Corporate Wellness Programs: The Importance Of Healthy Eating

Employees spend almost one third of their day working at the company. This means that many of them could be eating two major meals of the day (breakfast and lunch) at the company. At work, employees are working under stress and also feel some exhaustion from time to time, both physically and mentally. Studies show that stress increases the desire to eat in people and they most often pick up high fat or sugary foods. Hence, making the choice of wrong foods at the company cafeteria during those times can be detrimental to their health, well being and productivity. In the long run, regular consumption of such foods can result in health complications like being overweight or obese, increased risk of diabetes and hypertension, increased lipid levels, etc.

Today, cafeterias in the offices provide a variety of food options to their employees. The priority of the cafeteria at the work site is to provide food that the employees will buy and not necessarily the food that will promote health, as the taste of the food is more prioritized over the nutrition of the food. We all know tasty food means a heavy usage of oil, butter, cream, mawa, salt, sugar etc in food. Employees eat almost daily either breakfast and lunch or atleast lunch at the company cafeteria. It is therefore very important that there are healthy and nutritious options made available to them.

How will providing healthy food options benefit a workplace:

1. No afternoon slumps: We know that glucose is required by our brain to keep it functioning, alert and working throughout the day. Eating foods that are high in fat and sugar will make the stomach feel heavy thus making the person sluggish and sleepy. Hence, it is very important that a nutritious, light, and tasty afternoon lunch is available to fight the afternoon post lunch slump. This will also help in keeping away from the unwanted cups of coffee, tea and other options that one may seek immediately post lunch to fight the sluggishness.

2. Increase in Morale: Eating a healthy diet promotes emotional and physical well-being. Being happy and in a calm state of mind will help the employee develop positive relationship with colleagues and improve creativity in work as there will be minimum stress associated with work.

3. Less sick leaves: Healthy eating will ensure that the body gets all the nutrients that are necessary to build, improve and strengthen the immune system. Good immunity ensures good health and less sickness.

What can be done to have a cafeteria with healthy food options?

Today, corporate wellness programs designed by health care professionals include office cafeteria assessment and advices, planning of healthy menus with interesting recipes and having healthy eating talks for the employees to understand the importance health even at work.

So, what is done by these health care professionals? Cafe Nutritionist In Mumbai have health care professionals which include trained dieticians and nutritionists that assess the canteen menu run by external agencies, calculate the calories of the foods served in the menu and educate the employees on their nutrition quotient. Alternatively, they can also design nutritious and interesting menus keeping in mind the principals of meal planning. Planning of healthy snacks is also under the purview of the dietitians and nutritionists deployed at the company. Hence, the mid evening hunger pangs need not be dealt with the vada pavs, samosas, French fries, etc. Healthier options can be made available to the employees.

Companies today are waking up to the needs of the health conscious employees. The tea and coffee can be replaced by these employees with the green tea, lemon tea, buttermilk or herbal tea made available at the office. Furthermore, companies can stock the office vending machines with healthy snacks like makhanas, kurmura, jowar puffs, unfried peanuts, roasted chana, etc. to provide the employees with the healthy snacking options. Fruits can also be made available to the employees at the cafeteria to fight the mid evening hunger pangs.

Obesity, diabetes, and hypertension are the conditions that result mainly from following an unhealthy lifestyle and eating patterns. It is very important to take care of food consumed, whether at work place or at home. A corporate wellness program should aim at increasing productivity of the workforce and planning nutritionally balanced and tasty menus is an integral part of these programs.

The Good And Bad About Soy

Soy has been promoted as a health food for many decades. Due to its high protein content, soy is also very popular among vegans and vegetarians. So is soy really a health food? Are all soy products the same? What is the latest research regarding soy and disease?

