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Posts in 'Corporate Nutrition'

The Alchemy of Food – motivational speaker with a difference
Public speakers come in many shapes and sizes – some are motivational, some inspiring and some frankly obscure.  In my corporate life (before becoming a chef), I sat through many conferences and team meetings with guest speakers – from drivers of sub-sonic cars, to bobsleigh teams, to a woman who rowed solo across the Atlantic, to someone who used geese as an analogy for team building.

All these speakers encourage us to change our lives, or at least our work lives, how to work fitter, faster, smarter, be more competitive and so on.  Very few look at how we look after ourselves to meet those challenges.

‘The Alchemy of Food’ presented by Kumud Gandhi is the exception.   Kumud is a food scientist, published author and keynote speaker on health and wellbeing for peak personal and professional performance.

‘The Alchemy of Food’ is an inspirational non-jargon scientific look at the food we eat and motivates us to understand what we consume and the affect it has on us.

During the interactive speech, Kumud covers the nutritional and medicinal benefits of herbs and spices, and why certain ingredients are put together in a recipe.  Kumud explains how the medicinal value of ingredients, known to our ancestors, that has been lost in the mists of time is present in modern day recipes and medicine.  For example we don’t know why lemon is paired with fish, apart from it tasting nice! In fact it helps us digest the fish.

Using her food science background, Kumud explains how certain foods can affect our health and wellbeing including the changes in our brain, our levels of resilience, need for hydration and nutrition.

The difference with the Alchemy of Food from other motivational speeches is that you can make an instant change to your life, health and wellbeing through understanding what you are eating and how it affects you.  For team managers, it can be part of managing your team and dovetail with your corporate wellbeing programme.   It is always very well received by our clients who go away inspired by ‘going back to basics’ on flavour and information about the ingredients we use every day.

So what was life changing from all those speeches I sat through?  What did I learn from the sub-sonic car driver and the bobsleigh team?  Not much.  Debra, the woman who rowed solo became a friend and her example of ‘choosing your attitude’ encouraged me to run a half marathon.  And as for the goose-herder – the goose bit him, which is some form of feedback and the most memorable part of the speech!

‘The Alchemy of Food’ can be a one off presentation at a team meeting, or the introduction to a team build and is an excellent way of learning about health and wellbeing.

If you are interested in having a different motivational speaker at a team meeting or conference, please contact:

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Team builds with a difference!
The feedback we get about our team building events, apart from being a hugely enjoyable experience, is often about the additional benefits the employees gain from the event.

The teams are thrown together in an unfamiliar setting and have a time limited task to achieve.  This calls for leadership, teamwork, communications, strategy and project planning even before they’ve lifted a pan.

It is an excellent way to observe how people work together, how they go about achieving the tasks they have been set.

Some teams just ‘go for it’ without much analysis of the task ahead, and quickly find they might have to regroup, read the recipes and ask for help.

Others can be taken over by a strong personality who might be a good at a particular task in the office or their profession, but the skills are not so transferrable to a multi-task project such as producing a Thai banquet.

The most successful groups are those that take some time to read the recipes, sort out who has the skills needed for the task, and thinks about timing.  These teams are often the most innovative and creative, and don’t lose the end objective from their sights.

The team skills they learn, or learn about by making mistakes, are all transferrable and sustainable skills that can be applied to the workplace.  In all cases, the teams go away with some learning and a sense of achievement.

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For those of us in business and particularly retail, over the festive period things may not have slowed at all and we still need to keep focused on our business objectives and activities.  This time of year is always challenging, commuting through dark mornings and evenings, usually awful weather and we’re past the festivities with a long month ahead until payday.  We need a lot of resilience to get through the gloom!

I believe January is always a good time to take stock and look at our objectives and how we can make life better for ourselves. Resilience and mindfulness are not only for the new age types, some of the most successful business people in the world take time out for themselves, actually they MAKE time for themselves.

Resilience training is often part of a business’s HR plan to support the workforce, and in my experience it only touches the surface as resilience and mindfulness are a way of living.  It’s about making a decision to set aside time or an activity for you, and only you.

Think about including some balance relaxation into your life, it can be anything from taking a walk, to sitting quietly, reading a book or listening to music, pursuing a hobby – whatever helps you clear your head and relax…and don’t forget to switch off the mobile. During the work day, take a walk around the block, fresh air and a different perspective will help

Make time for your family and friends.  If you’ve got a lot on, it may be difficult to do this, however research shows that catching up with friends and spending time socially is hugely beneficial, it keeps you less isolated and part of a community where you can share ideas and issues.

Following on from this, try and be more assertive when it feels like you’re being heaped with more tasks or it’s not clear what your objectives are.  Try and get some clarity, this will help you manage your workload.

What we eat can help us with our resilience.  Skipping meals is not a good idea, as it reduces the energy we have and leads us to reach for the snacks.  It’s always a good idea to avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugary or salted products as they give an initial boost to the system but this doesn’t long and you feel flat again.  Try and eat regularly and with others.  Research has shown that the community element of eating is hugely beneficial to wellbeing.

Eating breakfast is a good way to build resilience and set you up for the day’s challenges.  By eating porridge, granola or muesli and fruit you will a good energy source to keep you going.   Other foods to think about during the day are protein rich such as eggs, fish and soya.  Try and eat lots of vegetables and fruit.  And remember to drink lots of water to keep hydrated.

