|Bring your personal habits into the workplace starting today! Hold on a second, that's not right! Well, what we're about to discuss is one exception to the rule – your diet! Not only should you maintain a healthy diet for your physical wellbeing, but you should also consider the benefits it can bring into the workplace. At Laufer and Associates, we are here to help you better yourself in any way possible from honing in on your skills and finding areas needing improvement, expanding your knowledge, and leveraging your strengths. You might be surprised to hear some of the ways that eating can make you a better employee by staying alert, lifting your mood, and boosting your concentration. Let's take a look and see how a simple snack of whole grain toast with peanut butter can keep you happy, awake and focused!
There are three main factors that influence your brain's activity: what you eat, how much you eat, and how frequently you eat.
What to Eat
Stay Alert: Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates come in two forms – simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates, like candy, soda, cakes, and fruit drinks enter your bloodstream at a rapid rate, giving you a sense of alertness for a very short amount of time. Within an hour, that energy you felt will dissipate and leave you feeling drained.
Conversely, complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, fat-free yogurt, and legumes digest at a much slower rate, giving your body just the right amount of glucose, which is "your brain's preferred fuel source"(Jatsek). This will keep you at the right amount of energy and keep you alert throughout the day.
Lift Your Mood: Protein – Dopamine is the chemical in your body responsible for pushing the throttle up in your brain, making you alert, focused, and happy! This chemical is activated by protein-rich foods. Some examples are meats, eggs, dairy and soy. You just have to be careful in your protein selections – try to avoid fried proteins and lunch meats, which are filled with sodium. If you do prefer lunch meat – opt for the low sodium options.
Boost Your Concentration: Fat – The term "fat" often comes with an assumed negative connotation. As with carbohydrates, fats come in multiple forms, but we are going to focus on the most important two – monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. These are the brain-building fats! Monounsaturated fats produce healthy blood flow. Some examples are olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Polyunsaturated fats are the main structural component of your brain, specifically omega-3 fatty acids. These include foods like seafood, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybean oil. "Good powers of concentration depend on keeping the messages flowing freely between brain cells…the brain needs a fatty substance called myelin. Omega-3 oils (found mainly in oily fish, but also in walnuts, pumpkin and flax seeds) help build and maintain myelin." (Carter).
At all costs, be sure to avoid trans fats, as they will drain your brain. They do not occur naturally; therefore your body will not naturally process them.
How Much to Eat
Larger meals that are higher in calories take longer to digest, make you sleepy and diminish your mental performance. Lighter meals with fewer calories, on the other hand, will not only nourish your body and brain, but will keep you energized and with peak mental focus (Jatsek).
How Frequently to Eat
To gain better focus and maintain your energy throughout the day, it's best to eat something every couple of hours, even if it's a small snack in between meals.
Taking steps to change your diet can be difficult, but making small changes can show dramatic improvements in your work performance in a short amount of time. Start with breakfast, as cliché as it may sound, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Staying alert, lifting your mood, and boosting your concentration can make you an improved employee – your body will thank you too!