Soy is cheap to grow and cheap to process, so it is truly a food manufacturer’s dream. The industry has marketed soy as an ancient health food. They claim that Asian cultures have eaten soy for thousands of years and associate their longevity and health with the consumption of soy. But if you examine the diets of Asian cultures closely, you will discover that:

first, they only use soy as a condiment and do not eat it as a main item or in large quantities,
second, they eat fermented soy which is remarkably different from the unfermented soy that Americans typically eat, such as the following:

Examples of Unfermented Soy Foods

soy milk

soy ice cream

soy cheese

soy yogurt

soy protein isolate in energy bars and protein powders

textured vegetable protein (TVP)

edamame (green soybeans)

soy hot dog or sausage

soyburger

tofu

soy nuts

soy flour

soybean oil

soy chips

soy nut butter

soy lecithin

In traditional Asian diets, people eat soy which has been fermented, that means the soy food has been cultured with beneficial bacteria, yeast, or mold. This type of soy is entirely different from the unfermented, processed soy products (like the ones listed above) that are sold in American grocery stores.

Why Unfermented Soy Is Not Recommended

Humans do not have a history of eating much unfermented soy. It was not until the last fifty years that we have introduced a variety of processed, unfermented soy foods.

If you are getting more than 35 grams of soy protein each day from unfermented soy, you should be aware of the following anti-nutrients that are present in this type of soy and their potential effects on your health.

Phytic acid that impairs mineral absorption. Plant seeds, such as nuts, edible seeds, beans/legumes, and grains contain phytic acid. Soy is particularly high in phytic acid, which impairs the absorption of iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and calcium. Mineral deficiencies caused by phytic acid are rarely a concern among meat-eaters because their diets are more diverse. However, vegans and vegetarians who consume a lot of high phytic acid foods at every meal can be at increased risk of developing mineral deficiencies overtime.

Oxalates that have been linked to kidney stones. Calcium oxalate stones are the most common type of kidney stones. Oxalate is a natural substance found in many foods but highest in spinach, wheat bran, nuts, beer, coffee, soybeans, and chocolate. Oxalate cannot be metabolized by the body and is excreted through urine. When there is too much oxalate and too little urine, the oxalate can bind to calcium in the urine and form crystals that stick together into a solid mass (kidney stone). To prevent calcium oxalate stones:

Drink enough fluids like water.
Reduce sodium in the diet as salt causes more calcium to be excreted in the urine.
Eat high calcium foods with oxalate-rich foods (e.g. spinach salad with cheese) so that the oxalate can bind with calcium in the stomach and intestines rather than in the kidneys.
Cut down on the oxalate-rich foods.

Goitrogens that suppress the thyroid gland. Goitrogens may prevent the thyroid from getting the necessary amount of iodine and disrupt the normal production of thyroid hormones. Raw vegetables from the cruciferous family (e.g. broccoli, kale, cabbage) and soy contain goitrogens. An overconsumption of soy may eventually lead to an underactive thyroid creating symptoms like weight gain, mood swings, feeling cold, fatigue, insomnia, and an inability to concentrate and remember details. To overcome this problem, make sure your iodine intake (eg. seaweed, seafood, dairy) is adequate when consuming soy.

Trypsin inhibitors that interfere with digestion. Trypsin is a digestive enzyme needed to properly digest protein. Trypsin inhibitors are a plant’s defense mechanism. By having this harmful component, wild animals learn that any food with trypsin inhibitors is a food to avoid. Soybeans are rich in trypsin inhibitors, hence, taking in too much soy may lead to gastric distress like bloating and gas in some individuals.

Lectins that clump red blood cells. Plants produce damaging proteins called lectins as self-defense against hungry animals. Soy contains a specific class of lectins called hemagglutinin that promotes clotting in the blood and impairs blood flow. Hemagglutinins can also tear holes in the gut lining, allowing bacteria to get into the bloodstream and causing autoimmune and allergic problems for people who are sensitive to lectins..

