How to increase mental productivity and self-control at work

We all know productivity requires both energy and control. A manufacturing plant needs power to operate and process controls to ensure efficiency. Your car won’t run without fuel and a driver.

But did you know your brain works the same way?

In other words, if you or your employees are not eating the right foods (energy), your ability to think and maintain self-control (mental productivity) will suffer.

According to research by psychologist Roy Baumeister, some brain and cognitive processes consume substantial amounts of energy, and self-control requires a certain amount of glucose to operate unimpaired.

As Baumeister notes in a Psychology Today article, “the human body is undeniably an energy system. Evolution gave us this new and more complicated way of acting, but it’s expensive in terms of fuel burned.”

If you find yourself running on fumes at work, try munching on foods that are rich in lean proteins and complex carbohydrates. Examples include low-fat yogurt, fresh strawberries or veggies with a hummus dip. According to a nutritionist quoted in the article, such foods are metabolized at a steady rate and lead to stable blood-sugar levels.

Here are some other food suggestions for boosting your energy, brainpower and productivity:

Blueberries: Neuroscientist James A. Joseph of the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University calls these tasty marvels of nature “brainberries.” They not only provide traditional nutrients — carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins C and E and manganese — but also help make your brain cells maximally responsive while impeding the aging process.

Eggs: The yolk of eggs is high in choline, a building block of brain cells that has been shown to enhance memory and minimize fatigue. However, eat only one or two egg products a day, since eggs also are high in cholesterol.

Seeds and nuts: Any kind of nut or seed works well for a snack break, because they all have Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. These acids can help you think more clearly, but also improve your mood since they act as natural antidepressants.

Fish: The original brain food, fish also are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which a recent study shows are important in decelerating brain aging and preventing the loss of memory and thinking capabilities.

A final tip. If you’re about to face a stressful situation, have a healthy snack beforehand — perhaps peanut butter on whole-grain crackers — which could help your blood sugar rise to the occasion

Ken Dallafior is executive vice president, Group Business and Corporate Marketing at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM). Dallafior leads BCBSM’s group sales force, oversees corporate marketing and product development, and develops and implements key corporate strategies. He also provides leadership to critical sales operations such as agent relations and commissions, sales incentives and complex issue resolution for group customers and sales agents. In addition to working in the insurance industry for nearly two decades, Dallafior played professional football from 1982 to 1992. He is founder and board member of the Detroit Lions Courage House.

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