The dietary reasons you are so tired.
In busy lives, fatigue is not uncommon. Many of us work long hours; we are juggling the demands of family and relationships and our nutrition can take a back seat. So here are some of the reasons your diet may be contributing to your tiredness, and the easy ways to fix them.
1. You are not getting enough iron
Low iron levels are extremely common, with up to 1 in 4 women having low iron which can leave you feeling as if you have been bit by a bus. For women who do eat meat, what is not always understood is that you actually need to eat small volumes of lean red meat at least three times each week to give the body access to the high quality iron that is readily absorbed. While there is some iron in plant based foods and chicken and fish it is not overly well absorbed. The other important thing to know when it comes to your iron is that once your stores are low, it can be difficult to restore them from your diet alone, often you will need supplementation or even an iron infusion. So if you are constantly tired and know you do not consume red meat a few times each week, it may be worth a trip to the GP for some iron studies via a blood test.
2. Your Vitamin D is low
Another extremely common nutrient deficiency thanks to our indoor lifestyle and focus on covering up while we are in the sun. As the shorter and cooler days of the year approach, keeping a close eye on your Vitamin D levels is crucial as it is believed that up to 50% of Australians may have low Vitamin D. Low Vitamin D is linked to fatigue, muscle soreness and a number of chronic diseases including neurological disorders and heart disease. The best way to get your daily dose of Vitamin D is to spend time in the sun bit of you do take a supplement remember that Vitamins D is a fat soluble vitamin and as such needs to be taken with fat such as nuts or avocado or olive oil in a meal to maximise absorption.
3. You are not getting enough fresh food
Busy lives means that many meals and snacks can be picked up on the go, and as such we are often not getting enough fresh food on a daily basis. This means that our intake of vitamins, fibre and antioxidants can be reduced, leaving us prone to colds, infection and fatigue. Even if you are busy, make a concerted effort to eat at least one fresh food meal packed with vegetables or salad every single day. Other easy ways to give your diet a fresh food boost include drinking a vegetable juice every day; snacking on fresh fruit and nuts and keeping a broth based soup on hand for a quick, nutrient rich meal on the go.
4. Your carbs are too low
When we are trying to lose weight and ‘be good’ we often cut right back on our carbs ditching the bread, rice, fruit, cereal and pasta in favour of vegetables and lean protein. While this can be a useful dietary strategy in the short term, long term chronically low intakes of carbohydrate basically starve the muscle, which can leave you feeling tired and fatigued and actually less likely to burn body fat. At a minimum the average female will require 100-120g of total carbohydrate each day, and another 20-40g for every hour of activity. Good carb choices including fruits, wholegrain crackers or bread or starchy vegetables as sweet potato and corn if you are trying to avoid processed carbs. When it comes to carbs, we do not need a lot, but we do need some of the right type at the right times.
5. You are eating too much sugar
Milk based coffees, juices, smoothies, soft drinks, fruit yoghurt and snack foods are all packed full of sugar and even if you consider your diet to be reasonably healthy it can be easy to be getting too much of the white stuff. Ideally we want to keep the added sugar in our diets as low as possible, as high intakes of added sugar can increase insulin levels and increase the chance we are storing fat in the liver. This means aiming for less than 20-25g of added sugars in the diet each day, which in food terms means avoiding processed food and added sugar as much as possible. Check food labels and aim for products that contain less than 5g of sugars per serve; avoid products which have sugar listed on the ingredient list and get your sugars from natural foods including fruit and plain dairy.