Find this article and others about Integrative Nutrition on the author’s website: jenunruh.com.
Chronic fatigue is one of the most common health concerns that plague working adults.
When we feel tired, it can be expressed as sluggishness, malaise, brain-fog or lack of motivation. While it can feel like fatigue is just a byproduct of a busy and demanding life, on a biological level, fatigue is often a sign that our body is not nourished properly.
So what’s going on?
At any given moment there are thousands of chemical reactions simultaneously occurring in our bodies, allowing us to blink, breathe, think, decide, move and digest. Each of these processes requires a slew of nutrients. Fat, protein, carbs and water are the tip of the iceberg. Beneath those are the vast range of micronutrients – vitamins and minerals – that are required to support every step of the way.
When this is put into the context of the typical American diet, one that is full of calories but void of nutrient-density, we begin to see why many people feel fatigued.
To add insult to injury, caffeine is usually the first thing we reach for when we’re tired. This works as a short-term kick, but caffeine is borrowed energy, and eventually we have to pay it back.
But why can’t we just take vitamins, you ask?
Vitamins are a great supplement in many cases, but the reality is that our bodies thrive on whole-food nutrients. We need to eat the whole form of foods so our bodies recognize and assimilate nutrients correctly.
Nature has engineered foods to possess an intelligence that our bodies recognize and utilize. For example, avocados are full of healthy fat but they’re also full of L-carnitine, a protein that is required for fat metabolism (this is no mistake).
So what kind of foods should we be eating (and avoiding) to prevent chronic fatigue?
An ideal diet to support energy and wellness is a whole foods, largely plant-based diet. The more colorful your plate, the more nutrient rich your meal. Whole-plant foods provide a rich supply of supplementary nutrients; fiber that feeds our microbiome, supporting our immune health; and antioxidants that help us recover quickly and promote long-term health.
Processed, packaged and refined foods are not only empty of nutrients, but they are also damaging to our bodies, promoting inflammation and chronic disease. Protein-heavy meals require a large amount of energy and are difficult for our bodies to digest (the real reason you want to nap after your Thanksgiving meal).
So, in your search for relief from fatigue, look to whole foods, focus on plants and remember to stay hydrated. Doing so will bring more energy to your busy days and more enjoyment to your relaxing ones.