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Posts in 'Nutrition in the Workplace'

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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Breakfast – most important meal of the day?
Do you skip breakfast? Does your breakfast consist of a strong cup of tea or coffee on the way to work and nothing else?

There have been many studies about whether breakfast is the most important meal of the day, some contradictory and some inconclusive.  Generally they recommend not fasting for too long.  We would not recommend missing breakfast.  After a night’s sleep your body has effectively been starved, so to continue starving until lunch time will leave you feeling hungry – and moody.  When our resilience is down it is so easy to reach for an unhealthy snack and another caffeine shot.

By having a nutritious healthy breakfast you are fuelling your body and brain for the day.  You also need to re-hydrate after a night’s sleep, so a large glass of water is a good idea.  If you don’t like plain water, then add a slice of lemon, cucumber or ginger.

If you do have a long commute with a little preparation you can organise a healthy breakfast.  You can make up a tub of granola or Bircher muesli the night before, leave it in the fridge, ready for the journey the next day.  This breakfast food is made up of lots of nutritious ingredients, slow burn carbohydrates (the oats), protein in the yogurt and milk, natural sugars and vitamins in the fruits you use.

For children, it’s even more important they eat breakfast before going to school. By having a nutritious start to the day, it is helping sustain their energy levels and their mood which will of course affect behaviour at school.  Eating a healthy breakfast will also help in developing their brain. The brain is the biggest muscle in the body and it needs feeding!

If you’ve got into the habit of skipping breakfast, try and break the habit!

 

The Cooking Academy offers a range of classes, corporate wellness programmes and team building events

 

#breakfast #healthyeating #nutrition #recipesfromtheCookingAcademy #healthywork-life #KumudGandhi #TheCookingAcademy

#ACupboardFullOfSpices #TheAlchemyofFood
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Staying hydrated in the hot weather
It’s important to stay hydrated, especially during the current spell of hot weather.  We are made up of almost two thirds water and it is essential to life.  Having enough water in our system helps our body and brain function properly.  If you’re not drinking enough, you may find you are subject to headaches, stomach upset and your joints begin to creak!

The recommended amount of water we should drink is 1.5 to 2 litres a day – that’s about 8-10 glasses.  Sounds a lot?  Don’t despair - you take in water in other ways by drinking and eating.

If you don’t like drinking plain H2O then add a slice of lemon, lime or cucumber, a few berries or leaves of fresh mint to the mix.  Fruit juices are good, but beware of drinking too much because of the level of sugar and acid in fruit.  Tea and coffee should be drunk in moderation as they are mild diuretics so drink a herbal infusion instead.  Fizzy drinks also contain a lot of sugar and caffeine and should also be drunk in moderation.

Vegetables and fruit contribute to your liquid intake, as well as helping you reach the recommended 5 a day.  Just adding some salad to your sandwich and a piece of fruit to your packed lunch will help with hydration.

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#thecookingacademy #healthyeating #heathylifestyle #lunch #hydration #fitness #wellbeing #summer #healthtips # fruit
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The Well-being Revolution

The well-being revolution is truly underway and continued research and analysis backs up what we already know; building a happier, healthier, more connected workforce delivers excellent results for everyone.


Workshops


In our corporate wellness programmes we offer a range of workshops and seminars about the science of food, manage eating habits, and diet management designed to positively impact physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Our fun and engaging sessions cover topics ranging from sleep, nutrition to energy levels and can be tailored to your requirements.

Coaching


We will coach your employees to improve their planning skills for better diet management to improve overall health. We recommend starting with your executive teams to identify their most pressing nutritional and well-being needs and assist them to set and reach their health and wellbeing goals. This philosophy can then be championed right across the organisation to create change across the board with demonstrable benefits

CSR


CSR is critical to core business values and sharing those goals to enable employees to participate will develop a strong sense of community within the organisation. With our extensive experience of CSR objectives and implementation we will help to fulfil and deliver your CSR commitments.

If you would like to more about our wellness corporate solutions please contact:

Francesca Yates on 01923 778880, alternatively email her on Francesca@thecookingacademy.co.uk    http://www.thecookingacademy.co.uk/corporate/the-corporate-athlete/
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How good is your sleep hygiene
ONE third of our lives are spent in bed. We all know a good night’s sleep is a great way to recover and rest after a full day. Getting a full night’s sleep is not a luxury, it is a health necessity and for those of us in the world or work or studying it is essential to productivity and wellbeing.  It is recommended that adults have between 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and more for teenagers and children. Yet it is estimated that a staggering 40% of adults are not getting enough sleep, Public Health England state that the annual cost to the UK employers is a resounding £30 billion pounds and 200,000 working days are lost to sickness and mental health every year.

Sleep is crucial in the maintenance of our cognitive skills.  Being adequately rested enables us to communicate well, remember key information, be creative and flexible with our thoughts, and improves our decision making ability. Furthermore, sleep is essential to building a healthy immune system, making you less likely to catch a cold and thus less likely to need time off work.

In addition although this may seem obvious, sleep is free, there are no side effects of having a great sleep, unlike taking caffeine tablets or drinking caffeinated drinks to try and stay awake.  Good sleep also makes you less likely to over-eat - so it’s good for your waistline.

There are many reasons we can struggle to fall asleep, work related stress, long hours at work, illness or injury and money worries are just a few issues that keep us awake at night. This is where sleep hygiene comes in effect, (nothing to do with your bed sheets!) but all to do with how you create the ideal settings for a good night’s sleep.

Here are a few points to think about:

  • Try sticking to regular bed times, set an alarm on your phone.

  • Making an effort to relax before your bed time approaches.

  • Avoid caffeinated drinks and heavy meals late at night; they’ll prevent you from falling asleep.

  • If you’re finding it hard to slow down, breathe in for a count of four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds and breathe out for four seconds. Repeat as many times as needed.

  • Also think about how your technology usage too - Checking emails late in the evening or before bed is often a cause of unhealthy anxiety and distraction.

  • Computer screens, tablets and phones all emit a blue light which keep us awake by suppressing melatonin, the hormone which sends us to sleep.


Public Health England and Business in the Community have partnered to put together a free downloadable sleep toolkit for employers.   Click here for more information:

(https://wellbeing.bitc.org.uk/all-resources/toolkits/sleep-and-recovery-toolkit?utm_source=Blog&utm_medium=Sleepblog2&utm_campaign=PHE)

Consider how effective your workplace well-being strategy is working.  If lack of sleep is a growing problem within your organization then it’s time to re-evaluate the strategy and its effectiveness.  You could be contributing more towards the £30 billion then you think. 

 

If you would like to know more about our corporate wellness strategies then please follow this link:   http://www.thecookingacademy.co.uk/corporate-events-team-building/cooking-nutritional-classes/
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