VIEWPOINT: What you eat hits your bottom line

Keywords Health Care
  • Comments
  • Print

For most companies, medical costs eat up half or more of corporate profits. Employees in poor health hurt the bottom line through sick days and productivity losses from chronic disease, including diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart diseases.

But on a hopeful note, corporate wellness programs often show a high return on investment. Du Pont saw that each dollar invested in workplace health promotion yielded $1.42 over two years in lower absenteeism costs. The Travelers Corp. claimed a $3.40 return for every dollar invested in health promotion, yielding a savings of $146 million in benefits costs.

But not enough companies have gotten that message. This country spends more than $1 trillion on health care per year, according to the National Coalition on Health Care, far more than any other nation on earth. Only 3 percent of spending in the industrialized world goes toward disease prevention.

What we consume affects how we feel just as powerfully as a pharmaceutical drug. One cannot think well and work well unless one has first eaten well. Instead, almost one-third of the work force spends the day snacking while seated at work stations. Thanks to sedentary lifestyles, an estimated 65 percent of Americans will be obese in two years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Catering for the NBA and Big Ten Charters for 16 years taught me that food and performance are profoundly connected. You have to continually ask yourself: “Is this food feeding me or depleting me?”

NBA players considered fruit, veggies, boiled shrimp and sliced turkey “sissy food.” They would walk into the 747 armed with boxes of candy bars and Ding-Dongs, gallons of Mountain Dew, and mountains of deep-fried cheese. But then they noticed their competitors who had changed their eating habits-more fresh, whole foods; leaner and smaller cuts of beef and fish; fried foods cut from the team-had an edge. The Los Angeles Lakers and other West Coast teams were the first to embrace healthful eating. The most dramatic turnaround in win-loss record was our Pacers.

So you’d like your office or company to gain a similar competitive edge? Try a few simple changes in diet:

Feed your brain with the correct fats to think more clearly, stay alert longer and improve your concentration. We need a modest amount of omega 6 fatty acids found in safflower, sunflower, corn and sesame oils and a heapin’ helping of omega 3 fatty acids found in flax, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and tuna. To conveniently get these, pop Norwegian salmon or flax-seed-oil capsules.

Pump up the fish oil. The Docosahexaenoic acid in cold-water fish oil improves brain, your master gland, function and clarity of thought, giving one an edge on the business competition. Omega 3 may also relieve some immune-system diseases and mental conditions such as Alzheimer’s.

Keep portion sizes reasonable instead of skipping meals. Overeating makes us drowsy and accelerates aging.

Occasionally eat Indian foods with ginger and turmeric, which are powerful antioxidants.

Keep a bag of whole almonds and dried fruit in your drawer at work.

Beware of catered foods.

Cut down on dehydrating caffeine and soft drinks (liquid candy). Supplant your coffee with organic green tea.

Take a brisk walk during lunch or stretch regularly through the day.

Occasionally sit quietly, take four slow breaths in through your nose, hold for one second, and let the air out slowly through your mouth. Repeat.

Taking these steps is just good business. A savvy corporate head keeps close tabs on the waistline as well as the bottom line. You’ll feel better, too.

Fowler ( is a whole-foods chef, syndicated health writer and motivational speaker.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.