Green is good

The reasons why a recycle-resuse-reduce policy at the workplace is good for the environment are plain to see. But there are other reasons why green is good!

  • Take time to smell the flowers
    Apart from the physical health benefits of physical activity and interacting socially with your friends on a walk in a park, there are psychological benefits from taking time to experience nature.
  • Eat a bowl of tea
    Drinking green tea has been found to be associated with lower risks of breast cancer recurrence (though the jury is still out on whether the benefits of green tea consumption extends to lowering the risk of breast cancer incidence), according to a recent meta-analysis (Ogunleye et al., 2010).
  • Eat enough fruit and veg
    Fruit and vegetable consumption has been reliably associated with lower risks of cancer, with fruits being particularly protective for head-neck and esophagus cancers, and both playing a protective role for cancers involving the pancreatic, stomach, colorectal, bladder, cervix, ovarian, endometrium, and breast (Block et al., 1991), although a more recent meta-analysis indicates that moderate rather than high consumption of fruit and vegetables is adequate for lowering cancer risk (Key, 2011).
    In contrast, each additional portion of fruit and vegetables consumed a day is associated with lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease by at least 4% (Dauchet et al., 2006; WHO, 2004), while eating 3 or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily is linked to a lower risk of stroke (He et al., 2006). At the same time, it is thought that eating fruits and vegetables which contain vitamin C, potassium, folate, and the all-important dietary fibre, have positive health benefits which dietary flavonoid supplements do not provide (Egert and Rimbach, 2011).

Whole grains, fruits, and veggies

Clearly, whole grains are plentiful in the city—this list is evidence enough—but perhaps your recreational pastime is tweeting pictures of your delicious lunch while keeping up with the hip and cool. In which case, you might want to consider the whole grain options at these places. The all-inspiring fruits and veggies at these cafes should also receive no less attention from you.

In the city:

  1. The Plain Cafe | 50 Craig Road
    There’s nothing like a massive bowl of fresh fruit with a dollop of yoghurt and muesli with a neat espresso to get your day started.
  2. Sarnies | 136 Telok Ayer Road
    If you can manage an awesomely early lunch, you can get the salmon-scrambled-egg on rye bread (on the breakfast menu till 11am) and skip the lunch queue which moseys along quickly enough.
  3. Simply Sandwich | 120 Robinson Road
    You can’t go wrong with a nicely toasted sandwich of roast beef and hot mustard on rye.
  4. Nick Vina Artisan Bakery | 15 Gopeng St
    After a hide and seek game with Icon village, paprika salami on wholewheat walnut bread will be a welcome treat. Black forest ham engulfed by balsamic mustard and nine grain cereal bread could also be an invigorating snack for the arduous trek back to the office.
  5. SPR MRKT | 2 McCallum St
    The carrot-fennel soup and an almost salad nicoise—hard-boiled egg, french beans, black olives, salad greens—in the form of a tuna penne salad here will keep your micronutrient needs topped up.
  6. Sophie Bakery | 167/169 Telok Ayer St
    Rustic breads with rye offer a wholesome change from refined loafs.
  7. Baker and Cook | 38A Martin Road
    While waiting to get your fill of the red and green veggies in the chorizo-filled spanish omelette at the flagship store in Hillcrest, a quick peek at the breads might end with you going home ladened with a multigrain bread, or a fig-aniseed sourdough for the more adventurous.
  8. Selfish Gene Cafe | 40 Craig Road
    The weekend breakfast B.O.B. helps you attain your whole grain quota with multigrain bread, along with the requisite poached eggs, smoked salmon, and lacy greens.

A bit further afield:

  1. The Bread Project | 174 Joo Chiat Road
    The homesick will want a German rye filled with fragrant caraway, but it’s not for everyone. More prosaic choices include the pain au cereal which has rye, oats, millet, brown flaxseed, and sunflower seeds.
  2. Simply Bread | 1 Fifth Ave
    At Guthrie House, the Ploughman’s awaits those who appreciate mature cheddar with pickle on sourdough whole grains.
  3. Kooka Cafe | 18 Purvis St
    This well balanced caesar salad with a generous portion of romaine lettuce and bacon with fresh croutons and light dressing will keep you going for the whole day. It’s well worth the trek there.
  4. Choupinette | 607 Bukit Timah Road
    Pain à l’ancienne which has rye comes highly recommended.

Complex carbs (not clothes) make the employee

In addition to reducing the risk of diabetes and obesity (Anderson, 2003), eating whole grains lowers the risk for cardiovascular disease. A 21% lower risk of cardiovascular disease is documented in 7 prospective cohort studies (Mellen, Walsh, & Herrington, 2008). In fact, the benefit of eating whole grains is independent of other contributing lifestyle factors (McBurney, 2008). While eating whole grains improves insulin response and blood pressure, some grains like oats and barley specifically lower LDL cholesterol levels (Harris & Kris-Etherton, 2010).

