What do chicken stock cubes have to do with performance?

Health eating and leadership

It is easy to get on a soap-box and start to spout about eating habits and following a healthy food regime,  to be self-righteous and ignore the challenges of day to day life that affect us all.  What are those challenges?

  • Children - keeping them entertained, challenged and fed, getting them to and from school, extra classes …
  • Over pressurized life style due to job demands, location, the boss……
  • Lack of time – the days just whizz by – and stuff just doesn’t get done.
  • Junk mail, bills, banks and banking….
  • Stress due to unexpected happenings – trains re-scheduled or cancelled, traffic jams, too much to do, blocked drains, broken cars, sick children, parents and animals. The list is endless, we all have one!

I am sure everyone of us can add to this list without thinking.  The question still remains – what is the effect of what we eat on our minds, our emotions and our bodies?  From my point of view these are all interrelated and interconnected.  If you have a healthy body, one that digests food effectively, is able to absorb nutrients to generate needed energy to fuel all bodily functions including the brain, which is the most energy demanding.  Is it no surprise therefore that when we feed ourselves “emergency fast food”, quick processed packets of food, snacks such as crisps, pizzas, hot dogs, burgers etc all of which are lacking in essential nutrients, that the brain becomes foggy, lacks focus and attentiveness and simply doesn’t remember things?  Not to mention the slowing down of other systems leading to constipation, lack of energy, gathering weight and frequent colds and flu.

The brain requires 20% of our body’s fuel to function effectively.  This demand is more than any other organ in the body. Its simple if the nutrients we put in are limited due to poor choice of food, bad habits of snacking, loading on carbonated drinks, caffeine and chocolate to get our energy boost, the brain slowly gets starved of vital energy, begins to dry out and then we enter the slow slippery slope of degeneration into dementia related diseases later in life.

Everything we put into our bodies has an effect upon us.  This might be good, bad or indifferent in the immediate or long term.  One way or another there will be an effect.  A well balanced, good quality diet is essential to achieving full performance from our bodies and minds as well as having well balanced emotional health. 

It is no news that sugar is detrimental to health and has a direct correlation with diabetes (type 2).  Is it all our fault?  I was shocked the other day when I went to buy some chicken stock cubes.  A fairly basic kitchen item, which I use mostly to flavour homemade soups.  My intention was to try the new formulas called “chicken stockpot”, but before putting it into my basket I checked the ingredients, one of which was sugar!  Can someone tell me why sugar is put into a chicken stockpot?  This led me to check the cubes as well as the “vegetable pot” and cube – the same thing! If it wasn’t for the fact that I wanted to try something new I would have bought the usual stock cubes without looking at the ingredients.  With my now increased knowledge, I left them all on the shelf!

Refined carbohydrates including white sugar and white flour can cause abnormally high levels of blood glucose which is a common factor in diabetes, and in cancer.  In cancer, excessive glucose in the blood stream suppresses the immune system and fuels cancer cells.    

Each one of us can do a lot for ourselves by choosing to eat healthily by putting plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables into our diet (if possible organic), making sure we use whole saturated fats and avoid polyunsaturated fats.  Saturated fats are essential for brain function.  These fats are slow to oxidise and contain butyric acid, an anticancer agent.  Therefore eating them in moderation is good for mind and body.   Eating plenty of oily fish, bone broths and stews using the cheaper cuts of meat, which are packed with lots of goodness and when slow cooked this goodness is broken down and goes into the gravy, which then becomes readily available to digest and absorb.

Managing healthy food intake requires a little forethought and planning, but once in the swing of things it becomes easy to put the slow cooker on in the morning with everything in it and come home at the end of the day to a delicious, stew, casserole or soup.  And what’s more there is very little to clean up afterwards!

Phytochemicals, found in plants are protective in many ways, one of the main ways is protection from free scavenging oxygen radicals which if left in the body cause havoc on a cellular level.  A study conducted in 1991 published in the International Journal of Cancer evaluated the relationship between cancer risk and the frequency of consumption of green vegetables and fruits in a series of case-controlled studies between 1983 and 1990.  The study illustrated a strong relationship between the reduction in epithelial cancers with increased green vegetable intake and showed fruit intake as being protective against cancers of the upper digestive tract.

Some tips to improve performance through healthy eating:

  • Drink plenty of water – preferably filtered – throughout the day
  • Eat foods according to the season.  Eat more raw foods and fresh fruits in the summer months.  During the colder months eat more cooked foods and root vegetables, as well as seasonal fruits such as apples and pears.
  • Avoid white flour, white sugar and white salt all of which are highly processed and cause problems in the gut
  • Steam, casserole, stew and slow roast foods – limit the amount of frying If frying, use sesame seed or olive oil as these do not break down into harmful and toxic substances.
  • Use lots of herbs to flavour foods such as turmeric, garlic, ginger, thyme, rosemary, sage and others.  Herbs don’t only give flavour they have different actions on the body, helping restore and maintain internal balance
  • Enjoy eating – set time aside for meals, chew well and eat with pleasure and gratitude.




National Cancer Institute, U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1998

Yance, Donald R. Herbal Medicine, Healing and Cancer, 1999

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