How Nutrition Affects Health, Happiness and Performance at Work
Post-pandemic in a world where hybrid working has become the norm, employee wellbeing remains a firm fixture on senior leaders’ agendas. Creating a workplace culture that supports employee wellbeing is paramount to promoting a healthier, happier workforce and reaping the wider organisational benefits such as increased morale, reduced absenteeism, and increased productivity 
So how does nutrition fit in to wellbeing?
Nutrition is the foundation of our wellbeing. What we eat, how we eat it and how we look after our bodies is fundamental in supporting our body to function optimally both physically and mentally. Proper nutrition is also essential for preventing chronic disease such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Ensuring we are providing our body and mind with all the nutrients it needs is a central part of having enough energy to carry out our work tasks, staying focused and productive, being happy in the workplace and building resilience to stress.
Nutrition and Stress Resilience
It is no surprise that stress is one of the main short-term and long-term causes of employee absence. Our ‘stress buckets’ are overflowing with the demands of modern life. But did you know that a poor diet and lifestyle- think high sugar, caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, irregular eating habits, insufficient sleep and inactivity- are huge physiological stressors to the body? By prioritising a balanced whole food diet, getting enough sleep and moving our bodies regularly we build resilience and resourcefulness when it comes to dealing with the demands of day-to-day life.
The fact of the matter is that the physical and mental load of daily life is relentless and when we don’t take care of our nutrition and lifestyle things can quickly spiral out of control and burnout becomes a real possibility. When we are chronically stressed, from mental or physical factors, we are living in a state of ‘fight or flight’, activating our sympathetic nervous system. If we think of our bodies like a bank account, by constantly stressing the body, we will eventually become bankrupt, and more significant symptoms set in. Conversely by paying attention to physical and mental demands and putting in place proper nutrition and lifestyle strategies to support ourselves we activate our parasympathetic nervous system, or ‘rest and digest’ mode, and pay back into the bank account.
When it comes to stress resilience prevention is key. The adrenal glands that produce our stress hormones can burn through nutrients at a rate of knots so getting ahead and prioritising a balanced, whole-food diet can be a game changer. Ensuring we are adequately replenishing our nutrient stores is a crucial part of thriving in the modern world.
Nutrition and Mental Health
Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression remain top of the list for reasons why employees struggle or are absent from the workplace. It is estimated that mental health costs UK employers approximately £56 billion each year. What and how we eat and our mental health are intricately linked. Firstly, our neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) require certain nutrients to work effectively and to remain balanced. Think protein, B vitamins, zinc, iron, and magnesium to start with. These essential ‘co-factors’ are needed not only to produce these neurotransmitters but also for the effective breakdown of them after they have done their job.
Equally important is the role of the gut and its microbiota, firstly in determining the bioavailability of these key nutrients but also in producing the neurotransmitters themselves. 90% of serotonin (the neurotransmitter associated with good mood, learning and memory) is made in the gut!
In fact, the gut and the brain are intricately connected via the gut: brain axis- a bidirectional superhighway of communication between the brain and the gut. Fundamentally, by looking after your gut health by eating a balanced diet with plenty of fibre, avoiding processed foods, managing your stress and so on, you automatically also support your mental health because of this connection.
Healthy fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, and oily fish, are important for brain health and cognitive function too. These fats help to build and maintain cell membranes in the brain, improving communication between brain cells and promoting better mental performance.
So, educating our workforce about how what they eat impacts how they feel, think and operate is a critical element of supporting their overall wellbeing and efficacy in the workplace.
Nutrition, Energy and Productivity
To be at our best at work, with energy, focus and productivity, we need to have sufficiently fuelled our body with the many nutrients it requires. This is not a question of ensuring you’ve got enough calories, but ensuring you have the macronutrients and micronutrients required to perform at our best both physically and mentally.
Understanding how to fuel your body effectively and build resilience will also boost the immune system, reducing the likelihood of illness and time off work. This means that employees are less likely to take sick days, reducing the cost of absenteeism to employers.
Moreover, taking a preventative approach, instilling a workplace culture that allows employees to thrive, is paramount to achieving greater personal and organisational success.
SO where do I come in:
As a nutritional therapist I am passionate about educating people and organisations about the importance of nutrition and lifestyle in health and wellbeing. I offer a range of 1 hour talks, perfect for a lunch time session, geared towards themes that are especially pertinent to the modern workforce. My signature talk, ‘Fuelling Your Success: Nutrition and Lifestyle Tips for Enhanced Energy, Productivity, and Resilience’ is always a big hit.
I also run ‘pop-up’ nutrition clinics in house where I hold 30 minute 1:1 sessions with employees to support them with their health goals. And can provide nutrition and lifestyle articles for your intranet or internal communications.
I like to take the time to understand your company culture and values so that I can provide a service that is effective and supportive of your overall goals. Here’s some lovely feedback from a client I worked with recently:
“After getting in touch with Rachel, she helped tailor the talk to our needs. She made the time to get to know our culture and workspace beforehand and this was really appreciated. The talk itself was brilliant, going into the depths of what nutrition is and looks like, with lots of excellent tips on how to improve your health. The team really enjoyed it and we got some excellent feedback. Rachel’s follow up was also brilliant, with a one pager of tips that were covered and she also sent the best healthy local lunches close to our office. These were helpful to send to the whole office, some of whom couldn’t attend on the day due to client meetings/deadlines, so everyone got to benefit. I couldn’t recommend Rachel enough, we would love to have her visit again.”
By investing in the health and well-being of their staff through nutrition, employers can reap the benefits of a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce. If you’d like to arrange a chat to discuss how I can support your workplace wellbeing strategy, please contact me on email@example.com.
 CIPD, 2022- https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/health-wellbeing-work-report-2022_tcm18-108440.pdf  https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/mental-health-statistics/mental-health-work-statistics  https://mhfaengland.org/mhfa-centre/blog/10-workplace-mental-health-statistics-2022/