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Posts in 'Nutrition in the Workplace'

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 - 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.

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE




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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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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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