Nowadays, most of us know that one of the things which can mostly impact our productivity and energy level is the food we eat to fuel our body.
However when thinking more specifically about what foods to eat to improve our performance in the workplace, things get a little muddy.
The biggest problem we face in these days is not so much lacking information, but not knowing how to navigate the abundance of it which we get bombarded with every day, hundreds of times a day.
It is often hard to distinguish between opportunistic and alarming information divulged for commercial purposes and genuine, helpful tips that can truly make a difference in our life.
I still remember trying to fight countless 4pm energy slumps with a supposed “healthy” snack bar laden with sugar, which would inevitably result in a temporary high and subsequent, even steeper, second slump.
I also remember numerous “low carb” attempts which failed to deliver on the promise of endless energy, no cravings and effortless weight loss.
Healthy diets have been found to be associated with reduced odds of depression, which is probably one of the ailments that most impacts productivity at work.
The question is, what is a healthy diet?
A study from the US called “Improving mood through diet” proved that removing meat, poultry, fish and eggs from the diet improved several mood scores in just 2 weeks.
Individuals eating plant based diets have generally scored higher in mood tests and this is probably due the the improved anti-oxidant levels available from a vegetarian (and even better vegan) diet.
When eating a mostly plant based diet, intake of arachidonic acid, an omega 6 fatty acid, that can have an inflammatory effect on our brain falls.
But how can we actually prove that a plant based diet can have a positive effect on workplace performance?
The answer may lay in the first Workplace Intervention Study ever done in the US by Dr. Neil Barnard where 10 corporate sites of major US insurance company GEICO set up a program to determine whether a plant based nutrition program in a multi center, corporate setting improves depression, anxiety and productivity.
Overweight and diabetic employees of the corporation received either weekly group instructions on a wholefood plantbased diet, or no instructions for five and a half months.
No meals were provided, no exercise prescribed, no calorie intake or portion control suggested but the cafeteria simply started offering some plant based options each day.
Those employees who were instructed to eat the special diet reported greater diet satisfactions than those who didn’t.
They also reported improved digestion, increased energy and better sleep, significant increase in physical function, general health vitality and mental health. Last but not least, they reported significant improvement in work productivity.
The experiment therefore proved that lifestyle interventions appear to have an influence on physical and mental health.
Among the most cost effective of these is the use of plant based diets. Employee wellness programs may indeed help boost the corporate bottom line!
In the US, the annual cost to employers attributed to obesity among full time employees is $73.1 billion.
This is because obese employees are less productive on the job.
Healthy employees are good for the bottom line.
Every pound spent on wellness programs may offer a £3 return.
That is why a company like Geico are now exploring workplace dietary interventions.
Employees who ate animal products had 5 times higher odds of obesity compared to those who didn’t.
If people maintained just four things in their life for instance (not smoking, exercising 30 minutes a day, eating a diet that emphasizes whole plant foods and not becoming obese), this may prevent most cases of diabetes, heart attack, strokes and cancer.
Even moderate improvements may be more effective that any other medical intervention by treating the underlying causes of disease.
High blood pressure is just a symptom of diseased and malfunctioning arteries, so treating the symptom by taking blood pressure medication is obviously not sufficient to treating the underlying cause.
Disregarding the underlying cause and only treating the risk factors or symptoms is like mopping up the floor around an overflowing sink instead of turning off the faucet which is why medications generally need to be take for a lifetime.
That is why many successful companies out there (Amex, Fidelity Investments, Google, Microsoft) are now investing in wellness programs to support their employees in acquiring and maintaining an optimum level of physical and mental fitness.
We have adopted the same approach at Whole Shift Wellness: employees who are cared for, care more.
This inevitably has a positive impact on productivity which in turns affect the company’s bottom line.
If you want to find out more about hosting a free lunch-hour wellness workshop at your office, visit www.wholeshiftwellness.com or send us an email on [email protected] .