Eating whole grains has also been associated with a lower risk of gastrointestinal cancers (Slavin, 2000), with a recent systematic review and meta-analysis of 25 prospective studies by Aune, Chan, Lau, Vierira, Greenwood, Kampman, and Norat (2011) indicating dietary fibre to be protective against colorectal cancer. Dietary fibre is thought to contribute to the protective value of whole grains, but recent explanations also take into account the contribution from antioxidants, which are found in the bran and germ of whole grains (Fardet, 2010; Slavin, 2000).

That complex carbohydrates or low GI foods create a greater sensation of satiety through the production of gut hormones (Bornet, Jardy-Gennetier, & Jacquet, 2007) — thereby reducing overeating (Roberts, 2009) — is well established. Pre-lunch hunger is reliably lower when participants eat a mid-morning snack containing barley than when it contains wheat or rice (Schroeder, Gallaher, Arndt, & Marquart, 2009). Similarly, lower glucose and insulin levels, and higher ratings of satiety result 90 minutes after a breakfast of complex carbohydrates, compared to one containing simple carbohydrates (Pasman, Blokdijk, Bertina, Hopman, & Hendriks, 2003).

Having oats for breakfast and brown-with-white rice for lunch will not only lower medical costs and days of sick leave among employees, but will ensure employees don’t fall asleep at work!

A stroll a day keeps the doctor away

Everyone extols the virtues of exercise and physical activity. The World Health Organisation recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigourous physical activity, for adults aged 18 to 64 years. But what are the real benefits of all that physical activity?

As it turns out, a number of studies report mental health benefits from workplace exercise intervention. Job performance and mood was better on days when employees exercised than on days when they did not, in a study of 201 office workers (Coulson & McKenna, 2008) published in the International Journal of Workplace Health Management.

Significant improvements in stress levels, depression and anxiety scores, and physical health were observed for 73 employees who completed a brief 24-week workplace intervention involving both aerobic and weight-training exercise, compared to a waitlist control group (Atlantis, Chow, Kirby, & Singh, 2004).

Improved mood and physical health, greater job satisfaction, and fewer days of absence from work were observed for workers with corporate health and fitness club membership, compared to non-member workers from the same worksite (Daley & Parfitt, 2011).

A recent meta-analysis of 15 studies by Parks and Steelman (2008) has also demonstrated fewer days of absenteeism and better job satisfaction for employees with a corporate workplace wellness programme compared to control groups. Although comprehensive programmes comprising fitness and education about nutrition and/or stress management were implemented in 5 of the 15 studies, benefits were experienced across both comprehensive and fitness- or education-only programmes.

Exercise has also been shown to help individuals with depression. As Craft and Perner (2004) report, a meta-analysis of 80 empirical studies revealed significant improvement in depression scores for those recruited into an exercise intervention compared to controls (North, McCullagh, & Tran, 1990), even when depression was the primary not secondary medical condition (Craft & Landers, 1998) and when only randomized controlled studies were examined (Lawlor & Hopker, 2001).

So now that you’re convinced that exercise improves your quality of life and mental wellbeing, here are a few ideas…

Walking & Nature Trails:

Outdoor activities:

Indoor activities:

Social Dance:

Dance Fitness:

Martial Arts:

Football:

Badminton:

Finding a gym:

Running:

Cycling:

Swimming:

Kayaking, canoeing & dragonboating:

Diving:

Wakeboarding:

Sailing:

Climbing & Bouldering:

And if you’re bored with the white-capped munias, pacific swallows, the families of long-tailed macaque monkeys, wild mushrooms and fungi, archduke butterflies and squirrels you get from strolls the Lower Peirce and Macritchie reservoir, you can try this kind of stroll!

EAP services: Promotion makes all the difference

So you have implemented a comprehensive employee assistance programme at your workplace. But is that enough? There is ample evidence in the literature to suggest that EAP services are most effective with a programme that is actively promoted and advertised to employees.

Azzone, McCann, Merrick, Hiatt, Hodgkin, & Horgan (2009) found that employees reported greater utility of EAP counselling services when given access to well-promoted EAP services, which included counselling and educational literature about mental health wellness through talks and online resources.

In this study of nonmissing data from more than 850,000 participants, analysis using logistic regression showed that more employees used EAP counselling services when there was a high rather than low or moderate level of promotion of EAP services by the employer. Interestingly, employees with a more comprehensive EAP were less likely to seek counselling: This may be because an EAP which emphasizes prevention likely results in fewer employees needing counselling services.

Yu, Lin, & Hsu (2009) investigated that 600 Taiwanese employees working in a high-tech industry experiencing high levels of stress. The authors showed that employees’ confidence in dealing with stressors and stressful situations directly influenced the level of stress experienced and rate of burnout documented, leading them to conclude that increasing employees’ self-efficacy through the promotion of effective EAPs would be helpful in alleviating employees stress.

Promotion of existing EAP counselling services within the organization is a step forward to reducing staff turnover, as well as days spent absent from work due to stress-related ill health.