SiSU Health Challenge
Week 1: Food to improve productivity.
Welcome back to Week 1 of the SiSU Health Challenge. Understanding the importance of nutrition and the effects it has on your body throughout the day is the best way to build a successful plan for better health. Once you understand what the body needs, making changes and seeing results will become easier.
Food to improve brain function
Proper nutrition has been proven to improve brain function and can help prevent diseases, including intellectually debilitating mental conditions such as depression (Holford 2003). Providing yourself with a proper, healthy diet in combination with getting plenty of sleep can improve daily performance and foster a more optimistic, cooperative attitudes (Coren 1996; Dement 1999).
It is as simple as changing what you eat to help improve your productivity at work and getting quality sleep can increase your energy for life outside the office. Today we are going to talk about how to eat to improve your productivity.
When we encounter something stressful or are under pressure, our body’s adrenal glands and nervous system release signals to aid us to think with greater clarity and prepare for a physical response, if needed. This basic instinct is known as the “flight or fight” response.
Amongst the hustle and bustle of modern-day life, we experience stress for many different reasons, even when we are not in danger. Our bodies prepare our minds by responding to these pre-determined instincts and give less priority to other, less urgent functions. Digestion is one such function that is given a lower priority during stressful situations. This response is not good as poor digestion can make us feel unwell and thus affect our productivity.
What you can do
We recommend you avoid or reduce your intake of refined sugars when trying to reduce stress on your body. Refined sugars found in most manufactured foods, both savoury and sweet. Eating refined sugars can cause an energy crash, leading to irritability and fatigue. Eating a healthy, well-balanced, and nutritious diet will help avoid slumps in your productivity.
Awareness around how your body responds to stress can help you to manage pressure and stressful situations better not only in the workplace but in your personal life also. Following a stressful period, the human body goes into a ‘recovery mode’ where increased appetite and food cravings become frequent. At the same time, metabolic rates drop to conserve energy. Understanding and being aware of these patterns can help you manage your stress and productivity levels, and through nutrition and diet, you can improve your body’s recovery from stressful periods more rapidly and minimise adverse effects such as weight gain.
Food focus to improve productivity
It seems like the obvious choice, but surprisingly, water and dehydration is overlooked as a contributor to loss of concentration. Studies have shown that dehydration alone can account for a 12% decrease in productivity (Wusterlund, 2004). Water is essential to your productivity for both physical and mental performance, so ensure that you keep hydrated throughout your day.
Tip: Keep a fresh bottle of water by your desk and set a reminder every 20-30 minutes to take a sip. Before you know it, you will be creating a new healthy habit.
Berries, particularly blueberries are great in boosting your productivity. The antioxidants have been found to stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain. Blueberries have also shown to boost memory and concentration for up to five hours (How, 2010).
Tip: Add some berries to your breakfast, either in your cereal, smoothie or snack on a handful for morning tea.
Avocados are another delicious way to increase your productivity. Avocados contain a monounsaturated fat called oleic acid which helps lower cholesterol and improve blood flow. Improved blood flow means more blood to the brain, in combination with the fats and fibre from the avocado, insulin levels remain steady, meaning improved concentration (Gomez-Pinilla, 2008).
Tip: Add avocado to your salads or spread it on toast with tomato and lemon juice.
Nuts are a fabulous way to improve your memory, problem solving, attention and learning skills. Nuts are high in vitamin E, which improves and maintains your cognitive abilities while you age. Almonds are not only vitamin E rich; they also contain high omega-3 fatty acids. Low levels of omega-3 lead to depression and negative feelings (Grosso et. Al, 2014).
Tip: Add a handful of almonds to your daily menu, perhaps for morning or afternoon tea.
Get your SiSU Nourish E-Book – Your guide to nourishing your body and mind.
Check our your Nourish Ebook to make the adjustment to conscious eating easier. Plan your weekly meals by selecting healthy recipes and planning ahead. Track your water intake and ensure you’re providing your body with the correct nutrition and hydration to perform your best.
Coren, S 1996, Sleep Thieves, Free Press, New York. Available from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ842022.pdf
Grosso, G, Galvano, F, Marventano, S, Malaguarnera, M, Bucolo, C, Drago, F, Caraci, F 2014, ‘Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Depression: Scientific Evidence and Biological Mechanisms, Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity’. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3976923/
Gomez-Pinilla, F 2008, Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, vol.9, page 568. Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/nrn2421
Holford, P 2003, Optimum Nutrition for the Mind, Judy Piatkus, London. Available from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ842022.pdf
How, P 2010, The impact of plant-derived flavonoids on mood, memory, executive function and attention, and motor skills in UK adults, University of Reading. Available from: https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.553161
Stress, Nutrition and Diet – Managing Stress | SkillsYouNeed. https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ps/stress-nutrition-diet.html
Wasterlund DS, Chaseling J, Burstrom L: The effect of fluid consumption on the forest workers’ performance strategy. Appl Ergon 35:29-36, 2004. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14985138