Report: Eating Plant-Based May Improve Your Mood at Work, Experts Agree
Want to whistle while you work? Go plant-based.
But really, though. A recent survey from City Pantry, a UK-based corporate catering delivery company for teams at the office or at home, found that those who eat a healthy plant-based diet with foods like leafy greens, dark chocolate, and tofu are more likely to be productive and in a positive mood than those who aren’t vegan.
As Food Voices reported, City Pantry recently shared that noshing on nutrient-dense plant-based eats can help with both focus and also mood throughout your workday. 34 percent of workers in a previous City Pantry survey said they eat unhealthy foods three or more times a day even though it has a significant impact on their focus and mood. City Pantry’s “Desk Eating Habits” report from last year also revealed that 34 percent of workers often felt unmotivated at work as a result of their unhealthy food consumption, and 32 percent said they often felt sluggish at work.
Naturopathic physician Tricia Pingel, NMD, shares her reflections on these disturbing findings: “The Pick-Me-Up Productivity Survey found that more people had turned to sugar-laden and caffeine-rich foods for energy during the workweek rather than healthy foods. Specifically, the survey found that drive-thru sugar-filled coffee drinks are a key concern for those commuting to work, and I agree,” she said. “Many people aren’t aware of how much sugar is hiding in these very popular drinks. Some contain upward of 79 grams of sugar!” she offers. The America Heart Association says men should consume no more than nine teaspoons (36 grams or 150 calories) of added sugar per day, while for women that figure is six teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories).
Eating plant-based gives you energy to power through your day
If you want to stay energized throughout the workday (or any day of the week), your lifestyle choices play a key role in that. “It is incredibly important to maintain a healthy routine, get plenty of sleep, and refrain from overeating to maintain focus throughout the week. These sugary drinks are not only having us consume far more calories than needed, but they’re also impacting our sleep patterns,” she continues. “Unfortunately, the very foods we’re turning to in order to get more energy and feel better have been shown to do the exact opposite by causing inflammation that’s known to contribute to depression, anxiety, and exhaustion.”
Echoing Pingel, professor of public health at New Mexico State University, Jagdish Khubchandani, Ph.D., told The Beet, “A lot of people depend mostly on added sugars, meat, carbonated drinks, fast/junk food. People are looking at convenience and taste and making emotional decisions without thinking long term about health,” he said. “As a result, people are lacking in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Americans need more plants (veggies and fruits in their diet). Plant-based diets have multiple short- and long-term benefits,” he continues.
Consider this: “In the short term, when people start gaining weight due to lack of plant-based diets, it makes them less active, less energetic, gain weight, and develop an inflammatory state with growing weight,” he says. In the long-term, eating an unhealthy diet loaded with added sugars, processed foods, and refined grains can have a detrimental impact on your health. “Inflammation across the body for a long term can cause many chronic diseases (e.g., heart disease and pain disorders). This will further make people less productive due to the burden of disease and overall lack of energy and strength,” he comments.
Not only does what you eat affect you on the outside (weight gain, lackluster skin, brittle hair, and nails), but it impacts you on the inside. “A big component of productivity is mental health and emotion/feeling- gaining weight is associated with depression and anxiety,” shares Khubchandani. “People who don't have adequate plants, veggies, fruits may also have negative body image due to weight gain, water retention, and lack of energy.”
To turn things around, a plant-based diet coupled with exercise is one of your best bets.
Below, Pingel and Khubchandani share their top tips for sticking to a balanced, plant-based diet to keep your energy and productivity high.
Expert tips to keep you productive and positive at work
1. Always load up on fruits and veggies at the grocery store.
“Ensure that every time you go to grocery stores you buy fruits and vegetables,” says Khubchandani, adding that you may want to “set a percentage of how much of the total bill should be expended on fruits and vegetables.”
2. Eat plant-based for at least one meal a day.
If you’re not fully plant-based, pick breakfast, lunch, or dinner, every day and “try your best to only depend on plant-based [foods],” says Khubchandani. When you’ve got a grip on that, try upping it to two meals a day.
3. Drink water and eat fruits first thing in the morning.
“Start your day with water and fruits and not several cups of coffee, which people often load up with sugar,” says Khubchandani. These days, we’re loving drinking hot water with lemon to start our days
4. Snack on superfoods.
“Instead of opting for those health-hazard drinks, consider snacking on some plant-based foods known to fight inflammation and boost your mood,” says Pingel. “Walnuts are one of my absolute favorite anti-inflammatory foods because they’re rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to fight inflammation. But that’s not all. A 2016 study showed that college males who regularly consumed walnuts reported improved moods, on average, by an astonishing 27.49 percent.
Her other top picks? Blueberries and avocados.
“[Blueberries have] been shown to boost your mood by increasing joy, interest, and alertness within two hours of consumption,” she says, referencing this research.
As for avocados? “Avocados are a great natural source of B vitamins, which are known to help combat both stress and anxiety. In fact, a 2010 study on 215 healthy men revealed that consuming B vitamins helped decrease their stress levels.”
5. Avoid heavily processed plant-based alternatives to meats and cheese.
“Be mindful that some ‘plant-based’ foods such as alternative ‘meats’ and ‘cheese’ are highly processed, meaning they contain chemicals and additives that can negatively affect your mood and/or energy levels,” she says, urging people to avoid these poor nutrition choices.
6. Drink some green tea.
“If you’re really in need of some caffeine, consider swapping that sugar-filled latte for green tea. By doing so, you’ll be consuming vitamin C, antioxidants, vitamin B, and minerals,” says Pingel. “Plus, you’ll get that little boost you need. Green tea is known for boosting your attention, focus, and memory, making it a great alternative to coffee for those afternoon slumps.” For more on green tea’s prowess, check out this study on green tea’s impact on mood and cognition.