As we plow through our super-busy workdays, we often devote so much time to being productive that we have little time left to think about eating well. We might be burning the midnight oil, but we aren’t burning very many calories.
The saying, “You are what you eat” may be a cliché, but like all clichés, it’s true. According to writer and psychologist Ron Friedman, “Food has a direct impact on our cognitive performance, which is why a poor decision at lunch can derail an entire afternoon.” He explains: “Just about everything we eat is converted by our body into glucose, which provides the energy our brains need to stay alert. When we’re running low on glucose, we have a tough time staying focused and our attention drifts. This explains why it’s hard to concentrate on an empty stomach.”
Improve your mood and boost your energy
Healthy eating is linked to lower rates of depression. It also affects our bodies and minds in more subtle ways to give us a boost. In fact, eating well can work with your body chemistry to keep your energy levels up all day long. But of course, everything depends on what you choose to eat.
Everyone knows it’s important to avoid junk food. So what should you eat to be on top form? Green leafy vegetables, unrefined carbohydrates (legumes, fruit and vegetables), and whole grains are great for maintaining energy levels over long periods of time, and they’ll help you avoid the dreaded afternoon energy slump caused by eating too much refined sugar and white starches.
Avoiding junk food can also improve gut health, which is believed to play a vital role in improving overall mood. The theory is that the trillions of bacterial cells that live in the gut act as a sort of “second brain,” passing signals from your gut to your brain. An unhealthy microbiome can lead to health issues such as a weak immune system, while a healthy gut has been linked to improved mental health.
Other surprising benefits of eating well Improve your mood and boost your energy
The food you eat won’t turn you into an Olympic athlete, but it’s far more than just a source of fuel. Eating the right foods can help you with your time-management skills, your image, and even your decision-making ability.
For example, scheduling healthy meals at certain times of day will push you to structure other aspects of your workday. Breakfast is a perfect example. Skipping breakfast and rushing to work is a recipe for a stressful, ill-prepared day. Instead of rushing out the door with a muffin, scheduling time for a full breakfast – even if it’s just ten minutes – will give you time to wake up properly and plan your day. The result will be a more prepared, relaxing workday that will be less chaotic and more productive.
Another benefit of eating well is what looking healthy can do for your image. Despite the importance of fighting against negative stereotypes, the reality is that if you’re fit, you’ll be seen as a more capable and respected leader.
And of course, when you eat foods that are good for your body, you’re eating foods that are good for your brain. You’ll benefit in multiple ways, gaining heightened alertness and mental clarity, better memory, enhanced creativity, and improved sleep.
So put down that cheeseburger and grab a salad. (And if you don’t like kale, there’s always spinach!)