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The cooking Journal

Posts in 'Nutrition in the Workplace'

Too Stressed to Sleep?
In some walks of life talking about how busy we are is almost a badge of honour, an indication of your success, but there is a big difference between being super busy and chronically busy. The latter is just a recipe for disaster when you just feel terribly overwhelmed and constantly under fire. When you can’t escape from stress it can become a physical problem, and may lead to a range of health issues
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Top Tips for Working from Home
Whilst working from home it is important to keep some sort of routine; this will avoid us feeling stressed anxious and perhaps overwhelmed. Here are some simple steps you can incorporate into your daily routine to make sure you can stay focused.
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Eating to Cope with Viral Infections
Wherever we turn there’s no escaping from the global spectre of COVID-19 casting a shadow over our daily lives. Inasmuch as there’s no known cure for the common cold so it is with all viral infections, medication can at best only alleviate symptoms whilst the immune system fights off the virus.
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Horlicks is back on the favourites list for tired Millennials – but does it really help you sleep?
On Thursday I was interviewed by Jackie Brambles during her morning show on BBC Radio Scotland, in reaction to a recent article in The Guardian about the rise in popularity of Horlicks after many years of sales decline.If those of you outside of Bonny Scotland who didn’t listen here’s a recap on the salient points and some tips, tricks or hacks on how to get better quality sleep and more of it too.
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The Daily Dozen - The Only Checklist You Need to Eat Healthy
So you want to be healthy and you’re on-board with Veganuary, but how do you make sure you have a healthy balanced diet throughout the day? The Daily Dozen are the 12 essential things to eat, drink and do to maintain a healthy mind, body & soul ready for to face the challenges of the new year and be fit for life and fit for the new you.
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That Old New Year’s Chestnut
For the first time in a long time I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions this year, not because I have achieved everything, I have set out to do, but rather because I haven’t! Instead, I gave myself a good talking to in a quiet, calm and positive manner about all the things I have achieved and reflected on how I achieved them (essentially with dogged determination and utter willpower).
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10 foods than can cause inflammation in the body and 10 that fight it
Most people tend to think of inflammation in terms of external signs: swelling, bruising, redness, heat and so on, like when you stub your toe, that immediate pain you feel is the body working in action to help fix whatever just happened. It is a normal and effective response that facilitates healing.Unfortunately, chronic inflammation is a different story and can be caused by diet, stress, lack of exercise, smoking, pollution, and lack of sleep. It can be seen in those with arthritis, fibromyalgia, coeliac disease, and irritable bowel disease. It can also play a part in asthma and diabetes.On occasions, weight gain can also be attributable to inflammation as inflammation in the body makes our weight control hormone (leptin) to be less effective, which therefore causes weight gain. Thus, the two often come hand in hand.
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Is turmeric the solution to fighting superbugs?
In this week’s Sunday Times I read a very interesting article by Andrew Gregory about how scientists have discovered the power of using curcumin (the plant compound that gives turmeric its colour) along with other natural ingredients to fight superbugs without the need for antibiotics. Using nanocapsules of curcumin they have successfully neutralised one of the world's most pernicious superbugs- helicobacter pylori. In a world where we are increasingly hearing about antibiotic resistance, a discovery like this could spell a huge change in the way we fight these bugs.
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Team Building with a difference- 'Ready, Steady... Unite'
At The Cooking Academy, we offer a very different type of team-building activity, a cookery challenge in the form of a ‘Cook Off’ between colleagues.
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Improve your cognitive function with Peanuts

A higher nut consumption could be the key to better cognitive health in older people according to new research from the University of South Australia.


In a study of 4822 Chinese adults aged 55+ years, researchers found that eating more than 10 grams of nuts a day was positively associated with better mental functioning, including improved thinking, reasoning and memory.

Lead researcher, UniSA's Dr. Ming Li, says the study is the first to report an association between cognition and nut intake in older Chinese adults, providing important insights into increasing mental health issues (including dementia) faced by an ageing population.

