Your Diet Could Be Making You Less Productive at Work

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During your last employment review, did you discuss your daily diet? A recent study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology reveals that after 13 days of monitoring their food intake and behavior, those who consumed more vegetables and fruits reported feeling more creative and happier.

Your lunch choice could affect your mood levels, and slow down your productivity down for the rest of the day. Many of us know that a poor diet leads to health issues, yet rarely consider food as a way to improve our performance at work.

The right food choice may be the fastest, most effective way to get more done in a day. A healthy diet improves energy levels, creativity, memory and focus—all essentials for doing the best job you can.

Fueling Your Body

The simplest way to explain how our diet decides our day is to think of the necessities. The body needs glucose to use as fuel. It can get that glucose from a variety of sources. When you first eat a candy bar or a cup of oatmeal your body will react the same way — temporarily. Not long after the last bite of candy, your glucose level drops fast. This causes you to feel sluggish, and your brain has trouble focusing.

Simple choices like keeping a banana, brimming with 25 grams of glucose, instead of a fatty snack like chips or candy at your desk can be the boost of energy you need at that afternoon slump—fueling both your body and your mind.

Sitting down for a wholesome breakfast before you leave the house is another habit worth getting into.  Oatmeal, for example, will also provide you with an initial burst of energy and continue to provide steady glucose over the next few hours.

What this boils down to is the rate at which wholesome, healthy foods release glucose into the bloodstream as compared with sugary, oily snacks known as the glycemic index. Foods are graded based on this factor, and given a number.  Foods with low glycemic index numbers provide fuel for longer minus the annoying crash.

To keep your glucose levels steady and fueled for the day, keep these food choices in mind:

  • Yogurt – High protein yogurts give you enough energy to start your day while hydrating and protecting your entire digestive system with the power of probiotics. Add blueberries for a memory boost and a kick of antioxidants.
  • Oatmeal – The high fiber content in oats keeps you satisfied longer and will reduce your need to snack. You can add in fruit to increase flavor and nutrients.
  • Lentils – These powerful seeds pack one of the highest amounts of protein by weight and are full of fiber. Cook them in soup or as an addition to salads.

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Food for Brain Power

Your brain works harder than any organ in your body, so paying special attention to its fuel requirements is a must.  Being mostly comprised of fat, your body needs fat to keep it running—particularly omega-3 fatty acids.  This particular fatty acid is considered a ‘good fat’ that, in addition to satisfying the needs in your noggin, provide numerous health benefits, including reducing the risk of cancer and other illnesses and improving overall heart function.

The next time you are preparing for an important presentation or appointment, consider these brain-boosting foods:

  • Walnuts – These nuts are a powerful combination of protein, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins. They are the perfect food for the brain and even improve serotonin levels. Serotonin controls our appetite and overall mood.
  • Carrots – When eaten raw, carrots provide a steady flow of glucose, which keeps your brain fueled up and ready to work. The bonus is they are one of the easiest vegetables to throw in your bag.
  • Olive oil – The monounsaturated fats in olive oil slow down the brain’s aging process. Top your salad with 1 to 2 tbsp. as a dressing or in combination with vinegar.

Your Super-Charged Diet

Now that we’ve covered how your food choices can affect your ability to work productively, let’s take some action. Here are some tips:

  • Keep meals small and frequent – Glucose levels stay steady and your energy won’t take a dive if you eat small amounts throughout the day. Try eating three main meals and two snacks in between.
  • Planning ahead reduces the risk of temptation – If you’ve packed a healthy snacks, you are far less likely to step over to the vending machine for chips.
  • Always stay hydrated – Decaffeinated teas and coffee may be your desk beverage of choice, but water is absolutely crucial for staying healthy. Dehydration causes drops in energy and concentration. Drink 80 ounces of water each day to maintain proper hydration.
  • Make healthy food accessible – Convenient food often means bad food. Instead of choosing an unhealthy quick lunch, plan ahead. Simply placing healthy snack items in an easy-to-reach location makes you more likely to choose them in a hurry.
  • Don’t skip your fruits and vegetables –Fruits and vegetables contain the nutrients necessary to encourage the production of dopamine, chemical connected to emotional happiness. A happy worker is a productive worker.

So, when work seems to hit a slump and the days seem long and unproductive, remember to factor your diet into the solution!

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