Published: 31 May 2016
Updated: 20 Apr 2022
Category: Productivity

Brain Food: 4 Tips on What to Eat to Improve Productivity at Work


If you’re feeling sluggish and slow at work, it might not just be because those spreadsheets are getting the better of you – the food we eat during the day can have a significant impact on our focus and concentration. In fact, the World Heath Organisation believes that eating the right foods can increase your brainpower, motivation and productivity by 20%! Here are a few tips on how to get the best out of your meals for improved work performance:

Rise and shine – the right way

It’s often said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day… and if you arrive at work running on empty and unable to focus on tasks due to a rumbling stomach, you’ll soon understand why! Breakfast provides the energy we need to make it through the working day; in fact, a banana provides the exact daily amount of glucose your body needs to have circulating in its blood stream (25 grams) for your brain to work best, making it an easy ideal choice for your morning bite. If you have more time at hand – or even better, someone else doing the cooking – eggs contain a B-vitamin called choline that enhances memory and reaction time, delivering just the kind of boost you’ll need to tackle any early-morning meetings in style.

Snack attack

Massive spikes in blood sugar – and the consequent slumps that quickly follow – are bad for productivity and energy levels. Instead, it’s best to keep steady levels of glucose circulating in your blood stream throughout the whole day, which can be achieved by snacking regularly. Forget crisps and sweets though; instead try a handful of nuts, especially walnuts and almonds, which are a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin E and amino acids, which should give your body a natural boost in memory and brain power. If your sweet tooth really does get too much, break off a chunk or two of dark chocolate; it contains a small hit of caffeine to help concentration and energy levels, as well as more of those all-important antioxidants. Pack these healthier snacks to bring to work with you, rather than giving into last-minute temptation at the vending machine when hunger strikes!

The lunch bunch

If your to-do list is as long as your arm, it can be easy to brush off lunch with a quick sandwich or ready-meal – but choosing the wrong food for your midday meal can have disastrous results. Foods like pasta and white bread release their energy quickly, leading to energy slumps later; meanwhile, heavy high-fat meals like burgers or fries cause our digestive system to work harder, reducing the oxygen levels in our brain and making us sleepy and slow as a result (hello food coma!). A balanced meal makes all the difference – aim for plenty of fruit and vegetables, with antioxidant-rich berries and vitamin and mineral-loaded dark leafy greens especially potent. Fatty fish like salmon are also excellent for improving productivity due to their high omega-3 content, which is proven to improve memory and mental performance. If you really can’t part with your carbs, opt for whole wheat breads or brown rice, which cause less of a blood sugar spike.

Drink up

It’s not only marathon runners that need to replenish their water supplies – even if you’re trapped behind a desk all-day, staying well hydrated is essential. Given our bodies are made up of over 70% water, it’s unsurprising that it’s doesn’t react well to getting too thirsty; aim for eight glasses of water a day to keep your brain focused and functioning at its optimum level. Another great drink to sip on during work hours is green tea – it’s a natural energy enhancer, but without the crash-and-burn qualities of caffeine-high coffee. It’s also been shown to increase both memory and focus, boasts more of those miraculous antioxidants and even has relaxing properties too… just the thing you need after dealing with stressful clients or last-minute deadlines!

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