"Population ageing is one of the most substantial challenges of the twenty-first century. Not only are people living longer, but as they age, they require additional health support which is placing unprecedented pressure on aged-care and health services," Dr. Li says.

"In China, this is a massive issue, as the population is ageing far more rapidly than almost any other country in the world.  "Improved and preventative health care – including dietary modifications – can help address the challenges that an ageing population presents.

"By eating more than 10 grams (or two teaspoons) of nuts per day older people could improve their cognitive function by up to 60 per cent– compared to those not eating nuts – effectively warding off what would normally be experienced as a natural two-year cognition decline."  Dr. Li says peanuts have specific anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects which can alleviate and reduce cognitive decline.

Nuts are known to be high in healthy fats, protein and fibre with nutritional properties that can lower cholesterol and improve cognitive health. While there is no cure at present for age-related cognition decline and neurogenerative disease, variations in what people eat are delivering improvements for older people.

The World Health Organization estimates that globally, the number of people living with dementia is at 47 million.

By 2030, this is projected to rise to 75 million and by 2050, global dementia cases are estimated to almost triple. China has the largest population of people with dementia.

As people age, they naturally experience changes to conceptual reasoning, memory, and processing speed. This is all part of the normal ageing process; however age is also the strongest known risk factor for cognitive disease. Thus finding ways to help older people retain their cognitive health and independence for longer is imperative, modifying their diet is a good start and absolutely worth the effort.

Research taken from University of South Australia – Dr li and Dr Shi  published January 2019
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Sleep hygiene… should we be counting sheep?
There is nothing better than waking up after a good night’s sleep.  However for many people a good night’s sleep is a distant dream and lack of sleep can seriously affect our health and wellbeing.

Some people can function on very little sleep and famously Margaret Thatcher allegedly only needed 4 hours’ sleep a night.  However most of us as adult need an average of 8 hours’ sleep a night to function properly.  We spend a third of our lives asleep so it is important we get the benefits of good sleep.

We need sleep to recharge our bodies, if we are deprived of sleep there can be long term health issues such as obesity, heart disease and type-2 diabetes as well as long term memory loss and dementia.   Not getting enough sleep can result in you putting on weight, because you have reduced levels of leptin the chemical that makes you feel full and an increased level of ghrelin which stimulates hunger.  It can also affect your immunity, so if you’re susceptible to picking up any cold or bug going round the workplace, you may be lacking sleep.

In terms of mental health, lack of sleep or poor sleep can affect our mood, increasing negative emotions leading to an increase in anxiety, depression and stress.  Sleep helps our brains rest and often helps us process thoughts and face the next day with a more positive attitude.

Research on sleep patterns has suggested that trying to catch up on sleep by having long lie-ins at weekends does not make up for not sleeping for long enough during the week.  However if you have been sleep deprived for a while, it is a good idea to let yourself sleep for as long as possible.  Go to sleep when you feel tired and get up when you wake up, rather than relying on the alarm clock.

How do we improve our sleep?

Sleep improves with routine, by having a pattern or schedule for sleep you will get into the habit!  Even add it to your to do list, however sleep shouldn’t be the thing you do once you’ve completed your to do list.

The habits to adopt to help you sleep include:

  • Sounds strange but make a to do list before you finish the working day for the following day so that it’s all down on paper, this will help you ‘clear your brain’ of thoughts that might be distracting you

  • Light exercise and fresh air during the day will help you sleep

  • Avoiding caffeine too late in the afternoon and evening (coffee, tea, Red Bull, Coke, etc)

  • Have a warm bath or shower

  • Try and have set a regular bed time and get into the routine of going to bed at the same time every night.

  • Read or listen the radio or an audio book will help distract your brain

  • Alcohol can make us sleepy initially but it will affect our sleep if drunk in too large a quantity


The environment where you sleep is also important.  This may sound obvious but there are some small changes you can make to improve your bedroom for a better night’s sleep.

