Your Diet and Workplace Productivity

Take a second and think about how many teaspoons of sugar you may have eaten today.

I know it's 5:30pm and I've had about 4 teaspoons so far. The average American consumes an astounding 2 lbs. of sugar each week in the form of sucrose (table sugar), dextrose (corn sugar), and high-fructose corn syrup. The overconsumption of sugar causes fatigue that wears the mind and body down. If you see some of your coworkers acting sluggish and tired, maybe they consumed a lot of sugar. Soft drinks and juice have an abundance of sugar content that will wear us out physically and psychologically. These sugars are being processed into so many foods such as bread, breakfast cereal, ketchup, mayonnaise, peanut butter, soda and a plethora of microwave meals.

According to the Chinese principle of balance known as yin and yang, sugar is considered to be "yin" meaning stimulating in its effect. Eating too much of these stimulating molecules could result in hyperactivity, obesity, cavities, allergies, diabetes, cancer and the list goes on. Sugar depletes the body of proteins, vitamins, and minerals creating a toxic metabolite. This toxic metabolite interferes with the respiration of the cells. The mitochrondria are the little factories in our bodies that move nutrients through our cells. Once the mitochrondria are saturated with sugar, they stop performing causing you to come down from a sugar high. Your body is then out of balance with too much yin. Foods that are considered yang, non-simulating in effect, include whole grains, brown rice, buckwheat pasta, a variety of cooked and raw vegetables, beans, mild natural seasonings, nuts and seeds.

Binging on soda and sweets may cause your brainwaves to slow down, hampering your memory and learning ability. Confirming what you eat does affect how you think and feel. According to Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, "Eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain's ability to learn and remember information. But adding omega-3 fatty acids to your meals can help minimize the damage." DHA is essential for synaptic function - the brain cells ability to transmit signals to one another. Our bodies can't produce enough DHA so it must be supplemented through our diet. Professor Gomez-Pinilla has done numerous studies with rats, finding fructose to be the main culprit behind DHA-deficient brain dysfunction in rats. He found eating too much fructose could block insulin's ability to regulate how cells use and store sugar for the energy required for processing thoughts and emotions. Most of our processed foods contain fructose in high-fructose corn syrup, which is added to manufactured food products as a sweetener and preservative.

Adding omega-3 fatty acids in the form of flaxseed oil and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), will protect the brain against damage to the synapses - the chemical connections between brain cells that enable memory and learning. Other foods that contain omega-3 and DHA include fish such as mackerel, herring, salmon, trout, sardines, and anchovies, nuts, seeds, whole grains and dark green, leafy vegetables.

Eating a well-balanced diet that includes all the food groups, getting enough sleep, meditating when you're feeling stressed, communicating when you hit a road block, will help increase your productivity during your work day.


  1. This is your brain on sugar: Department of Neurosurgery Fernando Gomez-Pinilla, a professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA 2012
  2. Minding your Mitochondria by Dr. Terry Wahls ©2011
  3. Sugar Blues by William Duffy ©1975
Susan Rosso, Director of Administration

Susan Rosso is a former 8th Light employee.

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