photo credit: Nadine Primeau via Unsplash

Most of us are just tired.  It’s the times and more. Many of us grab a cup of coffee for breakfast. A donut if willpower is weak. Many of us live on fast foods. We get up each morning, go to work, come home, go to bed. We manage, but never feel great. And while coffee, sugar and other stimulant foods do give a temporary “buzz,” over time they deplete our already low energy…

A former Surgeon General said our diets are largely responsible for our exhaustion. Our food choices affect how we feel and sleep. Looking back on the last ten or so years, there were many times I tried to soothe myself with junk food instead of foods that nourish and help fight fatigue.

Our indulgences caused the height and weight tables to be revised upward because the average person in our country is fatter. Carrying around extra weight is hard work and makes us tired as well.

So, let’s do better, one meal at a time. Eating good food not only tastes great but will energize us and help prevent the onset of many modern diseases. Eating good food helps protect us against premature aging. Good foods are largely the plant and fiber foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, and all those good fats which also keep us slim and trim.

Instead of a smorgasbord of processed, preserved foods, how about sunflower seeds as a snack? How about eating the rainbow for dinner (not Skittles, but the colorful foods that we see in the produce department), and relishing green leafies that grow in dirt? Dessert? Maybe a fragrant pear with a square of dark chocolate. Or Medjool dates. Or a bowl of berries.

Get back to good carbs because they are our muscles’ main energy source. Without good carbs like whole grains, beans, and vegetables like carrots, parsnips, and beets, we feel exhausted. Carbs from white pasta and white bread deplete us and turn into body fat at the same time. So, get back to a good seven grain cereal or oatmeal garnished with hemp, chia, or flax seeds together with a spoonful of ghee.

Carbs, even good ones, should be balanced with protein and fats – of the highest quality. When you combine the three, the good fats break down slowly, giving steady energy throughout the day.

Yams or sweet potatoes are worth emphasizing because they were found to help prevent cell damage, as well as enhance muscle recovery in athletes after intense training when competing in extreme environments (altitude, heat, cold, pollution). They’re also an excellent source of iron. I love to scrub yams, cut off the ends, put on a baking pan in a 425-degree oven, and bake until soft and the sugar starts to run, about 40-45 minutes. They can be eaten warm, room temp or cold. They make an excellent after-school snack.
It goes without saying. “Eat breakfast!”

It goes without saying, focus on foods that are high in vitamin B, the nerve and stress vitamin, which also helps in the metabolic production of energy (some examples of these foods are salmon, tofu, whole grains, green peas, spinach, avocado, eggs, beef).

We need iron to feel energized.  [editor’s note: too much iron isn’t good for you. Feel free to eat healthy iron-rich foods, but only seek iron supplements when you have reason to believe you’re deficient]. Eat pumpkin seeds. Broccoli and spinach. Tofu. Organic liver, have a spoonful of blackstrap molasses, eat quinoa, canned salmon, and red meat. Dark chocolate. To get my iron, I put a tablespoon of liquid chlorophyll in my water each morning. [editor’s note: chlorophyll does not contain iron. However, it may help the body utilize iron].

Lentils, which provide slow-burning energy, are another decent source of iron, also high in fiber and protein. If you make lentil soup for dinner, save some for breakfast or lunch the next day.

I feel good when I eat farm-fresh eggs. Eggs work for me. Maybe it’s because they’re light on the digestive system, and high in protein, which helps sustain energy. They have B vitamins, required for energy production too.

Other foods to make you feel energetic? Macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds, roasted chestnuts (these are available year ‘round ready to eat), those whole grains like oats, spelt, millet, and brown rice (these are high in those B vitamins we talked about above). Combine a whole grain with a nut or seed. The B-vitamins and complex carbs will keep you on an even keel until your next meal.

Chia, hemp, flax, and sesame seeds are favorites in my house. I love that they have protein, fiber, good fat and more. Ask me for suggestions if you don’t know how to use these.

Speaking of good fat, coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). Coconut oil is burned quickly, efficiently and gives energy. Try a dollop in soups, stews, sautés, a spoonful spread on toast. Don’t forget to enjoy an avocado each day. Oh, my goodness, so yummy!

Yogurt with probiotics deserves a place on a list of foods that help fight fatigue. Yogurt is said to help muscles recover after exercise. You might enjoy a cup of yogurt sprinkled with hemp seeds, a cup of blueberries and strawberries, raspberries, or a sliced peach as accompaniment. Unsweetened yogurt of course! Kefir is another terrific choice here. Kefir is another fermented dairy product, but you drink it instead of spoon it.

Repeating myself because I want you to get it — get energy from a grass-fed hamburger or three sunny-side up eggs. Get energy from a baked yam with black beans, steamed greens dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. No matter who you are, there are foods that you can eat that will help fight fatigue. And remember that change in how we feel won’t happen overnight.
I find when I get back on track, eating simply starts to pay off in about five days. It takes about that long for the body to realize that it doesn’t have to spend a ton of energy breaking down junk food. Digestion uses more energy than almost any system in the body, eating simply boosts energy. Really.

For me a simple meal might be a green salad with tempeh or goat cheese. A plate of cut-up veggies like cucumbers, celery, pepper, and avocado together with hummous. Or steamed vegetables and brown rice and lentils. Tofu and stir-sautéed veggies. Or chicken and purple potatoes and steamed broccoli. No engineered foods.

We also get energy by feeding the generators inside our cells called mitochondria that produce energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). The foods we eat, especially those vitamin B-rich foods, feed the mitochondria. Grab a handful of Brazil nuts right now! Shazam!
Protect those generators with supplements too. Some in my regimen are a Co-Enzyme B multi vitamin, CoQ10, alpha-lipoic acid, NAC, and l-Carnitine (which helps the mitochondria use fat as fuel).  

I also take magnesium glycinate. Magnesium is involved in ATP production, and it’s also involved in conversion of glycogen to glucose for use as the body’s fuel during exercise. No form of magnesium absorbs better than magnesium glycinate.

To sum it up, take a good look at the foods you’re using to fuel your bod. Make some changes. Go back to basics. I want us all to feel as if we can climb Mt. Washington. Let’s get to where we want to be. Let’s put on put on those Nikes and take on some hills.