Food As Fuel: How Leaders Power Their Days

Leaders have learned that what they eat impacts their performance. We all know how great a healthy diet is for your body, but did you know that some foods can boost your productivity by nourishing your brain?

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Certain nutrients feed your mind and create long-lasting energy to help you stay focused and productive all day long. Leaders see food as fuel to power their days. They eat foods that provide energy and stimulate mental performance, rather than foods that lead to a massive crash.

If you are serious about being as efficient and productive as possible during your workday, you may want to ask yourself if the food you are eating serves as fuel for your body and mind. If you aren’t eating to nourish your body, your work performance will suffer.

Why is this? All foods aren’t processed at the same rate. Most of what we eat is broken down into glucose. Glucose can either be released quickly or slowly and sustainably. Foods that release glucose quickly – like candy, soda, white bread and baked goods – cause a sudden spike in blood sugar. While these foods may give you a sudden burst of energy, your blood sugar levels will drop quickly–leading to that miserable afternoon slump.

Foods that release glucose slowly provide more sustained energy, as well as keep us fuller longer. This includes whole grains, oats, fruits and vegetables. These foods won’t cause a spike in blood sugar because they provide a steady flow of energy to your brain. They cause your blood sugar to slowly rise and then slowly go down. Your brain needs a steady amount of glucose to stay alert, focused and productive.

Productivity-boosting foods also provide the necessary nutrients your body needs. It’s safe to say that most of us know that not all foods are created equally. Your body needs a certain amount of nutrients – such as carbohydrates, protein, fat and vitamins – to function properly, so it’s important to eat foods that are nutrient-rich to bring your A-game all day, every day.

So, what are leaders eating to fuel their long, productive days? Here are some foods that help them power their workdays:

Eggs

Eggs are an excellent way to start your day for a number of reasons. Egg yolk contains choline, which is a fat-like B-vitamin that supports energy levels, brain development and nerve function. It is also known to enhance memory and improve cognitive skills. Along with choline, eggs contain B12 and B6 vitamins which will help boost your mood and reduce stress. Being happier and less stressed also leads to a more productive and focused day at the office.

Brown Rice

Many whole grains help you stay sharp and mentally alert throughout the day. Unlike refined carbs – such as white bread and white rice – whole grains provide nutrients and sustainable energy. For example, brown rice contains a good combination of vitamins and magnesium, which has been shown to enhance and improve cognitive functions. Magnesium is an essential vitamin that shouldn’t be missing from any diet.

Bananas

According to researcher Leigh Gibson, “the brain works best with about 25 grams of glucose circulating in the blood stream — about the amount found in a banana.” A banana is a healthier choice of getting the glucose intake that your body needs. It’s also a great snack because it is filling, which will prevent any hunger pains until your next meal, leaving you focused on your work.

Fruits and Vegetables

Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can directly influence brain function. A study conducted by British Journal of Health Psychology that examined how peoples’ food choices influenced their daily experiences, found that the more fruits and vegetables people consumed (up to seven portions), the happier, more engaged and more creative they tended to be. This is because fruits and vegetables provide a tremendous amount of vital nutrients and antioxidants that promote brain function by enhancing your mood and improving memory.

Dark Chocolate

Not only is dark chocolate delicious, but it also improves productivity and acts as a natural stress reliever. Because of its caffeine content, dark chocolate will give you an energy boost – but without the crash like milk chocolate or candy. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants that have been shown to increase productivity by enhancing focus and concentration. Another perk? Indulging in a bit of dark chocolate is a great way to keep your mind from craving anything sweet.

Spinach

Dark, leafy greens are superfoods for your body, especially spinach. Spinach contains folic acid. According to research, adequate levels of folic acid are “essential for brain function, and folate deficiency can lead to neurological disorders such as depression and cognitive impairment.” Spinach also contains vitamin B6 which, along with folate acid, helps improve short-term memory function. It’s also rich in antioxidants that will leave you feeling good all over – for a happier and productive workday.

Salmon

Salmon is full of nutritious goodness. It’s loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, iron, B-vitamins and protein. These nutrients serve for optimum brain health and function. In fact, deficiency of Omega-3 fatty acids is linked to impaired memory and learning abilities. The rich variety of nutrients in salmon will keep you productive by amplifying your memory, focus and critical reasoning skills.

Nuts

Almonds, walnuts and cashews all make a perfect productivity-boosting snack. Almonds provide your body with phenylalanine, an amino acid that is great overall neurological health. It stimulates dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline to boost your mood. Almonds are also high in vitamin B2, enhancing your memory.

Walnuts provide a great source of proteins, Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins. Because of this, they are great fuel for your brain and nervous system. Cashews are also a great choice because of their high magnesium content that will keep you feeling focused and alert.

Avocado

Avocados are popular for a reason. They provide your body with nourishing fats and help with blood flow. Maintaining a healthy blood flow is a requirement for a healthy brain. The brain is made up of 60% fat, so it’s important to consume healthy amounts of good fats each day to keep your brain functioning at its best. Avocado also contains potassium, which helps regulate and lower blood pressure. Keeping your blood pressure in check promotes cognitive health and helps prevent stroke.

Keeping a healthy diet will benefit your life in many ways. Maximizing your mental performance through your diet is an easy step you can step to keep yourself alert, focused and productive throughout the day. Try swapping out fast food or junk food for these productivity-boosting foods. Don’t let a poor breakfast or lunch decision keep you from performing your best. Start fueling your body and eating like a leader.

Alan Kohll, the founder and president of health and wellness service provider, TotalWellness

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