Since there is a strong link between what we eat and how we feel, there’s no denying that snacks and food in the workplace have a big impact on employee productivity and satisfaction.
We know food affects our physical health, but did you know that food impacts our mental health as well? Yes!
There have been major advances addressing the influence certain foods have on psychological well-being.
On that note, it’s no surprise that office snacks are a proven strategy in improving employee mental health. In fact, A study of 20,000 workers found that those who at healthy through the day were 25% more likely to have better job performance, compared to unhealthy eating which leads to a 66% increased risk of lost productivity.
So if you or your team members are feeling peckish or stressed at work, here’s a list of tasty foods that do more good than bad for both your mind and body. Let’s begin!
Not only can your daily cup of joe help you feel more energized, the caffeine in coffee acts as a mild stimulant to the central nervous system. Studies have shown that, depending on the level of intake, caffeine can help to improve mental performance, especially on alertness, attention, and concentration.
Also beyond boosting alertness, a 2018 study suggests that caffeine may also increase the brain’s capacity for processing information. The researchers found that caffeine causes an increase in brain entropy, which refers to complex and variable brain activity. When entropy is high, the brain can process more information.
So whether you are busy at the keyboard typing and thinking, or feeling stressed out at work, the consumption of a daily cup of joe can help you keep a healthy headspace.
I’m sure your office already has a coffee maker, but if you’re in the mood for a refreshing coffee twist at the office, check out our recent article: Best Coffee Styles For Ultimate Productivity At Work
If you’re looking for the perfect office snack to get your antioxidant fix, this is it. Antioxidants assist in repairing cells, as well as assisting in combating inflammation caused by free radical damage. These antioxidants have also been found to assist in improving symptoms associated with anxiety and depression.
Further, strong scientific evidence exists that eating blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and other berry fruits have beneficial effects on the brain and may help prevent age-related memory loss and other changes. They contain a compound called polyphenolics, which have been found to improve memory, concentration and attention span.
3. Dark Chocolate
According to a study by UCL, eating dark chocolate can help reduce anxiety and improve symptoms of clinical depression. People who ate dark chocolate in two 24-hour periods had 70% reduced odds of reporting depressive symptoms than those who did not eat chocolate.
This is because dark chocolate contains phenylethylamine, a neuromodulator implicated in mood regulation which may positively affect mood and relieve depressive symptoms.
As an added bonus, dark chocolate is also full of antioxidants and natural stimulants. It improves blood flow to your brain, helping you focus better. And it increases your body’s production of mood-boosting endorphins, making you happier.
4. Whole Grains
Many whole grains are naturally rich in an amino acid called tryptophan, which your body needs to produce serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin, the “feel-good hormone,” improves mood and relaxes the brain and body, while melatonin helps establish and maintain steady sleep cycles.
It’s easy to see why this healthy snack may help keep depression at bay and promote healthy sleeping patterns that are very important to mental well being and health. The best part? People who eat healthy whole grains are not only more likely to have an elevated mood but are also more likely to choose healthy foods and exercise, which will make their good mood last.
So whether you’re looking to improve your sleep pattern or just stabilize your mood, grab some whole grains while at work and get happy!
Snacking more nuts may be good for the brain, as these foods contain omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Although other nuts such as cashews, brazil nuts, and hazelnuts are helpful in supplementing omega-3 fats, walnuts seem to be the winner in this category.
Walnuts are known to support overall brain health, being one of the highest plant-based sources of omega-3 and a great source of protein to help keep blood sugar levels at a healthy balance. These higher levels of omega-3s in blood have been linked to better mood and lower rates of depression.
One study found that depression scores were 26 percent lower among those who consumed about one-quarter cup of walnuts per day. They found that adults who ate nuts were more likely to have higher levels of optimism, energy, hope, concentration, and a greater interest in activities.
Almonds also contain a variety of goodies long known to be critical to mental health. Among them are the B vitamin folate and the amino acid tyrosine, a precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Then there’s magnesium, which contributes to many enzymes that power the brain’s intense metabolic activity.
6. Green Tea
If you just want a drink, try green tea! It’s good for inducing calm and peace and it is just what we need more of in our fast-paced highly stressed world. Green tea includes the amino acid, L-Theanine, which is responsible for inducing a calming state. It increases dopamine and the production of alpha waves in the brain.
Also, according to research, the Theanine in green tea is responsible for improved cognitive performance. So when stressful office tasks are piling up, perhaps drink some green tea not to just get relaxed but also to prolong enhanced cognitive performance.
Lost in the world of tea? Check out our article where we shed some light on selecting and brewing the perfect cup of tea for your tastes: The Ultimate Guide To Tea
Popcorn may be the perfect snack food if prepared correctly. Its reputation as a snack food that’s actually good for health popped up a few notches today as scientists reported that it contains more of the healthful antioxidant substances called “polyphenols” than fruits and vegetables.
Popcorn contains more polyphenols, healthy antioxidant compounds than fruits and vegetables. It is low in calories and fat, high in fiber, and contains no sugar or sodium.
