- by Dr Sheetal Chhabria
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- Sep 06 2017
How important is your diet for your productivity
Every seven years our body goes through complete change. This means that each and every one of your cells will have been revitalized and interchanged for another one that your body has made. It is amazing isn’t it? And science suggests that this gives us a unique opportunity to change and eradicate any mistakes we have made in the past. How? Through attention on the food we eat.
Luckily we don’t have to wait seven years. Day-to-day changes to our diet can have a huge impact on our efficiency.
When we think about the factors that play a role to performance at workplace, we seldom give much consideration to food. For those of us struggling to stay on top of meetings, emails, and deadlines, food is simply fuel.
But as it turns out, this similarity is misleading. The foods we eat influence us more than we understand. With fuel, you can certainly expect the same performance from your car no matter what brand of fuel you put in your reservoir. Food is unlike.
Food has a direct effect on our mental performance, which is why a poor decision at lunch can counteract an entire afternoon.
Here’s a brief analysis of why this happens. Just about everything we eat is transformed by our body into glucose, which gives the energy our brains need to stay alert. When we are running low on glucose, we have a difficult time staying focused and our attention deviates. This explains why it’s strenuous to concentrate on an empty stomach.
Now here’s the part we seldom consider: Not all foods are managed by our bodies at the same rate. Some foods, like bread, pasta, cereal and soda, release their glucose quickly, leading to a charge of energy followed by a collapse. Others, like high fat meals (like cheeseburgers) provide more prolonged energy, but require our digestive system to work harder, decreasing oxygen levels in the brain and making us dizzy.
Most of us know much of this instinctively, yet we don’t always make intelligent decisions about our diet. In part, it’s because we are at our lowest point in both energy and self-control when determining what to eat. Mozzarella and French fries sticks are a lot more appetizing when you’re mentally guzzled.
Unhealthy lunch alternatives also tend to be cheaper and faster than healthy options, making them all the more enticing in the midst of a busy workday. They feel effective. This is where our lunchtime decisions lead us adrift. We save ten minutes now and pay for it with poor performance the rest of the day.
So what are we supposed to do? One thing we most obviously shouldn’t do is assume that better information will prompt us to change. Most of us are well aware that hoovering down a processed mixture of chicken bones is not a good life decision. But that does not make chicken fries any less delicious.
No, it’s not realization we need—it’s an action plan that makes healthy eating easier to achieve. Here are some research-based approaches worth trying.
The first is to make your eating choice before you get hungry. If you’re going out to lunch, decide where you’re eating in the morning, not at noon just when you are hungry. If you’re ordering in, decide what you’re having after a mid-morning snack. Research show we’re a lot better at withstanding calories, salt and fat in the future than we are in the present.
Another tip: Instead of letting your glucose swerve around lunch time, you’ll perform better by eating all through the day. Projections and drops in blood sugar are both bad for efficiency and bad for the brain. More frequent and smaller meals preserve your glucose at a more constant level than relying on a midday treat.
Ultimately, make healthy snacking easier to accomplish than unhealthy snacking. Keep a bowl of almonds and a selection of protein bars by your computer, near your line of vision. Carry a bag of fruit to the office on Mondays so that you have them available all through the week.
Studies indicate that eating vegetables and fruits throughout the day isn’t merely good for the body—it’s also helpful for the mind. An interesting paper in this July’s British Journal of Health Psychology highlights the level to which food affects our everyday experience.
Within the study, participants described their mood, food consumption and behaviors over a period of thirteen days. Later, researchers surveyed the way people’s food choices impacted their daily experiences. Here was their conclusion: The more vegetables and fruits people consumed (up to seven portions), the happier, more occupied, and more creative they were inclined to be.
Why? The authors offer various thesis. Among them is a perception we regularly overlook when deciding what to eat for lunch: Vegetables and fruits contain essential nutrients that promote the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in the experience of motivation, curiosity and participation. They also provide antioxidants that reduce bodily inflammation, enhance memory and mood.
Which underscores a crucial point: Making intelligent decisions about food is essential, if you are serious about achieving top workplace performance.
The good news is that conflicting to what many of us assume is the knack to eating right is not learning to combat temptation. It’s making healthy eating the easiest possible choice.
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