Foods that fuel and fight fatigue
Wouldn't it be great to bounce out of bed in the morning and feel energised throughout the day, every day? Of course it would, but most of us suffer from bouts of daytime tiredness without ever addressing the cause. Here are a few foods that can hinder or help...
Start the day the proper way. Fuelling your body right from the start of your day is vital if you want to stay active. Aim for some protein at breakfast - eggs are ideal, although lean bacon or Greek yogurt are great too, combined with a portion of fruit or vegetables (mushrooms, tomatoes or baked beans etc) and some wholegrain carbohydrates such as an oat-rich muesli, wholemeal toast or porridge. Breakfast eaters tend to have a better mood and are less likely to snack than breakfast skippers, so it could potentially benefit your family or colleagues as well as your waistline.
Popeye was right! While we certainly don't need to be guzzling pounds of spinach, green leafy veg such as spinach and kale are great source of iron. Low iron levels can lead to anaemia, which is more common in men that you may think. Syptoms include low concentration and extreme tiredness, so it's worth ensuring iron-rich foods make a regular appearance in your diet. Red meat, nuts and seeds, fortified breakfast cereals and eggs all have a high iron content.
I dine, you dine, we all (should) dine on iodine! Iodine might not be at the top of the food or vitamins buzz-word list, but it's a pretty important nutrient. Our metabolism is controlled by thyroxine, a hormone made in the thyroid from iodine. One of the main symptoms of an underactive thyroid is tiredness, and iodine deficiency is very common in the UK, especially during pregnancy. Iodine rich foods include milk, yogurt, white fish, shellfish, oily fish and cheese.
Avoid a temporary fix. Grabbing a grande-triple-shot-skinny-caramel-latte may seem like a good idea at the time, but if you have recurring fatigue caffeine could actually be at the root of the problem. Drinking caffeinated drinks (tea, coffee, energy drinks, fizzy drinks and even pre-workout shakes) after mid-afternoon can contribute to a restless nights sleep, which in turn leaves you reaching for the coffee pot before you're even out of bed in a morning. Try cutting down by a cup or two a day and see if your energy levels improve, going 'cold turkey' can have some unpleasant side effects such as headaches and mood changes, so warn those around you if you're planning this!
Afternoon slump? Rather than gobbling down a chocolate bar to temporarily restore your vim, grab a handful of nuts. A 30g serving of almonds, pistachios or walnuts will provide energy-dense good fats, fibre and omega-3 fatty acids while racking up around 160 calories. Regular nut eaters have a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease, so that's something to smile about while you're shunning that Mars bar.
Love it or hate it? Yes, we're talking about marmite (of course other yeast extracts are available). Rich in B vitamins which are necessary to release energy from food, marmite makes a quick fix health snack when spread onto an oatcake or wholegrain toast. Other foods rich in B vitamins include wholegrains, meat, eggs and seafood, green leafy veggies and fortified breakfast cereals.
Keep an eye on the GI. Fibre rich foods such as oats, pulses and wholemeal bread all have a low GI (Glycemic Index) as do protein rich sources such as cheese and yogurt, including these in your meals will help to prevent spikes in blood sugar levels immediately after eating, so you can avoid the post-lunch or dinner energy slump.
Cut back on your portions. If you have more than a few inches to pinch, your body is having to work extra hard to keep you functioning. Reducing your portion sizes if you're overweight is an obvious yet effective way to lose a few pounds. May sure the majority of your plate is filled with vegetables (not fried), with some protein and just a handful of carbs such as wholegrain pasta or potatoes to make significant calorie savings at dinnertime, which may help you feel more energised in the short-term too.