We’re told time and time again that eating well and getting regular exercise works wonders for our physical and mental well-being – that you are what you eat. But just how important is healthy eating for your concentration and productivity levels in the office?

why healthy eating is important in workThe Future of Work Institute’s recent whitepaper found that focusing on employee well-being leads to increased creativity, productivity and engagement in the workplace. And what could be more pertinent to employee well-being than a healthy, balanced diet? This week, I’ve been putting this to the test, cutting out all caffeine and processed sugars to see what effect it has on my concentration and mood. Here’s what I can expect to see…

No more afternoon slumps

Much like petrol in a car, glucose is what keeps our brains alert and focused throughout the day. Certain foods, such as chocolate and sweets, release glucose into our bloodstream quickly. We experience about 20 minutes of alertness followed by a drastic sugar crash – not what you want when you have meetings to attend and projects to complete. Healthier foods, like nuts, seeds, oatmeal and fruit, release glucose slowly and can actually raise your productivity levels by a whopping 20%! Eat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and fly through your to-do list in record time.

Increased morale

Healthy body, healthy mind. A study in New Zealand recently found that consuming a diet rich in fruit and vegetables promotes emotional well-being and feelings of happiness and calm. This can have massive benefits in the workplace – when we’re content we’re more likely to put ourselves forward for projects and develop positive relationships with our colleagues. Cutting out caffeine has also been proven to lead to decreased anxiety and better overall mood. 

Better night’s sleep

When you get a decent night’s sleep your mind clears and your energy renews. This means that you are ready to tackle new tasks with gusto the next day. Drinking lots of coffee can drastically affect your sleeping patterns – it takes six hours for just half the caffeine you ingest to leave your body! Similarly, eating lots of refined sugar can mess up our insulin levels and make it hard to get to sleep. Steer clear of caffeine and processed sugars in the evening and enjoy plenty of shuteye.

Less sick days

Eating well means that your immune system is better able to fight off infection and germs, especially at this time of year when colds and flus are rife. You are much more likely to have to take a sick day and fall behind on your workload. Having a nutritious diet also reduces your risk of life-changing conditions such as asthma, allergies, obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Relying on a can of Red Bull or Mars Bar to get you through the day is not healthy. Over time your brain becomes dependent on caffeine or sugar to achieve its desired results. I’ve definitely fallen victim to this myself and know how tricky it can be to break the habit. This week I’ve challenged myself to cut out all caffeine and processed sugars for this very reason – to reduce my dependency and prove that yes, I can function without five coffees a day. So far so good but it’s only day two. Check back next week to find out how I get on!

What other factors affect employee well-being?

See ‘A Rested Worker is a Productive Worker’ Whitepaper