Eating at Work to Maximise Your Nutrition

Whenever we’re away from home we often have to rely on the microwave oven to heat our meals at work.

But does “zapping” our food in the microwave actually destroy the nutrient contents?

According to the research, the answer is “yes”.

One study in particular published in The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture (2003) found that broccoli “zapped” in the microwave lost up to 97% of its antioxidant content.

Other nutrients that can be reduced during the cooking process include B-vitamins, vitamins C, A, D, E and K, along with certain minerals such as potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium.


Vitamin S:

The Most Depleted Micronutrient in Shift Workers.

As a Clinical Nutritionist, I’m definitely a huge fan of vitamins as the body requires them in order to function optimally, every single day.  Vitamins, otherwise known as a type of micronutrient, are found in the food that we eat and fall into two distinct categories:  fat soluble and water soluble.

Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A,D E & K, and water soluble vitamins include vitamins B and C, all of which play an important role in our health and well-being because dietary deficiencies, can lead to disease.

Given water soluble vitamins are not stored in our body as they are excreted in urine, replenishing vitamins B and C daily becomes particularly important, and even more so for shift workers, as these vitamins help to support our nervous system, and become quite depleted during times of stress.

Unfortunately for shift workers, our body is under constant stress whether our job is stressful or not, thanks to an ongoing and relentless sleep deprived lifestyle.  This is why adrenal fatigue and thyroid conditions are quite prevalent in those who work shift work, because both organs get a hammering during times of chronic stress.

However one vitamin which rarely gets a mention in most nutritional textbooks, yet is severely lacking in those who work 24/7, is Vitamin S.

As in S for ‘Sleep’.

In fact this particular vitamin is way more important than any other type of nutrient – which includes all of the food that we eat, and yes, even the so called ‘superfoods’ that we’re told we must include in our diet.  Green smoothies and all!

Sound a little strange?

Well consider this.  If we starved ourselves for a week (which I’m not recommending by the way), we’d certainly be feeling weak, hungry and a few kilograms lighter.  But if we went without sleep for a week, we’d barely be able to function.

And this of course is the biggest challenge for shift workers.

According to the Victorian State Government, shift workers get on average 2-3 hours less sleep than other workers which is MASSIVE.  No wonder we feel so exhausted!

When we multiply those figures per week, per month and then per year, we end up accumulating a sleep debt we can never pay back.

Research has even shown that after 17-19 hours without sleep, our performance is equivalent or worse than if we had a blood alcohol reading of 0.05 percent!  Pretty scary stuff when you think about it.

So whilst nutrition is incredibly important, the vitamin that I prescribe the most to all my shift working clients is vitamin S.

That being said, as we know, it can be one of the hardest vitamins to acquire when working irregular hours, however making sleep our number one priority – no matter what, is absolutely critical for anyone wanting to sustain a long term shift working career.

Audra x



Better Health 2016, Shiftwork.

Schwartz, T 2011, ‘Sleep is more important than food’, Harvard Business Review.

Shenkin, A 2006, ‘Micronutrients in health and disease’, Postgrad Medical Journal, vol. 82, no. 971, pp. 559-567.

Stough, C, Simpson, T, Lomas, J, McPhee, G, Billings, C, Myers, S, Oliver, C & Downey, L 2014, ‘Reducing occupational stress with a B-vitamin focussed intervention:  a randomized clinical trial:  study protocol’, Nutrition Journal, vol. 13, no. 122, pp. 1-12.

Williamson, A & Feyer, A 2000, ‘Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication’, Occupational & Environmental Medicine, vol. 57, no. 10, pp. 649-655.

Shift Work Nutritional Supplementation:

Do We Really Need It?

Super food - goji berries, chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts and omega-3 capsules

Before I set out on this journey of studying Nutrition, I was fairly adamant (actually my husband would say stubborn), that all we really needed to be healthy was to consume a diet which encompassed a variety of whole foods, void of chemicals and pesticides.

Kind of simple really.

However as I embark on my final year of this degree, and after spending close to 2 years reading peer reviewed research studies on shift workers, I have to admit my views on this have changed – particularly if you happen to work shift work.

My reasons for this are many, some of which include the following:

  • How many of us really eat healthy diets?  If you work 24/7, chances are you often feel too tired to cook and prepare foods that are packed with nutritional punch.  A bowl of pasta or a slice of toast can often appear on the dining table of many a shift worker who comes home after work, too tired to do anything except pop a slice of bread into the toaster or maybe boil some water if we’re lucky!
  • The saying “we are what we eat” is true to a degree, but we’re also what we absorb, and for many of us, this is where shift workers are a little more vulnerable to those who work 9-5.  This is because our meal times differ to the normal circadian phases of gastrointestinal functions (e.g. gastric, bile and pancreatic secretions, enzyme activity, intestinal motility, rate of absorption of nutrients, hunger and satiety hormones etc.) which often leads to malabsorption of nutrients.  This malabsorption can lead to nutritional deficiencies, even if we’re eating well.
  • Sleep deprivation affects our nutritional intake, digestion and absorption of foods which is why digestive problems are one of the most frequently complained conditions experienced by shift workers (20-75% vs. 10-25% of day workers).  Common complaints by shift workers include changes in bowel habits (mainly constipation), whilst others include difficulties in digestion and flatulence, to more severe disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome and peptic ulcer disease.