Forbes January 22, 2024
There’s a secret to turbocharging our brainpower and boosting our energy — it’s the foods we eat. Functional foods are everyday foods packed with nutrients our bodies need. What we put in our bodies has a lot to do with how we feel throughout the day, which makes a big difference in how much we can get done in a day … in our careers and our lives.
Functional foods contain bioactive components or ingredients with physiological and functional effects that improve health and well-being. Functional foods have been shown to reduce the risk of chronic disease and improve outcomes from disease. These foods contain vitamins, minerals, protein, essential fatty acids, phytochemicals, dietary fiber, pre- and probiotics, and other nutrients essential for human health. Functional foods also include nutraceuticals, which are dietary supplements and food additives using food-derived ingredients and plants with minimal processing. Nutraceuticals combine nutritional and pharmaceutical effects. Functional foods and nutraceuticals improve mental focus, boost energy, and stimulate immunity.
Mental focus is the ability to direct your mental effort to what is most relevant. Focus is the precursor to productivity. Considering that 99% of employees experience a loss in productivity due to interruptions at work, eating right to maintain focus seems like a no-brainer. Green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, berries, caffeine, and walnuts have been shown to improve mental acuity and help maintain focus. The benefits of these foods are linked to the vitamin
Food is metabolized into energy in the body. Foods rich in protein, carbohydrates, and fats provide human energy — it’s a physiological process necessary for physical and mental health. As you read this article, your body is using 100 watts of power, about the same amount used to power your laptop. Just as you need to recharge your laptop, you need to recharge or refuel your body to keep it working throughout the day.
Protein, carbohydrates, and fat work together to fuel the body and boost energy reserves. Protein is responsible for initiating chemical reactions, communication between cells, and transportation of vital nutrients. Protein is also brain food — it boosts levels of serotonin and dopamine, which boost energy and mental focus. Fats provide more than half of the body’s total energy needs and are responsible for long-term energy storage. And carbohydrates provide quick energy.
Here are some easy foods to incorporate into your diet with a mix of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates: oatmeal, lentils, brown or wild rice, and chickpeas. Bananas are one of the best “quick energy” foods. And cinnamon keeps blood sugar levels in check.
Incorporating these foods into your diet provides the nutrients you need to recharge throughout your work day.
The immune system protects the body from germs — it keeps you healthy. The main job of our immune system is to find and remove bacteria, viruses, and other germs from the body, recognize and neutralize harmful substances from the environment, and combat disease-causing changes in the body, like cancer cells.
Each year, absenteeism from sick leave, short-term and long-term disability, and impaired job performance costs employers $2,945 per employee per year. Presenteeism is coming to work sick — the Harvard Business Review reported that presenteeism costs $150 billion in lost productivity.
Immune-stimulating foods contain beta carotene (yellow foods), vitamin C (citruses), vitamin D (fatty fish and eggs), zinc (protein-dense food like beef and seafood), and probiotics (fermented foods and yogurt).
Herbs that kick-start your immune system include garlic, ginger, and turmeric. Garlic contains alliin, which protects against the flu and cold viruses. Ginger is rich in vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium. And turmeric acts as an antiviral. Curcumin is the main component of turmeric. It is responsible for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Healthy eating is more than incorporating better foods. Mindful eating has its own health benefits. Eating more slowly allows our brains to catch up with feelings of satiety and helps us maintain or lose weight. Using a shopping list and shopping after eating prevents impulse buys, like potato chips and sugary foods. Lastly, sleep plays a pivotal role in human health. Sleep deprivation affects our ability to concentrate and decreases productivity and immune function.
If you’re hoping to make a career shift or just get more done with the time you have in your day, begin with fueling your body. Adding blueberries, avocados, and walnuts packs a powerful punch for your health. These superfoods, along with mindful eating and adequate sleep, are the boost your body needs to improve mental focus and productivity.
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