Our Mental Health & Workplace Productivity: Pay Attention to New Survey on Nutrition

Posted by on Monday, March 10th, 2014 with 1 Comments

Every year, Gallup conducts an extensive phone survey that essentially takes a snapshot of American eating habits. The 2013 edition of the survey was released last week, and the news isn’t good: fewer of us reported eating healthy all day “yesterday” than we have in the last five years. And only a little over half — around 57% — reported that within the last week, they ate the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables (five servings per day) for at least four days.

fruit and vegetable catering display

For productive employees, more office lunch rooms should look like this!
Image source: Flickr user ChampionshipCatering

We tend to focus on our physical health when we consider these kind of statistics. And it’s clear that our collectively inadequate diet has consequences: not coincidentally, another report from the end of February shows that obesity rates rose to a new high (or should we say low?) of 27.1% last year. However, our waistlines aren’t the only things that suffer when we don’t eat enough fruits, vegetables, or the other mainstays of a healthy diet, like quality proteins and whole grains. Our mental health is also impacted by our diets — and for employers, that means your workplace productivity.

Corporate wellness programs may focus on the cost of absenteeism and missed work, which can be greatly affected by obesity and the litany of chronic diseases it can lead to (diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, for example). But wellness isn’t just about reducing missed work days: employers should also pay attention to the ways a deficient diet can hinder their staff’s ability to perform when they do come in to work. Not consuming essential vitamins and minerals — ones commonly found in fruits, vegetables, and healthy protein sources like eggs and fish — can lead to higher levels of fatigue, memory loss, and cognitive function.

Here are a few nutrients that are key to workplace productivity, and how a healthy office can incorporate them into the company catering plan.

Choline is an essential nutrient (meaning our bodies don’t produce enough of it, so we have to get it from our diet) that is key to producing acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter crucial for memory function. Some evidence has even linked declining acetylcholine production in the brain to Alzheimer’s and dementia. Choline is found in eggs (particularly the yolks), peanuts, beef liver, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Add hard-boiled eggs to the breakfast spread at your next morning meeting, and share a tidbit about choline and memory to encourage employees to start thinking about their diet and mental health.

stressed out man

Fatigue may be caused by a vitamin deficiency.
Image source: Flickr user OneEighteen

Magnesium is a mineral that most Americans don’t consume enough of, and it may have an impact on our ability to focus. Deficiencies in magnesium may lead to migraine headaches and a short attention span, and supplements are being explored as a possible treatment for ADHD. To up the magnesium in the office lunch room, just picture a well-rounded salad bar: magnesium is found in leafy greens like spinach, nuts like almonds and cashews, legumes like black beans and edamame, and avocado.

The entire group of B-vitamins seems to be crucial for mental health. Thiamin, niacin, folate, and biotin are just a few of the B-vitamins that are necessary for brain function, and deficiencies in most B-vitamins can lead to headaches, depression, confusion, and fatigue. Luckily, B-vitamins are found in plenty of food sources, including most whole grains, leafy green vegetables, and fish. Keep these foods in mind next time you plan a catered lunch: a buffet of salmon, spinach, lentils, and brown rice would cover almost all of your B-vitamin bases.

salad bar at a catering table

Leafy greens and whole grains are good sources of the B vitamins.
Image source: Flickr user feministjulie

The important thing, of course, is education. Many of us don’t think about our diets when we feel listless or tired, but the food we eat is essential to how we feel throughout the workday. Promote healthy eating in the office itself, but don’t forget to share the reason behind your renewed focus on fruits, vegetables, and mental health! And when it’s time to include vitamin-packed lunches and breakfasts in the company catering plan, Waiter.com helps make ordering and delivery stress-free.

When it comes to feeding employees and coworkers, make your company's food program really count! If your workplace dining plan needs to take it up a notch — or if you don't have one at all — Waiter.com is here to help. From Virtual Cafeteria Service to diverse menus to local takeout & deliveryWaiter.com offers customizable dining solutions for every business and budget. Contact us today to get started!

One response to “Our Mental Health & Workplace Productivity: Pay Attention to New Survey on Nutrition”

  1. […] Offer healthier food choices – Instead of vending machines filled with chips and candy bars, offer free fresh fruit and vegetables as snack for employees. A healthy diet can help reduce stress. […]