Why Fermented Soy Is Better

Fermented soy is much healthier than unfermented soy. The lengthy fermentation process reduces some of its anti-nutrients, resulting in a form of soy that is:

rich in probiotics or healthy bacteria that is extremely important for gut health and the immune system,
lower in phytic acid that prevents the absorption of minerals,
easier to digest and less likely to cause gastric distress,
lower in lectins (hemagglutinins) that promote clumping of red blood cells, and
high in the MK-7 form of vitamin K2, an important nutrient for supporting bone and heart health. (Unfermented soy does not contain vitamin K2.)

Top 4 Fermented Soy Foods

Natto. Fermented soybeans that are sticky and gooey with a strong, distinctive taste. A popular breakfast side dish in traditional Japanese cuisine.

Tempeh. Originated from Indonesia, it is a fermented soybean cake with a firm texture and an earthy flavor.

Miso. Fermented soybean paste with a salty, buttery texture. It is commonly used to make miso soup in Japanese cooking.

Soy sauce. Originated from China, it is a liquid condiment made from fermented soybeans and roasted grain (wheat). Tamari is soy sauce made without the grain, hence, it is gluten-free.

Considerations When Eating Fermented Soy

Quantity may be the key. Asian cultures do not eat a huge amount of soy. They generally use fermented soy foods as a condiment rather than as a main item. The average intake of soy protein in Asian populations is about 10-20 grams per day. This is in stark contrast to how much unfermented soy Americans consume.

The following shows the soy protein content of some common unfermented soy products. Are you eating multiple servings of these everyday?

Unfermented Soy Foods_____Serving Size_____Protein (grams)

Soy protein isolate____________1 oz_____________25

Soy nuts, roasted_____________1/2 cup___________22

Soy burger__________________1 patty___________14

Tofu, firm___________________4 oz_____________14

Edamame, boiled_____________1/2 cup__________12

Soy milk____________________8 oz______________8

Soy nut butter________________2 Tbsp.___________8

Soy cheese__________________1 oz______________6

Soy yogurt__________________4 oz______________4

Furthermore, unfermented soy is a hidden component of the American diet. Research estimates that soy is present in 70% of all supermarket products and widely used in fast food chains.

Soy is used to bulk up and bind many processed foods so that food firms can put a higher protein value on them.
The husk of the soybean is used for fiber in breads, cereals, and snacks.
The big one is soybean oil which is the most consumed vegetable oil in the world. It is used in frying oils, salad dressings, and many processed foods.
Last but not least, 70% of the soybeans grown in the U.S. are used for animal feed, with poultry being the highest livestock sector consuming soybeans, followed by hogs, dairy, beef, and aquaculture. These soy-fed animals are then eaten by us.

Soy is largely genetically modified. 94% of the soy planted in the U.S. is “Roundup Ready”, which means it is genetically bioengineered to survive heavy application of Monsanto’s toxic Roundup herbicide. In March 2019, a San Francisco federal jury unanimously agreed that Roundup caused a man’s non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The verdict is the second in the U.S. to find a connection between the herbicide’s key ingredient glyphosate and cancer. Therefore, even if you are eating fermented soy, make sure it is organically grown.

Soy is one of the top eight allergens. They are cow’s milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybean. These foods account for about 90% of all food allergies. If you have a soy allergy or sensitivity, watch out for “hidden” soy as it is often used in many processed food products.

Research On Soy And Disease

Soy is unique in that it contains a high concentration of isoflavones or plant estrogens (called genistein and daidzein) that are structurally similar to human estrogen but with weaker effects. They can bind to estrogen receptors in numerous tissues, including those associated with reproduction, as well as bone, liver, heart, and brain. In human tissues, isoflavones can have totally opposite effects – they can either mimic estrogen or block

estrogen.

Soy is a controversial food that has been widely studied for its estrogenic as well as anti-estrogenic effects on the body. Proponents claim that soy can tame hot flashes, prevent osteoporosis, and protect against hormonal cancers. Opponents worry that it may actually increase the risk of cancer, cause thyroid problems, and other health issues.

