Monday 15 November 2021
Do you know the cost of what you and your employees eat?
Nutrition plays a key part in all our lives – the diet we maintain on a day-to-day basis can have significant impacts on our short and long-term health. A poor diet can come with huge costs – employees who don’t eat well are more likely to suffer from illness and be less productive. And it can lead to something much worse… In 2017, poor diets could be attributed to 22% of global deaths worldwide.1
Are you doing anything to help encourage your employees to take the healthy option? An improvement in diet could lead to an increase in productivity, a boost in mood and a lower rate of absenteeism among your staff. And, of course, it could help you tackle rising medical costs.
Nutrition is complex, every individual has different needs and finding the perfect balance can seem impossible… Nonetheless, we’ve dived into four key areas that are important for improving overall wellbeing. Read on to find out some of the science and some practical tips that you can share with your people.
Blood sugar and metabolism
High levels of blood sugar – often caused by a poor diet – is a big contributor to the development of Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is caused by the inability of your cells to absorb insulin or to produce adequate insulin – a major hormone which is essential for allowing your cells to use blood sugar for energy.2
Over one in 20 people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes, with 90% of these cases being Type 2. And indirect costs from diabetes – which measures lost productivity and work from people diagnosed with the condition – are estimated at £9 billion.3
It’s important for multinational employers to develop strategies that will encourage employees to improve their diet and, specifically, reduce their blood sugar levels to lower the risk of diabetes.
But diabetes isn’t the only reason you need to think about blood sugar levels. Did you know that blood sugar levels can have an impact on your employees’ productivity? Even a mild imbalance of blood sugar levels can lead to fatigue, among a variety of other symptoms.4
Tips to balance and maintain blood sugar levels
- Top up protein levels – aim to eat one gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight (add an extra 50% if you’re actively exercising).
- Reduce intake of added sugars.
- Choose suitable carbohydrates, ones that are complex and nutritious, rather than processed food, to avoid spikes in blood sugar – think wholegrains like brown bread, brown pasta over their white counterparts. Nuts, legumes, and vegetables are also great options.
- Include nutritious fats in any diet – oily fish, nuts, avocados, seeds etc.
Be rich in micronutrients
You’ve probably heard that a good diet is one that’s filled with a wide variety of different foods… but do you know why?
In the UK, we’re recommended to eat a minimum of five fruit and vegetables a day because plants contain different compounds, or micronutrients, that have been known to have a positive effect on our bodies. Increasing the variety of plants eaten, whether they are vegetables, fruit, beans or grains, could lead to an increase in cognitive function, a strengthened immune system and a whole host of other positive outcomes for the body.
New studies are emerging that demonstrate the multiple positive effects of fruit and vegetables suggesting micronutrients may play an even greater role on the human body than we already know.5
Tips for increasing levels of phytonutrients
- ‘Eat the rainbow’ – eat various different coloured fruit and vegetables. This will give you a wide selection of micronutrients.
- Aim to have fruit or vegetables with each meal, ideally filling half a plate with the rest of the plate made up by grains and protein.
- Try to limit fruit with higher sugar content likes grapes, raisins, dates, mangos and bananas, and eat more low sugar fruit like berries, apples, oranges, apricots and cherries.
A healthy diet isn’t just about what we eat, but how we eat it.
It’s important to be in a relaxed state when we eat, so getting away from our desks and finding a quiet place to enjoy our food is the best way to do this. Eating when we’re stressed can lead to various digestive issues like indigestion and reflux problems, and can prevent us from fully absorbing nutrients.6
Tips on how to improve eating routines.
- Leave the desk and find somewhere relaxed to eat away from any stress or distraction.
- Allow sufficient time to eat and properly digest food.
- Give the gut a hand by feeding it good food including probiotics and prebiotics to make digestion easier. Probiotics can be things like kefir, kimchi and beneficial fermented foods whereas prebiotics which feed the healthy bacteria in the gut could be things like onions, garlic, leeks and apple skin.
A major cause of lethargy is not being properly hydrated. Water is essential for carrying nutrients to our cells around the body so not drinking enough water can leave us feeling weak and tired.7
And being dehydrated could be a major problem in the workplace, research has shown even mild-moderate levels of dehydration can lead to impaired cognitive function.8
And it’s not just about being at our best and productive, if workers are dehydrated while operating machinery or driving, for example, a dip in concentration could be dangerous.
Tips to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Tips for employers
- Aim to drink a minimum of two litres of water every day and monitor how much
- Drink juices, teas and sparkling water if preferable to still water.
- Drink more water when not eating – this is the most effective way to hydrate the body.
Obviously, what your employees eat and their dietary habits are, ultimately, their choice, but there are a few things you can do to help them forge good habits and make healthy choices.
1 Anon, Healthdata http://www.healthdata.org/news-release/new-study-finds-poor-diet-kills-more-people-globally-tobacco-and-high-blood-pressure (sourced October 2021)
- Educate your people about the health impacts of the food choices they make and ensure they can identify the healthiest options.
- If you provide food in the workplace, aim to choose good quality foods focusing on wholegrains, fruit and non-processed items.
- Ensure you have good kitchen facilities that allow employees to bring food in from home rather than buying food on-the-go, which will likely include added sugars and processed ingredients.
- Encourage your people to take a break, allow adequate time to eat properly and encourage ‘relaxed eating’.
- Provide a selection of drinks (and time to drink them) to keep employees hydrated throughout the day.
2 Anon, Harvard School of Public Health https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/carbohydrates-and-blood-sugar/ (sourced October 2021)
3 Anon, Diabetes https://www.diabetes.org.uk/resources-s3/2017-11/diabetes%20uk%20cost%20of%20diabetes%20report.pdf (sourced October 2021)
4 Anon, University of Michigan Health https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/aa21178 (sourced November 2021)
5 Anon, Fruitsandveggies https://fruitsandveggies.org/stories/what-are-phytochemicals/ (sourced October 2021)
6 Anon, Spatzmedical https://spatzmedical.com/relaxation-in-digestion/ (sourced November 2021)
7 Anon, Harvard University https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/fight-fatigue-with-fluids/ (sourced October 2021)
8 Anon, Hydration for Health https://www.hydrationforhealth.com/en/hydration-science/hydration-lab/hydration-mood-state-and-cognitive-function/ (sourced November 2021)
This document has been prepared by MAXIS GBN and is for informational purposes only – it does not constitute advice. MAXIS GBN has made every effort to ensure that the information contained in this document has been obtained from reliable sources but cannot guarantee accuracy or completeness. The information contained in this document may be subject to change at any time without notice. Any reliance you place on this information is therefore strictly at your own risk.