Foods can have a significant impact on productivity, both in terms of cognitive function and sustained energy levels. The science behind food and productivity is rooted in the influence of nutrients on brain function, alertness, and overall well-being.
Here are some foods that can increase productivity, along with the science behind their effects:
Complex Carbohydrates: Potatoes, rice, pasta, beans, oatmeal, bread, quinoa.
The Science: Carbohydrates provide glucose, which is the brain’s primary source of energy. Complex carbohydrates, like whole grains (e.g., oats, quinoa, whole wheat), release glucose slowly into the bloodstream, providing a steady supply of energy to the brain without causing rapid blood sugar spikes and crashes. The Productivity Benefit: Stable blood sugar levels help maintain focus and prevent energy crashes, promoting sustained productivity.
Leafy Greens (Spinach, Kale, Swiss Chard):
The Science: Leafy greens are high in nutrients such as folate, vitamins (e.g., vitamin K, vitamin A), and antioxidants (e.g., lutein). These compounds are essential for maintaining brain health and cognitive function. The Productivity Benefit: The nutrients in leafy greens support memory, mental clarity, and overall brain function, which can enhance productivity.
Nuts and Seeds (Almonds, Walnuts, Flaxseeds):
The Science: Nuts and seeds are rich in healthy fats, protein, and various vitamins and minerals. They provide sustained energy, and the omega-3 fay acids in some nuts (like
walnuts) support brain health. The Productivity Benefit: The combination of protein, healthy fats, and fibre in nuts and seeds helps maintain stable energy levels and keeps you feeling full, preventing distracting hunger pangs.
Berries (Blueberries, Strawberries, Blackberries):
The Science: Berries are packed with antioxidants, particularly flavonoids, which have been linked to improved cognitive function and a reduced risk of age-related cognitive decline. The Productivity Benefit: Regular consumption of berries may help maintain cognitive abilities, including memory and decision-making skills.
Dark Chocolate (70% cocoa or higher):
The Science: Dark chocolate contains flavonoids and caffeine, both of which can enhance cognitive function. Flavonoids improve blood flow to the brain, while caffeine can boost alertness. This is the best news ever! The Productivity Benefit: Consuming moderate amounts of dark chocolate may enhance focus, mood, and cognitive performance.
The Science: Dehydration can lead to decreased cognitive function, concentration, and mood. Even mild dehydration can negatively affect productivity.
The Productivity Benefit: Staying adequately hydrated throughout the day is crucial for maintaining alertness and cognitive performance. It’s important to note that individual responses to food can vary, and the timing of meals and snacks can also influence productivity. A balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods, regular hydration, and aQention to portion sizes can help optimize productivity.
Notice here, we have not included fats and here’s why:
Fatty foods, particularly those high in unhealthy saturated and trans fats, are not generally associated with increased productivity. In fact, consuming a diet rich in such unhealthy fats can have adverse effects on productivity and overall health.
This is what is does to your body:
Energy Levels: Fatty foods high in unhealthy fats, such as fast food, fried foods, and processed snacks, can lead to feelings of sluggishness and fa4gue. These foods are oYen
calorie-dense but lack essen4al nutrients, providing quick bursts of energy followed by energy crashes.
Cognitive Function: Diets high in unhealthy fats have been linked to cognitive decline and impaired memory and concentration. Trans fats, for example, are associated with an
increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases and may negatively affect brain function.
Inflammation: High consumption of unhealthy fats can lead to chronic inflammation in the body, including the brain. Inflammation is associated with a range of health issues, including cognitive impairment and mood disturbances, which can hinder productivity.
Mood: Unhealthy fatty foods can negatively impact mood and emotional well-being. High fat, sugary foods can lead to mood swings, increased irritability, and decreased motivation, all of which can hamper produc4vity.
Weight Gain: Regularly consuming fatty foods high in unhealthy fats can lead to weight gain and obesity. Obesity is associated with a range of health problems, including decreased energy levels and increased risk of chronic diseases, which can reduce overall productivity.
It’s essential to distinguish between unhealthy fats and healthy fats. Healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon, can have cognitive benefits and support overall health when consumed in modera4on. These fats are essential for various bodily functions, including brain health. Unhealthy fats are anything that comes in a jar or a bottle or a tub. Best avoided.
Here is a easy, healthy lunch recipe to help increase afternoon productivity. This can be made a few days before needed, and taken to work.
Quinoa and Chickpea Salad
For the Salad:
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, diced
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped (op4onal)
For the Dressing:
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice (adjust to taste)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (adjust to taste)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and black pepper to taste
1. Cook the Quinoa:
In a medium saucepan, combine the quinoa and water or vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the quinoa is cooked and the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let it cool.
2. Make the Dressing:
In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, minced garlic, Dijon mustard, salt, and black pepper. Adjust the ingredients to your taste preferences.
3. Assemble the Salad:
In a large salad bowl, combine the cooked and cooled quinoa, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, chopped red onion, fresh parsley, and mint (if using). Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine. You can add more lemon juice or balsamic vinegar if desired.
Divide the Quinoa and Chickpea Salad into two portions.
5. Garnish and Enjoy:
Top each portion with addi4onal fresh herbs if desired.
6. Optional Additions:
You can add other vegetables like bell peppers, grated carrots, or steamed broccoli to boost the nutritional content of the salad.
For extra protein, consider adding a handful of toasted, chopped nuts or seeds such as almonds, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds.
This oil-free plant-based salad is rich in plant-based protein, fibre vitamins, and minerals, making it a satisfying and energizing lunch option. The quinoa provides complex carbohydrates for sustained energy, while the chickpeas offer protein and fibre to keep you full and focused throughout the afternoon.
The fresh vegetables and herbs add a burst of flavour and nutrients, all without the need for oil.
Enjoy your productive work lunch!