There’s no shortage on advice out there about ways to be more productive and better at your job: get more sleep, create a work-life balance, network, and take vacations, you name it. But one thing that may be even more crucial for your productivity on the job?
Your food choices.
So, Mom was right. You are what you eat according to a recent study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the food we consume can directly affect our work productivity and performance. That means the key to success might be on your plate.
Workers who ate five or more servings of fruit and vegetables on four or more days in a week were 20-percent more likely to have higher job performance. Those who ate healthily all day were 25-percent more likely to have higher job performance. Absenteeism was 27-percent lower for workers who ate healthily and exercised regularly. Additionally, their job performance was 11-percent higher than their peers, according to the study.
Food has a direct impact on cognitive performance, which is why a poor decision at lunch can derail an afternoon.
Here’s a quick break down as to why. Our body converts almost everything we eat into glucose, which provides the energy our brains need to stay alert. When we’re running on empty (low on glucose) we have a tough time staying focused and our attention drifts. This explains the hunger headache and why it’s hard to concentrate on an empty stomach. Enter the “hangry” version of yourself.
Yet not all foods are processed by our bodies at the same rate. Some foods like pasta, bread, cereal, and soda release their glucose quickly, leading to a burst of energy followed by a slump. Others, like high fat meals (cheeseburgers and French fries) provide us more sustained energy, but require our digestive system to work harder, reducing oxygen levels in the brain and making us groggy. Enter nodding off at your desk at 3 o’ clock version of yourself.
We don’t make the smartest food decisions when our levels are low. So plan ahead and make your eating decisions before you get hungry whether that means bringing your own lunch or deciding in the morning that you’ll be eating out. Eat light snacks throughout the day to help prevent your glucose levels from bottoming out. Finally, make healthy snacks available, almonds, protein bars, a piece of fruit like an apple are easy to store in a desk drawer.
And don’t forget to hydrate.