So set yourself some resilience objectives and start 2019 with a positive attitude!
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Mental Health - What’s food got to do with it?

Mental Health - What’s food got to do with it?

Mental Health is finally on the agenda and not before time; yet I find myself slightly nervous about putting the word ‘Mental’ Health in the subject title!  Why is that, even though I am a food scientist and have studied brain physiology in detail.

So what is it about the term ‘mental’ health that makes us a little uneasy about things?  Historically the term ‘mental health’ has had negative connotations, conjuring up images of extreme depression and people who ‘can’t cope’.  Perhaps it’s also something that we think won’t happen to us.

Research from the Mental Health Foundation suggests that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem at some point in our lifetimes.  Mental health is a broad term covering a range of conditions and experiences, and can affect people at any age.  Just as we can have physical health problems – we can also suffer from a range of mental health problems and they don’t all necessarily look like depression.  Social anxiety, PTSD and stress,  work or family related is thought to be the most prevalent form of mental health and whilst some people thrive on the adrenaline of stress, for others it can be debilitating.

We are what we eat

The brain is essentially a chemical factory wired with neurotransmitters, the chemical messenger that relays thoughts and actions, so essentially that controls our behaviours. Research and experience prove without a doubt that there is a connection between how & what we eat and how we think and act. The bio-chemical basis of this ‘food-mood’ relationship lies in the neurotransmitters.  Since food directly affects neurotransmitter action, changes in neurotransmitters are thus responsible for changes in our brain chemistry, and therefore changes in moods, ergo food does affect mood.

Furthermore, it is proven that food affects some people's moods more than others; some people are simply more vulnerable than others due to the way in which their brains are wired and how they process chemicals in the brain.  Such people are equally more sensitive to junk foods in their diets, while others seem to breeze through fast-food with little or no effect on mood change.  These signs may be more easily identified in children, so we say that children who eat sweets may suffer a sugar rush and behave abnormally. Yet when adults have poor nutrition we don’t make the same correlations.

Junk in Junk out

Further research from the Mental Health Foundation demonstrates that people who report some level of mental health, also eat fewer healthy foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, meals made from scratch; relying instead on crisps and chips, chocolate, ready meals and takeaways.

After the skin, the brain is the biggest organ in our bodies and requires good nutrition and hydration.  To ensure our brain is functioning and benefiting from the food we eat, our diet needs to include complex carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and of course lots of water to stay hydrated.

Good food and a nutritious diet is a path to improved mental and physical health, thus leading to improved wellbeing.  In our busy lives it may seem easier to reach for convenience foods and snacks however such foods contain higher amounts of chemicals that are harmful to the body, tricking the brain in the short term to feeling good but can quickly affect the brain bio-chemistry and negatively impact mood.

By eating a healthy diet with fresh ingredients, together with exercise and good sleep will benefit your mental health and general wellbeing.

Most importantly, just as we seek medical help for other illnesses and ailments, we should do so for mental health related issues. However, if mental health remains a taboo subject, then people will be inevitably be reluctant to seek help about their illness that will without doubt lead to a worsening of the condition.

Look out for the next blog on food and mental health.

The Cooking Academy provides a variety of courses specifically related to nutrition.  Our chef tutors provide advice and information on the nutritional benefits of ingredients and seasoning.  Our Wellness in the Workplace provides services to organisations to help develop health eating goals in the workplace to build a ‘Fit for Work – Fit for Life’ workforce.


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time to change mental health cooking academy nutrition mind mental health workplace well being nutrition food cooking academy mental health foundation cooking academy food well being workplace
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Spice Cookery Book - A Cupboard Full of Spices
My spice cookery book, “A Cupboard Full Of Spices”, has finally gone to press.  It has been a labour of love and 10 years in the making.

The book describes my journey in food, and all the influences I have had from childhood in a traditional Indian home in the UK to the present day.  It is a compendium of spices, explaining their uses and medicinal properties.   In the book I bring these together to create “The Alchemy of Food” which is at the heart of all the cookery classes we hold at The Cooking Academy and the corporate wellness programmes and team building events we run throughout the world.

Exploding the myth on Spices

Having taught many hundreds of people to cook both Asian and European cuisines over the years, the overwhelming evidence is that that the challenge has always been understanding the use of spices in recipes, of any genre. Furthermore, the medicinal value of cooking with herbs and spices has been lost over the generations.  I have therefore made it my life’s mission to explode the myths on spices, the correct way to use them so their health benefits and flavours are utilised. This book is about sharing this very useful knowledge to create great food and improve your health in the process.

I am a passionate believer that good nutrition is essential to a healthy working life as well as home life.  Good nutrition means our brains are being fed the right nutrients and vitamins to ensure it functions, making us more alert, more motivated and therefore more productive.

The Ultimate Spice Cookery Book

The book contains a wealth of information about spices and their qualities.  Each recipe has been annotated to show the nutritional benefits of the ingredients, alongside easy to follow instructions and fabulous photographs of the food.

The book will be published in mid October and you can pre-order it on the website today A Cupboard Full of Spices


Kumud Gandhi is Founder of The Cooking Academy in Rickmansworth, Herts.  She is a published author, food writer and broadcasts on TV and Radio commenting on food and nutrition.


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