Putting Our Favorite Foods to Work
Food. It’s our primary source of energy, nourishment and — oftentimes in the workplace — camaraderie. But how often do you actually consider the impact your lunch has on your day’s productivity? If you’re anything like the millions of Americans relentlessly charging through the workweek, probably not often. For many of us, we glance in the fridge, grab last night’s leftovers and head on our way. Or, we give up on the effort before it even begins, deciding to buy lunch before breakfast is over. All things considered though, planning lunches with these approaches shouldn’t be all that surprising, because our weekday morning minds are typically in a million other places, preparing for the workday.
We surveyed the HCM team with the hope of lending a deeper understanding on how certain foods affect workplace productivity. Here are the main categories that surfaced:
Sweets provide a sugar spike that leaves us feeling happy and energized… temporarily. Defer to sweets when you need a) an energy spike, b) a celebratory treat or c) a pick-me-up (because who knows what kind of day you’re having).
Enter dopamine, the chemical messenger in the brain responsible for recognizing reward and pleasure. It’s what keeps us repeating certain habits we enjoy and avoiding periods of boredom. Dopamine is often associated with workplace performance, especially with younger generations fully emerged in new technology and social media. We know it for picking us up when we’re feeling down, whether at home or work.
Dopamine levels surge when we eat sugar. So, if you’re having a bad day at work and it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, it’s not surprising that a sweet treat may be the fix you crave. That message of feeling happy may come in the form of “lemon poppy seed bread” or “homemade chocolate chip cookies,” giving your attitude a reset and helping you hit that impending deadline.
Or perhaps it really is as simple as playing favorites; as one HCMer put it, “Donuts, because who doesn’t like fried dough?” Visit the HCM breakroom to learn more.
Many items made the list simply because of their spicy factor, making spicy foods the close second. From kimchi to green curry, many HCMers agreed the thrill of these pain-inducing foods are the high to ride.
Spicy foods often lead to sweating, runny noses, heartburn and digestion issues, resulting from the presence of capsaicin, a compound found in chilis that burns and irritates the surfaces that it touches, including human tissue (i.e. your tongue). Aside from the those less appealing reactions, however, spicy foods can lead to many long-term health benefits, such as longer lifespans, higher metabolism, anti-inflammatory effects, and on a more short-term scale, euphoric sensations — which leads us to alertness.
Remember dopamine? When we eat spicy foods, dopamine (AKA our happy chemical), Substance P (AKA our pain signaler) and endorphins (AKA our body’s natural pain relievers) throw an awesome party (AKA euphoria) in our bodies, leaving us feeling alert. This wakefulness has great potential to transcend into higher productivity, increased engagement and improved dispositions in the workplace.
While we agree that peking duck deserves the vote simply because of its “awesome duckiness,” there are other benefits to incorporating lean meats into your daily diet.
Meats are known for supplying the body with iron and protein, two key nutrients essential to healthy body function and development. Protein-rich foods provide the body with long-term benefits such as weight maintenance and steady blood sugar levels, but they can also improve your work performance, helping with concentration, clarity and energy. At the same time, iron, the mineral responsible for carrying oxygen to your red blood cells, plays a large role in providing your brain with the oxygen it needs to perform its best.
Ah, carbs. Our favorite frenemy. And a team favorite according to the feedback. Pasta and pizza tied in popularity for the winning combination.
The role of carbohydrates is to supply the body with energy for physical activity. This is excellent for labor intensive jobs whether heavy lifting and foot traffic embody major elements of the day, such as service industry employees, medical staff or factory workers.
Ever heard the term “carbo loading”? It’s a cute name dubbed by athletes preparing for a cardio-heavy activity, such as a marathon. Essentially, it’s the opposite of sitting at your desk, writing a blog post about favorite foods and their connection to workplace productivity. *Hides bowl of delicious pasta salad.*
Next time you’re having a carb crave, try reaching for some heart-healthy whole grains for a longer-lasting energy supply. Whole grains are credited with providing the body with protein, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fiber. This nutrient-dense combination is perfect for fueling your body through the workday. But a pass is always granted for “Mom’s spaghetti.”
Foods to Consider When “That 2:30 Feeling” Hits
“That 2:30 Feeling” refers to that feeling employees get at roughly 2:30 p.m. in the afternoon your second wind has died and coffee is calling.
Next time you’re experiencing this, consider reaching for a snack that’s rich in protein, such as nuts, legumes or pumpkin seeds. As discussed earlier, protein helps the body sustain high functionality for long periods of time, meaning these tiny nutritious bites can supply the body with long-lasting energy to get you through the final stretch of the day.
Recently, many companies have implemented more physical activities and healthier catering into their weekly formats, citing the benefits of healthy habits on workplace productivity and happiness.
This poses the question: What’s your favorite workday afternoon snack? Ask yourself why.
Written by: Taylar Ramsey
Taylar Ramsey is a marketing independent contractor with specialty in strategic campaign design and execution, event planning and creative copywriting. A long-time friend of Human Capital Media, she regularly contributes content surrounding external promotions, internal development and outstanding achievements – all reflective of Human Capital Media’s vision, “Better workplaces, better lives.”