Feeling constantly tired and drained – and not just on a Monday? Add these natural energy boosting foods to overhaul your diet now.
What Causes Lethargy
Hormonal imbalances during our periods, or emotional and lifestyle factors like lack of sleep, stress and depression can cause fatigue-like symptoms. Almost 80% of women feel weak, tired and lethargic from time to time, says Jane Freeman, a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist from Food Equation. Women with medical conditions like thyroid problems, anaemia or irritable bowel syndrome may report feeling drained, too. A poorly managed diet can also exacerbate symptoms of fatigue, adds Rddhi Naidu, a clinical dietitian from Parkway East Hospital. For example, if you skip meals, especially breakfast, you’re more likely to load up on high-sugar snacks or a heavy lunch. This causes your blood sugar level to spike – and when it drops shortly after, you’ll have an energy slump. To give your body an all-day energy power-up, try introducing these foods into your diet.
NUTS – They have an established reputation as a pick-me-up, and are excellent sources of protein and fibre – which work together for sustainable energy release, says Rddhi. Almonds, walnuts and pistachios also contain magnesium, an important nutrient that helps regulate blood cells for energy production. For a quick energy boost after a workout, have a handful of nuts to replenish the electrolytes you’ve lost and prevent fatigue from setting in.
BEANS – “Beans, like kidney beans and chickpeas, are low in fat, high in protein and chock-full of fibre. They give you energy while keeping your blood sugar levels stable,” says Rddhi.
COFFEE AND TEA – “There’s no denying the energy kick caffeine gives, but go for a latte or cappuccino instead of black coffee. The added dairy makes it a high-protein option, and you’ll get double the benefits,” says Jane. If you prefer to go easy on the java, have a cup of green tea instead. This alternative source of caffeine is rich in L-theanine, an amino acid that improves mental alertness and combats weariness.
MELONS – According to Jane, you only need to be 2% dehydrated to feel fatigued. Besides drinking the optimal eight glasses of water a day, you can consume foods with lots of H2O, too. “For example, melons have a water content of 80-90%, and can be a refreshing mid-morning snack or tasty thirst-quencher,” says Rddhi. You can have two servings a day. Opt for whole fruit wherever possible – the fibre may be reduced when it is juiced.
DAIRY PRODUCTS LIKE SKIMMED MILK, COTTAGE CHEESE AND YOGURT – These foods are rich in amino acids – the building blocks of protein – that build and repair our muscles, says Jane. They are also low-glycaemic index (GI) carbohydrates, which means the sugars break down slowly to give you a sustained release of energy throughout the day. Flavoured milk or yogurt has a higher sugar content, so if you prefer it, go for low-fat versions, advises Rddhi.
EGGS – A protein-rich food that’s full of B vitamins, eggs are a great source of energy. But more importantly, they load you up on iron – a mineral essential in the formation of haemoglobin to carry oxygen around the body. “A deficiency in haemoglobin can result in anaemia, where insufficient oxygen is transported to your organs, leading to fatigue,” explains Rddhi.
SWEET POTATOES AND YAMS – “A good source of complex carbohydrates, these are good for stabilising your energy levels because they break down slowly in the digestive system,” says Jane. They are also high in fibre – they keep you full for a longer duration, so you won’t reach for sugary snacks that will trigger the blood sugar “roller coaster”. You can roast or cook them in a risotto, porridge or soup. If you are not used to the taste, you can mix them with regular potatoes to make them more palatable.
MUSHROOMS – “They are full of B vitamins like riboflavin and pantothenic acid, that aid in converting carbohydrates and proteins into energy,” says Jane. Riboflavin promotes energy production, while pantothenic acid supports the adrenal glands which regulate our stress hormones to prevent adrenal fatigue.
AVOCADOS – This fruit is a rare example of a high-fat, low-GI food. It is full of monounsaturated fat that helps lower blood cholesterol levels and is beneficial for the heart. “This fat is similar to omega-3 fatty acids, which have been positively associated with brain health and are linked to improved moods – and energy levels, too,” says Jane.
OATMEAL – Opt for wholegrain or “pinhead” oats. Wholegrain oats have a lower GI, which helps balance blood sugar levels; fi ne, rolled oats, on the other hand, are cut thinner and processed, so the energy turnover rate is faster, explains Jane.
By Cheryl Leong, Simply Her, September 2014