  • Make sure your bed is comfortable, that includes the pillows and weight of the duvet/bedclothes

  • Ensure the bedroom is cool, between 18 and 24 degrees

  • Don’t have any screens in your room, TV, smart phone, computer or other gadgets

  • Good curtains or blinds on your windows to shut out any light and noise from outside


As for counting sheep… that is more likely to keep you awake than help you drift away to the land of nod.

 

For more information go to the NHS website

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Resilience
Resilience is a topic that comes up in many corporates and is often a training course for dealing with stress and work life balance.  However an individual’s resilience can be affected by many external factors apart from work and a one size fits all approach simply doesn’t work.  How people manage stress will be different depending on the person and the levels and types of stress they are facing.

In a recent global survey by IBM, work is seen as one of the biggest contributors to stress.  This was attributed to the speed of change in business across the world, and in certain areas the uncertainty of the political situation.  This is particularly noticeable in the UK with the uncertainty surrounding Brexit with the deadline of 29 March fast approaching.    Added to this the speed of communications and the ability to be online 24/7 has resulted in business cultures expecting instant responses to emails and texts.  This hardly allows for a work life balance.

Stress can have a positive effect in the short term, with adrenaline kicking-in to help us cope and work at peak performance.  This is a basic human response to a situation, going back to the primitive reaction of ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ when faced by a sabre toothed tiger.  However over a long period of time stress will have a negative impact, affecting sleep patterns, and mood which can result in burn out.

There are many ways in which an individual can boost their ability to cope with stress, work life balance and increase their resilience which is beneficial to both work and home life.

Managers need to make sure workloads are balanced across teams, and also set a good example themselves.  It’s no good to be demanding instant or out of hours responses to emails or phone calls.  If your team is always ‘on call’ they may be engaged with the company or work, however stress levels increase and work life balance takes a hit.   In France a law was enacted in 2017 to give employees the right to disconnect from work out of hours.

Compartmentalising our workload, ie breaking it down into manageable chunks and focusing on one task at a time will help.  It is estimated we receive 11m bits of information a second, but we can only process 40 bits of information effectively.  Added to that, research shows that if we are interrupted it can take up to 23 minutes to get engaged properly with the activity again.

Taking breaks in your work is also essential, to rest your brain, stand up and walk about to give yourself a break from the screen and desk, but also give yourself a different view which can aid thought processes and give mental clarity.   90 minutes’ work is deemed to be the maximum time for effective concentration.   If you’re able to take a walk around the block, this will give you fresh air, exercise and a different perspective.   When you’re home, if you have to go back to the emails, limit your time and set boundaries for your colleagues so they know you are not available!   With the time you’ve given yourself ensure you spend quality time with your family and friends, pursue your hobbies and get some good sleep - we all need down time to be able to recharge our batteries.

Eating nutritious foods and staying hydrated is essential for Resilience and especially for your brain to work effectively - as the biggest muscle in your body it needs sustenance.  Relying on junk food and caffeine or sugar rich drinks will give you a short boost of energy but a bigger fall once the caffeine or sugar runs out.

Finally cultivate compassion – be good to yourself and others.  Research has shown that this increases positive work relationships and with your family and friends, it improves cooperation and collaboration.

Good managers should be able to understand the stress levels of their teams.  Keeping them up to date and informed of what is going on in the company is a great way of helping your team in managing workload.  Resilience reaches far beyond the ‘resilience training’ that HR teams develop that’s often aimed at smarter working.  It should be a companywide change.  Company cultures take time to change, if you can start building resilience as individuals and with your immediate colleagues, you will be supporting each other.

