A high-quality performance is a trait that is coveted in every career field. Whether you’re a nurse, lawyer, or food server, much of your career longevity depends on your dedication and focus on the job.

The work day can be long and stressful. However, the psychological and emotional impacts of stress are common detriments which can negatively affect the work performance of many Americans. After work, it’s essential to revitalize your mind and body with exercise and relaxation to help you recover from work stress.

One important way to manage stress is to maintain a healthy diet. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies a healthy, well-balanced diet as an essential component for curbing stress symptoms, while other studies also show nutritious diets help to then increase productivity and performance at work.

The Link Between Stress and Unhealthy Diets  

Managing stress is one way to keeps us healthier, happy, and more productive. Sustaining positive and productive moods are inextricably linked to healthy diets. Yet, studies show that our abilities to make healthy food choices are more likely to become compromised when we’re stressed. The majority of  American adults are overweight and maintain poor nutrition. In fact, the American Psychological Association finds that 27% of adults say they eat to manage stress and 34% report chronic overeating or eating unhealthy foods because of stress. A whopping 50% of Millennials are more likely than previous generations to overeating or unhealthy food consumption.

Why Healthy Eating is Good for Productivity

Oftentimes when we’re stressed, we turn to comfort foods that are high in carbohydrates, fats, and acids. Many of us even overeat unhealthy foods to cope with the anxieties we experience throughout the day.

The Harvard Business Review argues that food has an impact on cognitive performance and why choosing a unhealthy lunch can lead to a highly unproductive afternoon for many workers. This is because food is converted into glucose in our body after we eat. Glucose then provides energy our brain needs to focus on work. When your body runs low on glucose you have a harder time focusing and staying productive.

Different foods are processed at different rates. Carb-heavy products like bread, cereal, pasta, and soda release glucose quickly so you get a spike in energy followed by a sinking lull. Meals that are high in fat, like cheeseburgers and BLTs can offer us prolonged energy, but they require more work from our digestive systems which results in reducing our brain’s oxygen levels and making us feel tired.

Further research recognizes that eating nutritious foods, like fruits and vegetables, is not only healthy for our bodies, but also our minds. The British Journal of Health Psychology found that the more fruits and veggies people consume–up to seven servings a day–the more happy, energetic, and creative they felt.

The reason why people with healthier diets perform better is because natural foods like fruits and vegetables contain essential nutrients that produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is vital to the experience of motivation, engagement, and curiosity. Furthermore, these natural ingredients provide antioxidants that reduce high heart rates, minimize inflammation, improve memory, and enhance mood. As a result our rise in productivity levels may help us achieve more at work.

Foods to Decrease Anxiety & Improve Productivity

The opportunity to achieve optimal work performance is more about making it easier for you to eat healthy during the day. Since some natural foods assist in more positive moods and increased productivity, this guide can help you choose the best foods for your diet:

  • Fresh fruits — Fruits are composed of natural sugars and fibers that can boost serotonin levels which can increase mood and energy. Choose kiwi, tomatoes, plums, pineapples, and apples which are all high in serotonin.
  • Water — The benefits of drinking water are plentiful. Water provides us with oxygen and nutrients that revitalize our brain’s function. In fact, studies show that water benefits our brains by increasing productivity. The natural liquid can also help reduce stress by reducing stress hormones that cause fatigue, high heart rates, and headaches.
  • Vegetables — Rich in fiber and nutrients, vegetables also help boost serotonin levels to stabilize blood pressure and reduce stress levels. Eating vegetables in high Vitamin C can lower blood pressure during high-stress situations and cortisol, a stress hormone. The best sources are kale, broccoli, and potatoes.
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids — Fatty fish, like Tuna and Salmon, and nuts like flaxseeds, almonds, pistachios, are great sources of omega 3 fatty acids which reduce high stress levels and help ward off depression and heart disease.
  • Tryptophan — Tryptophan is also converted into serotonin which helps reduce anxiety and regulate mood. Turkey, eggs, cheese, fish, beans, and lentils are healthy sources to include in your diet.
  • Magnesium-rich foods — Magnesium has been proven to reduce headaches and fatigue. Spinach, soybeans, avocados, yogurt, bananas, and salmon are high in magnesium.
  • Avoid Sugar — Sugar is one of the worst influencers on stress. When sugar is ingested into the bloodstream quickly, it creates an energy high. As sugar decreases, insulin productivity to remove its effects. Avoiding sugar can help you feel more awake and active during the day.

Eating healthy foods won’t completely cure your stress, but it will certainly reduce it. Today, part of sustainable business strategies focus on maintaining a healthy and happy workforce to build innovative environments. If workers can commit to maintaining a healthier diet for both personal and professional advancement, we can see both a healthier and more productive society.