When prepared correctly, it is high in good carbs (complex carbohydrates) that are high in nutrients and slow absorbing. Carbs increase our serotonin levels, making us feel happier and more relaxed.
8. Greek Yogurt
This is great if you need a more substantial and filling snack especially during your super busy workdays. It’s higher in protein than regular yogurt (it contains twice as much per serving!), which will help fill you up and curb your hunger.
Research suggests that consuming probiotic yogurt is beneficial for a person’s mental health. A 2016 study found that workers who ate 100 grams of probiotic yogurt a day or took a daily probiotic capsule experienced less stress, depression, and anxiety than those who did not.
This effect is likely due to the relationship between the gut and brain, and the ability of the gut to make neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. Plus, it’s also full of bone-building calcium and gut-friendly probiotics.
9. Oily Fish
Oily fish are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids Omega-3s help build membranes around each cell in the body, including the brain cells. They can, therefore, improve the structure of brain cells called neurons.
A 2017 study found that people with high levels of omega-3s had increased blood flow in the brain. The researchers also identified a connection between omega-3 levels and better cognition, or thinking abilities. These results suggest that eating foods rich in omega-3s, such as oily fish, may boost brain function.
Apart from that, oily fish are clinically proven to optimize brain function, preserve cognition, boost memory, prevent heart disease, and reverse age-related loss of brain function. Examples of oily fish that contain high levels of omega-3s include:
Sunflower seeds contain a rich mix of brain powering protein, omega fatty acids, and B vitamins, and they also contain tryptophan, which the brain converts into serotonin to boost mood and combat depression.
To fight off anxiety-induced depression, a bowl of quinoa seeds can do you a lot of good. This protein-packed grain has an antidepressant effect when eaten regularly, so you can build a healthy dinner with this ingredient and benefit your mental health at the same time.
Moreover, zinc is vital for enhancing mental agility and memory. Just a handful of pumpkin seeds a day is all you need to get your recommended daily allotment of this super vitamin.
Bananas contain the amino acid tryptophan as well as vitamins A, B6 and C, fiber, potassium, phosphorous, iron, and carbohydrates. Mood-boosting carbohydrates aid in the absorption of tryptophan in the brain, while vitamin B6 helps convert the tryptophan into the mood-lifting hormone serotonin.
Eating bananas also calms anxiety because they are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which is converted to relaxation-inducing serotonin in the body. Bananas are also one of the best breakfast snacks because they are full of potassium– which facilitates the body’s ability to absorb water, and it also helps regulate blood sugar. This, in turn, helps boost hydration on long, dehydrating days.
Edamame also contains folate, which the body needs to produce DNA and for proper cell division. Studies suggest that having adequate folate intake may help prevent depression. It may do this by stopping too much of a substance called homocysteine from forming in the body.
Also, high levels of homocysteine can prevent blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain, and they can interfere with the production of the “feel-good” hormone serotonin. This hormone helps mood, sleep, and appetite.
To fight off anxiety-induced depression, a bowl of quinoa can do you a lot of good. This protein-packed grain has an antidepressant effect when eaten regularly, so you can build a healthy office snack with this ingredient and benefit your mental health at the same time.
Quinoa is an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and fiber that helps to balance blood sugar while providing the essential glucose to the brain. It’s also filled with iron– a vitamin known to keep the blood oxygenated, and B vitamins, known to balance mood and protect blood vessels.
As well as being a low-calorie source of dietary fiber, broccoli may be good for the brain. Broccoli is rich in compounds called glucosinolates. When the body breaks these down, they produce isothiocyanates.
Isothiocyanates may reduce oxidative stress and lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
Broccoli also contains vitamin C and flavonoids, and these antioxidants can further boost your brain health especially during very stressful workdays.
Other cruciferous vegetables that contain glucosinolates include:
- Brussels sprouts
Avocado is a serious superfood when it comes to depression as it contains tryptophan, folate, and omega-3. Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that helps combat inflammation in the brain and also helps regulate our brain’s neurotransmitters
A source of healthful unsaturated fat, avocados may also support the brain. Eating monounsaturated fats may reduce blood pressure, and high blood pressure is linked with cognitive decline. Thus, by reducing high blood pressure, the unsaturated fats in avocados may lower the risk of cognitive decline.
With our super busy schedule, it can be tough for us to navigate our world with so many food choices. However, our brain needs a lot of nutrients to function and keep us well that’s why it is important to choose healthy snacks for work. Remember that a sustained mood boost comes from a consistent supply of nutritious foods!
You may have noticed that your mood often affects the types of food you choose, as well as how much you eat. Some foods can lift your mood, energy levels, and concentration, while others can have the opposite effect.
We also know that a poor diet can make us feel sluggish, low and increase symptoms of depression and anxiety. So, we encourage you to use this guide and see how these healthy snacks can actually improve your mental health. You can see how much more enjoyable snacking can really be.
Also, make sure to share this article with anyone you think could use it!
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