 

Harvard Business Review

People Management
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Food Innovation & Consumer Insights
In a world where we are bombarded by all sorts of ideas, going back to basics is often a good call.  This is relevant in the food world as much as anywhere else. There are regularly all sorts of new, strange and sometimes frankly baffling flavour combinations. How about Brussels Sprout flavoured crisps (it is the run up to Christmas), or Jalapeno and Tequila crisps?

At The Cooking Academy our ethos is to go back to basics on herbs and spices, exploring flavours and getting inspiration for delicious, healthy and nutritious foods.

We hold events for food and drinks companies who are looking to ‘go back to basics’ in terms of flavour.  The events focus on how nutritional eating and well-being is vital to peak performance, whether it is physical, mental or emotional.  The link between health and success is increasingly recognised as a key factor in workplace and lifetime productivity.

A plentiful display of herbs and spices is the focus and catalyst for the presentations and subsequent discussions.   Ranging from herbs such as parsley and sage to the benefits of garlic, turmeric and chillies, the presentations are a wide ranging journey around the world in herbs and spices, covering their history, flavour, medicinal and nutritional value.  Our presentations are interactive and so the audience will participate by tasting the various herbs and spices in their raw state – some are familiar others not so! We have a number of workshops that explore the use of ingredients in various forms and combinations.

‘The Science of Food’ presentation is a non-jargon analytical evaluation of the relationship between the chemistry in everyday ingredients, its functionality and effects on the human body.  The presentations are highly engaging and thought provoking sessions with audience participation to start the engagement process of why we eat what we eat, how food has evolved and what has influenced our food habits over the millennia.

The objective is to create awareness of the effects of food on our well-being and behaviour, as well as providing a valuable insight into the nutritional benefits of eating certain types of food and why certain ingredients are paired together.  Most importantly we looked at how to incorporate them into everyday diet and snack plans.

Our customer insights programmes are designed to be inspiring presentations aimed at improving understanding of our food choices and make informed decisions when developing products.

Sprout flavoured crisp for anyone…?

 

 

Discover how cooking can help your business, download our corporate brochure or contact me on Kumud@thecookingacademy.co.uk or call me on 01923 778880.

#TheCookingAcademy #nutrition #spices #nutritionalinformation #KumudGandhi #ACupboardFullOfSpices #TheAlchemyOfFood

 
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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.
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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.
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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!
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The Corporate 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.
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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.
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Cheese, Spinach and Onion Scones
Cheese, Onion, Spinach Scones

Makes 5

 

Ingredients:

 

100g wholemeal flour

½ tsp baking powder

Pinch white pepper

100g mature grated cheddar cheese, plus extra for sprinkling

2 spring onions, chopped finely

125g fresh spinach, chopped

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

40 ml skimmed milk

½ tsp paprika

1 tsp English mustard powder

¼ tsp salt

 

Method:

  1. Preheat oven 180°C/gas 4

  2. Place a large baking sheet into the oven.

  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and pepper together, add the spinach and spring onion then sprinkle grated cheese into the mixture to distribute it evenly.

  4. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in the oil and half the milk, mix together and add the remaining milk until you have a soft but firm dough.

  5. Lightly flour a surface and gently roll the dough 2cm thick. Cut out scones with a medium cutter and then place on the hot oven tray. Pull together any scraps and roll out again to get an extra couple of scones.

  6. Glaze the tops with the extra milk and sprinkle a little cheese and paprika (if using) on the top of each scone.

  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

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Water & Wellbeing
We all know how important it is to drink water, for some of us it takes a little pushing to get the right daily intake.  Whilst we are often tempted to brush off the effects of dehydration, it can lead to significant body changes both externally and visually as well as to our internal body functions.  Some of the more latent impacts will happen over a period of time and therefore less noticeable.   However long term, dehydration is very bad for your health and could become a trigger for, depression, diabetes, skin conditions and worse still other more toxic diseases.  Whilst it may seem somewhat dramatic, dehydration is a very dangerous and life threatening condition.  In time of sickness dehydration can literally lead to death so ensuring you are also hydrated is really important.
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