health: Kneading a release? How baking yourself better might help

Marlene Grace. PIC: Tony Johnson
Marlene Grace. PIC: Tony Johnson
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Pastries, cakes and pies are the talk of the town during Great British Bake Off season – but can baking give your health a boost?

The booming BBC series has given humble home cooks the chance to bake mostly mouth-watering, but occasionally inedible, treats albeit under heavy scrutiny. It’s not often that the bakers look all that relaxed and at peace.

But despite the trials and tribulations of the show, an increasing body of anecdotal and research-based evidence suggests that baking can actually help to improve your mental health and wellbeing.

Bake Off’s 2012 winner John Whaite has even described baking “as a form of pill-less Prozac” after citing it as his way of lifting himself out of crippling depression.


The proof is truly in the pudding as social enterprises, such as the lauded Better Health Bakery in London, have sprung up nationally to offer everyone from ex-offenders and domestic abuse victims to people with learning disabilities, dementia and mental health issues therapeutic baking sessions.

Retired cleaner Marlene Grace, from Scott Hall, claims concocting cakes and baking batches of sweet treats helps her to relax and stay active despite a genetic condition that has left her housebound.

The 70-year-old great-grandmother-of-one suffers from a rare form of hereditary spastic paraplegia which causes fatigue and muscle weakness due to a deterioration of her nerves.

“I like my own company and I’m fully occupied by my baking. There’s no way I want to sit in a chair and watch TV all day,” she said. “Sometimes when you’re sat in the kitchen baking a cake you might feel as though you’ve had enough but I make myself do more.”

A 2013 Real Bread Campaign survey of people living with mental health issues found that found that 88 per cent said bread making gave them a sense of achievement, while 87 per cent said baking makes them feel happier.

Marlene’s passion for baking sees her regularly donate bakes to the St George’s Crypt charity, friends and even her doctors’ surgery. Most recently she sold more than 50 cakes, raising more than £225 for Radio Aire’s Big Bake Day that was in aid of the station’s Cash for Kids charity, which helps underprivileged children.

Marlene added: “I love it, that’s my hobby. In a morning when I wake up I go and have a bath then go straight down to the kitchen so I can bake for people. It just makes me feel good that I’m doing what I’m doing and someone’s benefitting as well.”

So there may be more to baking that meets the eye, or the waistline for that matter.

For Marlene at least, setting about the kitchen benefits more than just her appetite.


Families all over West Yorkshire have taken to the kitchen in recent weeks to support a regional charity.

Radio Aire’s Big Bake Day event urged people all over the region to host bake sales in their places of work, schools, colleges, universities or communities to raise funds for Cash For Kids on Friday.

The charity donates funds raised to support disadvantaged children in Leeds and the surrounding areas. Last year the charity helped more than 60,000 children. Visit