Unhealthy Food Habits That Impact Stress At Work ―And How To Counteract Them

Occupational stress has become one of the most worrying health issues of the 21st century. It has been exacerbated since the COVID-19 pandemic, as many employees got laid off due to changing company policies. 

Since then, the stats show that worker well-being has remained low, and daily negative emotions are on the rise considering the worsening global situation. Unfortunately, these feelings influence people’s work-life balance, leading to burnout, lack of involvement in family matters, and poor quality of life. 

The real problem is that external factors influence workers’ behavior, so they might not be able to prioritize health properly because some common effects of work-related stress include insomnia, fatigue and trouble concentrating. Additionally, stressed people tend to eat more unhealthy foods as a way to cope, but that affects their performance and wellbeing. Let’s dive into the issue more. 

How does food affect work quality?

Nutrition is fundamental to how we live because it can fill us with energy or make us sluggish. Usually, we’re recommended to approach a well-balanced diet, which promises to improve concentration, energy levels, and the chances of depression. But how true is that?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reveals how poor nutrition is one of the leading causes of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, one of the most challenging conditions to live with. If you consume foods with a lot of sodium, saturated fats and sugar, the likeliness of developing one of these health issues is increasing.

So, it’s only natural that living with a disease, with or without knowing about it, will automatically affect your work performance. Obesity can give you back pain, heart diseases lead to anxiety and type 2 diabetes makes you significantly tired on a daily basis. Depending on how complex your work tasks are, these features can exacerbate stress, and you might not be able to handle them properly.

How can better nutrition fix work-related stress?

Following a systematic strategy, you can create better meals that will not only contribute to a balanced hormonal level but also improve your work performance. For example, antioxidants found in food can determine your likelihood of developing diabetes or heart disease, especially if you smoke cigarettes.

You can get your antioxidants from many sources, like broccoli, carrots, berries and citrus fruits, but you can also find them in fish, turmeric and garlic. Additionally, hydrogen water is a great source of antioxidants and can help mitigate inflammation and boost metabolism. You can introduce it into your diet with a hydrogen water bottle generator from Ocemida that’s compatible with most water bottles. You can drink it anytime, but it is usually recommended to do so before eating and after exercising. 

Micronutrients are also essential, as they help your body produce the enzymes it needs and maintain hormones in balance because they’re basically vitamins. However, many people are deficient in iron or vitamin A, leading to a lack of energy and dry eyes. Micronutrients involve basically everything you need to eat, but in different quantities, so your meals should have more than half carbohydrates, about 35% fats and at least 10% proteins. 

What should you avoid for less stress at work?

While everyone knows what healthy food consists of, you may be surprised to find that a lot of what you consume on a daily basis can raise your stress levels. Refined sugars, for example, can impact your ability to handle stress because they overwhelm your body with more sugar than it usually needs, leading to instability. So, eating fewer pastry desserts, boxed cereals, French fries, and even salad dressings can help.

Processed foods are also to be considered your enemy, mainly when they contain high-fructose corn syrup, as they can increase inflammation in the brain. Chips, candies, packaged meals, and everything else with refined and added sugars must be avoided.

Unfortunately, fried foods, which tend to be a life-saver after a stressful day at work, might also create a detrimental response in your brain that can lead to developing depression. Most of these foods are fried in unhealthy fats, so you can instead eat healthy fats, like avocadoes and introduce more olive oil in your diet to fulfill the exact nutrition needs. You can easily do it by diversification.

How can you diversify your diet?

Diet diversification implies making a plan to introduce as many different ingredients in your meals as possible based on your budget, health conditions, and allergies. Diversifying your meals will close the nutrient gaps in your body and help you absorb all the vitamins and minerals you need for a healthy brain and body.

You can start by researching foods that are effortless to diversify and cook so you’ll be less likely to get bored of them. Salads, soups and smoothies are the easiest to prepare, and you can basically introduce all kinds of ingredients to nurture health.

Another helpful tip is to choose a specific color for your weekly plan to make things fun. For instance, in the red week, you can consume more tomatoes, red peppers, beets and apples. On the other hand, in the purple week, you can have eggplant, figs, blueberries and plums.

Ideally, you could try meal planning, which is also stress-free for the week and can help you stay on top of a budget. This technique involves buying foods in bulk, cooking at the end of the week each breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and freezing them. Meal planning also makes it easier to avoid processed foods because you’ve already cooked something delicious and nutritious, so you can combat impulsive eating when feeling stressed.

How stressed are you at work?

Work-related stress significantly alters our wellbeing and quality of life, especially when we don’t do enough physical exercise and eat unhealthy foods. Yet, you can lower stress and enhance your brain strength by eating the right foods, including meals high in antioxidants and micronutrients that fight inflammation and the prevalence of stress-related diseases. At the same time, you should avoid processed and fat foods.

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Author

Badar Javed

Badar Javed is an experienced safety industry professional with more than 10 years of service, specializing in the development and management of safety protocols across various sectors, including construction and oil refineries. His work has been pivotal in ensuring the protection of employees and customers through effective safety measures.