Poor dietary habits can have a big impact on the quality of your work day when you consider the consequences of poor nutrition include:

  • Fatigue

  • Decreased mental alertness

  • Irritability

  • Poor concentration

  • Higher levels of stress and depression

  • Lowered productivity

Giving your brain the right nutrients enhances your ability to think quicker, retain more information and improve concentration. Protein, carbohydrates, fats and certain vitamins are all associated with brain function and mental performance.

In short, eating well helps to maximise your work performance. Here’s why:

Brain foods - protein: protein is found in meat, fish, milk and cheese. Protein provides the building blocks for most of the body’s tissues, nerves and internal organs (including the brain and heart). Proteins are used to make neurotransmitters and are essential to improve mental performance.

Brain foods - carbohydrate: carbohydrates enhance the absorption of tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin in the brain. Within 30 minutes of eating a carbohydrate meal, you will feel more calm and relaxed. The effects will last several hours.

Brain food - fat: the brain is more than 60% fat. This is because the brain cells are covered by the myelin sheath, which is composed of approximately 75% fat. Fats also play a crucial role as messengers. They regulate key aspects of the immune system, blood circulation, inflammation, memory and mood.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential to the optimum performance of your brain.

To ensure that your diet is rich in omega-3 fats, ensure that you eat plenty of oil fish including mackarel, salmon, sardines, tuna, herring and anchovies. Supplementation such as fish oil capsules also provide good sources of omega-3.

Brain food - vitamins and minerals: vitamins and minerals are essential for the growth and functioning of the brain. The ‘B’ complex vitamins are particularly important for the brain and play a vital role in producing energy. Vitamins A, C and E are powerful antioxidants, promoting and preserving memory in the elderly.

Minerals are also critical to mental functioning and performance. Magnesium and manganese are needed for brain energy. Sodium, potassium and calcium are important in the thinking process and they facilitate the transmission of messages.

Need some snack ideas to get you through the day?

Try these healthy snack ideas throughout your work day:

  • Vegetable sticks and hummus

  • Low fat yoghurt and sliced fruit

  • Wholegrain English muffin with peanut butter

  • Dried fruit and nut trail mix

  • Small tin of tuna with wholegrain crackers

  • Fruit smoothie with skim milk, honey, sliced banana and strawberries

If you’re not sure where to start, or you know that you have a big day ahead, start your day with a quality breakfast. This provides the fuel your body and brain needs to maximise your work performance. As the day goes on, try to avoid skipping meals. This can deprive your body and brain of the nutrients it needs, diminishing your brain power.