Eating Right at Work: Healthy Ways to Boost Energy and Productivity

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Women drinking smoothie during office break
Getty/Adam Haglund
By Kaitlin Louie,

Proper nutrition is crucial for optimal performance in all aspects of daily life, work included.

You wouldn't know this by looking around the office, though. Most workplace lunches consist of greasy foods or refined carbohydrates such as pastas, sandwiches loaded with cheese and mayo, or sometimes nothing but a cola and some vending machine picks. Offices that are kind enough to provide free food and drink often offer stimulants such as soda and coffee, as well as refined carbohydrates and sugars like bagels, donuts, cereal and granola bars.

While these foods may be comforting to some extent, alleviating stress with their serotonin-producing combination of refined carbohydrates, sugar, fat, and/or salt, they also dim your mental sharpness and energy levels.

Tips for eating on the clock
Making sure you eat healthy during the workday can enhance your focus and increase your energy, giving you the edge you need to tackle everything on your plate. Here are some simple but high-impact steps you can take to boost your mood and productivity:

Eat leafy green vegetables
Leafy green vegetables are some of the healthiest foods you can eat, for a variety of important reasons. First, according to Clyde Wilson and Prevention magazine, non-starchy green vegetables help slow the digestion of starchy carbohydrates -- both refined and unrefined varieties. When the digestion of these carbohydrates is slowed, that means your brain and muscles can use them more readily for energy, and your body won't release as much insulin to store the excess glucose circulating in your bloodstream. Additionally, leafy greens contain compounds that may play an important role in fighting various cancers, boosting your mood, and protecting against various diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Get enough iron
Iron is essential for energy, because it is a primary component of hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen within the body's red blood cells to be transported to different parts of the body. Iron deficiency has been linked to decreased cognitive functioning for adults and children alike. Instead of taking supplements, try adding more iron-rich foods into your diet, such as lean beef, dark meat chicken, tofu, legumes and dark green vegetables.

Eat enough healthy fats
According to the Los Angeles Times, registered dietitian Elizabeth Somers explains in her book "Eat Your Way To Happiness" how omega-3 fatty acids are essential to proper brain function and mood regulation. In fact, according to Health magazine, deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids may contribute to the prevalence of depression in America. Get a regular dose of omega-3 through fish, fish oil supplements (search for brands that are well known for low mercury levels), flax seeds or walnuts.

Don't overdo the caffeine
While small amounts of caffeine may boost your alertness and metabolism, it can also increase your aggressiveness, writes Travis Bradberry of Forbes. In addition, a study by Johns Hopkins Medical School found that the increased cognitive performance experienced after consuming caffeine is generally an illusion, as this "boost" is really the caffeine bringing you back to a baseline level of performance. In other words, if you're hooked on caffeine and don't have your fix during the day, you'll actually be performing below your normal productivity levels.

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Kaitlin Louie writes for This article was originally published on
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