Up to now, there is yet concrete conclusions about soy, but it is probably due to the wide variation in how the studies have been designed – the types of soy used (fermented vs. unfermented), quantity consumed, and duration of exposure (since childhood vs. adulthood). That said, Asian populations have eaten a traditional diet of fermented soy for thousands of years and have reported a neutral to beneficial effect on many health conditions.

Average Isoflavone Intake in Asia is 25-50 mg/day.

Fermented Soy Foods_______Serving Size____Isoflavone content (mg)

Natto______________________1 oz_____________23

Tempeh, cooked_____________3 oz_____________30

Miso______________________1 oz_____________12

Soy sauce__________________1 Tsbp.___________0.02

Breast Cancer

Excessive estrogen stimulates the growth and multiplication of breast cancer cells. So it was once thought that soy foods increase the risk of breast cancer because soy contains isoflavones that may mimic our estrogen.

However, it has also been suggested that the lower risk of breast cancer in Asian countries compared to Europe, North America, and Australia/New Zealand is attributed to a lifelong intake of traditional soy foods. So who is right?

So far studies have not provided a clear-cut answer. Some have shown a slight benefit while others show no association. Nonetheless, no research has demonstrated that soy causes breast cancer, even in women who have had the cancer before. In fact, it appears that soy may have a mild estrogen-blocking action in breast tissues, resulting in a slight reduction of breast cancer risk and recurrence of breast cancer.

In addition, the protective effect seems to be more pronounced for women who start eating soy early in life. Women from Asian countries generally start consuming fermented soy foods found in traditional Asian diets at an early age. Fermented soy contains healthy bacteria that can convert isoflavone daidzein to equol. Equol is believed to block potentially negative effects of estrogen. Studies found that 50-60% of adults in Asia possess the equol-producing gut bacteria compared to only 25-30% of adults in Western countries. This may also explain why women from Asia who eat fermented soy seem to derive more benefits than Western women who generally consume unfermented, processed soy.

Menopausal Symptoms

In theory, the potential estrogenic effects of soy isoflavones could help to tame hot flashes and night sweats that accompany menopause by giving an estrogen-like boost during a time of dwindling estrogen levels. Hence, soy has been a popular alternative treatment though it is not clearly supported by research which shows conflicting results. Nonetheless, in Asian countries where fermented soy is eaten daily, women do report lower rates of menopausal symptoms (10-20%) compared to women in the U.S. (70-80%).

Memory and Cognitive Function

Menopause has been linked with mood changes and memory impairment. Low levels of estrogen in women can reduce the number of estrogen receptors in the brain that are necessary for cognitive functions like memory and learning. The soy isoflavone daidzein has been hypothesized to reduce cognitive decline. Unfortunately, trials have yielded contradictory results with some showing benefits and others no benefit.

Endometrial (Uterine) Cancer

It is thought that the development of endometrial cancer could be related to prolonged exposure to unopposed estrogen, i.e., estrogen not counterbalanced with the hormone progesterone. Excess estrogen relative to progesterone may result in endometrial thickening and ultimately, endometrial cancer. A number of studies have examined whether high intakes of soy with anti-estrogenic activity in uterine tissue could be associated with a lower risk of endometrial cancer. The results are inconclusive.

Osteoporosis

The decline in estrogen production that accompanies menopause places middle-aged women at risk of osteoporosis (loss of bone mineral density). As estrogen receptors are present in bone, whether the estrogenic properties of soy might play any role in preserving bone health and preventing bone loss has been proposed. To date, the results of observational and intervention studies examining the potential protection of soy against osteoporosis have been inconsistent.

Prostate Cancer

The incidence of prostate cancer is highest in Western countries and lowest in Asian countries, where fermented soy foods are a regular part of the daily diet. Soy isoflavones, specifically genistein and daidzein, are found to collect in prostate tissue and may act as weak estrogens and exert a protective effect against the development of prostate cancer.

