top of page

The Four Foods that Could Be Influencing Employee Engagement and Well-being

All food we consume has systematic information and nutritional value that directly impacts our physical and mental well-being. Certain foods contribute to elevated stress levels by increasing  our cortisol—the primary stress hormone responsible for regulating our body's response to stress indicators. Therefore, the diet or eating habits we incorporate can significantly elevate or diminish our cortisol levels, impacting numerous aspects of our well-being. For example, a diet high in whole foods and low in processed foods can help maintain a healthy cortisol range.

Foods for engagement and productivity

“In a meta-analysis of cross-sectional studies, greater intake of ultra-processed food was associated with increased odds of depressive and anxiety symptoms” (National Library of Medicine).

Four common foods that can be influencing your stress levels:

1.Added and Refined Sugars:

Added and refined sugars are not only found in candy and sweets as we may directly think of, but are common components of foods like ketchup, salad dressings, and savory items like French fries. These sugars aggravate inflammation and overwhelm the body with a quantity of sugar that it is not accustomed to, leading to an increase in anxiety and unstable mood levels. As we see in kids, and even experience ourselves, consuming these types of sugars may give us some type of energy boost or what is commonly known as a “sugar rush,” but in most cases, this is followed by a rapid decline in our blood sugar levels, causing energy crashes and stress elevation.

So, while that sugary snack we tend to crave might seem like a quick fix, it can actually make us feel worse and make it harder to achieve our daily responsibilities. Opt for natural sugars found in fruits, dates, honey or stevia (in its natural form), that may satisfy the sweet craving but can actually help stabilize energy levels and reduce anxiety.

Stressor Foods

2. Fried Foods:

While we might find fried foods delicious, we should consume them in moderation. Fried foods, such as tempura, empanadas, and fried chicken, are typically high in unhealthy fats that directly contribute to inflammation in the body. This inflammation can aggravate feelings of stress and anxiety. Research, including a 2016 study, found that people who consumed more fried foods were more likely to develop depression over their lifetime.

Healthier cooking methods such as baking or grilling can help reduce these negative effects while still allowing you to enjoy your favorite foods.

3. Processed Foods:

Processed foods, commonly presented in packaged snacks and convenience foods, like chips, soft drinks, cookies, etc., are often loaded with preservatives, additives, and artificial ingredients that can highly impact our stress levels negatively, leading to inflammation in the brain and increased anxiety and depression. Processed foods are usually high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats that can significantly influence brain function, mood, and consequently activate the body's stress response system.

Opt for whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible. Choosing snacks like fruit and nuts instead of packaged snacks can significantly improve mental well-being and reduce stress.

Involvement in Workplace Well-Being

4. Artificial Sweeteners:

Foods that increase stress sugar

Some common artificial sweeteners include aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin, which can alter concentrations of mood-regulating neurotransmitters and disrupt your gut microbiome, crucial for regulating mood and stress levels. The consumption of these artificial sweeteners has been proven by various studies to be a leading cause of increased stress levels and anxiety, as well as symptoms of depression and irritability.

Swap artificial sweeteners for natural alternatives like stevia and honey.

Given the significant impact diet has on stress and anxiety, it's fundamental for corporations to consider how the food environment in the workplace affects their teams. High attrition rates, low employee engagement and therefore high recruitment costs,  are often indicative of deeper issues related to employee engagement and well-being. Similarly, low employee engagement and falling productivity can frequently be traced back to stress-related factors, including poor dietary habits.

Actionable Steps

  • Awareness and Education: Educate employees about the impact of their food choices on stress and productivity. Provide resources and workshops that highlight the importance of a balanced diet and how certain foods can increase or alleviate stress.

  • Healthy Food Options: Ensure that healthy food options are available in the workplace. This could include providing fresh fruit, nuts, and other whole foods as snacks instead of processed and sugary options.

  • Promote Balanced Eating: Offer nutritious meals in the cafeteria and provide information on how to prepare healthy meals at home.

Healthy Foods to relieve stress

By making these changes, companies can help reduce high attrition rates, lower recruitment activities and costs, and boost employee engagement, overall well-being and productivity. Prioritizing well-being in the workplace not only amplifies individual health but also contributes to a more engaged and productive workforce.

Making small changes in your company and giving your team valuable nutritional information can have a big impact on their stress levels and overall workplace culture.

Are you looking to reduce stress and anxiety within your employees to increase employee engagement and overall productivity? Contact us today to create a comprehensive well-being strategy tailored to your employees' needs.


bottom of page