Feeling tired all the time? These foods can really help
When the clocks went back an hour at the end of October, we entered the long tunnel of winter.
At this time of year, we find ourselves feeling more tired. That’s because our bodies produce more of the hormone melatonin in response to the darkness, which makes us feel sleepy. The best way to combat those feelings is by incorporating at least 20 minutes of exercise into your day, cutting back on processed food and eating a healthy and balanced diet.
However, if you find yourself craving a nap under the desk by mid-afternoon and struggling to keep your eyes open on the commute home, there are certain foods you can add to your diet to boost energy levels.
Here are some of the best fatigue-fighting foods you can eat this winter.
Know your oats
When it comes to energising foods, whole grains come out on top. Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy but whole grain carbohydrates, like oats, release energy slower and provide you with a prolonged boost for the day, not to mention satisfying your appetite until lunchtime.
A study from the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found that people who eat a breakfast high in complex carbohydrates (whole grains) feel more alert during the day than people who just eat a breakfast high in fat.
It’s important to note that not all oats are the same. When shopping, aim for the least processed oats (pinhead or steel-cut oats). They have a similar appearance to rice and they must be soaked overnight. The trick is to source the biggest oats possible. The most common breakfast oats are rolled but the more fine and powdery they are, the more processed they are.
That being said, it’s best to avoid “instant” oats or microwavable tub versions. Also, think carefully about toppings. If you’re drowning your porridge in sugary toppings like jam and honey, you’re going to cancel out the energy-boosting benefits.
The good fats
If you’re feeling tired because you’re not sleeping well, increase your intake of good fats. Hormones are made from fat and if we don’t get enough good fats in our diet, certain hormones can become imbalanced. Incorporate more avocados and oily fish like mackerel and salmon into your diet.
Nuts and seeds are full of good fats and are great at beating fatigue and fighting hunger. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that nuts can maintain energy levels and increase your satiety. Try almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.
Think about portions though. You should only eat about 28 grams per day - about the size of what would fit in the palm of your hand.
The usual suspects
We’re constantly being told that we’re not eating enough leafy green vegetables and that’s true, especially if you’re feeling tired all the time and it is not caused by a medical condition. Incorporating more green leafy vegetables into your diet is the single most important change you can make to the way you eat. We were going to put this point at number one but people tend to roll their eyes when they’re told to eat more vegetables.
Cabbage, kale and spinach are excellent sources of iron and vitamin C (which helps your body absorb iron) and an iron deficiency is one of the greatest threats to our energy levels. Other dark green, leafy vegetables include broccoli, collard greens, lettuce (all kinds), Swiss chard and watercress. If you hate the taste and find them boring, you can blend them into smoothies and sauces but unfortunately, if you want to experience the real benefits, you have to chew your vegetables.
Other iron-rich foods include lean, red meat, eggs, and pulses like lentils and beans. Finish off your dinner with a dessert that’s rich in vitamin C because, as we said before, your body requires it to absorb iron efficiently. If your main course contains lean, red meat and green leafy vegetables, try a dessert of fresh citrus fruits or natural juice such as grapefruit, mandarins and limes for an A1 result.
Coffee is a stimulant that increases alertness and boosts energy levels but coffee is a complex beverage. It gives you a kick in the morning but it can leave you crashing by noon. That’s because the caffeine in coffee blocks receptors in your brain from receiving adenosine, which is a neurotransmitter that causes fatigue.
However, it doesn’t stop your body from producing adenosine, so when the caffeine wears off you’re hit with a build-up of adenosine that will make you feel sleepy. Try swapping it out for herbal teas which can help you to feel more relaxed or, even better, water. Since your body is made up of two-thirds water, even slight dehydration can leave you feeling lethargic.
Vitamins and supplements
If you’re not getting enough energy from your food, you might consider taking a daily supplement. Daily multivitamins such as Wellwoman Vitabiotics contain a wide spectrum of micronutrients for all-round nutritional support such as vitamins B6, B12, iron, copper, folic acid and selenium, which all help to maintain normal energy release and combat tiredness and fatigue. They’re specifically designed for women (BBC presenter Tess Daly is the brand’s spokesperson) and they also contribute to the maintenance of normal hair, skin and nails. Take one with a glass of water every morning to see the benefits.
It’s important to note that prolonged feelings of fatigue can be the result of a medical condition so if you find yourself feeling like this and changes to your diet don’t help, it’s always best to seek medical advice.
Vitabiotics Wellwoman is an advanced range of women’s vitamins, specially designed for the specific needs of women. Wellwoman Original has been formulated for the demands of modern life and to give support to the areas of health which are of most relevance to women. The comprehensive daily multivitamin contains a wide range of nutrients and trace elements, including evening primrose and starflower oil.
Wellwoman vitamins include vitamins B6, B12 and iron, which contribute to normal energy release and immune system function. Wellwoman Original is available in Boots, Superdrug, Tesco, SuperValu, supermarkets, pharmacies and health stores including Holland & Barrett. Alternatively, you can order online here.