Interestingly, observational studies have found an increased risk of prostate cancer in Chinese and Japanese men who move to Western countries and adopt a Western diet, but not in those who continue eating the traditional diet.

Heart Health

Based on a number of studies that showed eating substantial quantities of soy protein daily reduced harmful LDL cholesterol, in 1999, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed food companies to claim products that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol and contain soy protein “may reduce the risk of heart disease”. The FDA also suggested that eating 25 grams of soy protein per day may lead to reductions of total and LDL cholesterol levels.

However, since then subsequent scientific findings have not presented sufficient evidence to show a clear connection between soy protein and reduction of heart disease risk. In October 2017, after reviewing additional research, the FDA proposed to revoke the heart health claim regarding soy. At present, the agency has yet made a final decision.

Conclusion On Soy

Always avoid unfermented, processed soy due to the presence of anti-nutrients.
Eat traditional fermented soy foods but always buy organically grown soy. The fermentation process reduces the anti-nutrients, introduces probiotics to the soy, and makes it more digestive-friendly.
It seems that eating a traditional Asian diet that includes small amounts of fermented soy foods on a regular basis has resulted in lower breast and prostate cancer rates in Asia. Women in menopause also report less symptoms than those in the Western countries.
Studies show that it is safe for breast cancer survivors to consume a small to moderate amount of soy.
Research findings on the benefits of soy regarding memory and cognitive function, endometrial cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease are inconclusive.
Although scientific studies have failed to provide concrete evidence that soy can help prevent various diseases, this may be due to the wide variation in how soy is studied – types of soy used, quantity consumed, and duration of exposure.

Change Your Diet To Change Your Life

Balancing your diet and your busy professional life can be a difficult task. Considering how you’re spending most of your time at work, you have little time for your nutrition and diet. But good health is necessary to live; how can you then make time to pay attention on your diet?

Actually you don’t need to, not much anyway as there are a few ways that you can modify your diet. These are very small and it takes almost no time to make these changes. Here are three small but very useful dietary modifications you can make:

Avoid Cooked Breakfasts

First thing in the morning the body is still in cleanse mode. As such it is important to avoid heavy, cooked breakfasts first thing as this is going against what your body naturally wants to do. Eat light breakfasts such as fruit first thing in the morning, which lines your stomach and may result in you eating less.

Alternatively, try eating something like porridge with flaxseeds or pumpkin seeds. Both of these seeds are a good source of omega-3 (another source of which is fish) which is good for the joints and can help prevent depression, and brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. So avoid cooked breakfasts in the mornings and opt for something that’s easier on your digestive system.

Reduce your portion sizes

You tend to lose track of what you eat and how much you eat when your mind is preoccupied. You’re worried about deadlines, presentations and meetings at work, so you don’t pay attention to how much you’re eating. You can, however, easily rectify this by simply reducing your portions sizes. Reducing your food intake means you don’t overeat, and you’ll be consuming only what your body really needs.

Overeating is one of the most common causes of obesity, acidity, high cholesterol and diabetes. By eating smaller portions you reduce the risk exponentially of ending up with one or more these conditions. In addition to reducing your portion sizes, try to eat more slowly so you can more easily recognize when you’re full, as well savouring the flavour of your food.

Drink more water

While caffeine may be beneficial in the short term by keeping you awake and alert, the extra sugar dosage you get from it is not. Avoid coffee if you can as it is an artificial stimulant. If you absolutely need it, try to skip the sugar or reduce the amount. In addition, increase the amount of water you consume throughout the day by keeping a water bottle with you and taking periodic sips from it. The water will keep you hydrated and refreshed throughout the day and reduce the need for coffee and other stimulants.

These small but simple dietary modifications will allow you to live a much healthier and more nutritious lifestyle. Contrary to popular belief, the key to a healthy lifestyle does not require big changes. Small modifications, much like the ones discussed in this article, can make a huge difference to the quality of your health and life. The challenge is to stick with them, not give in to temptation and be consistent.