It’s official, we are all exhausted, and if the latest statistics are anything to go by, it’s having a serious impact on our health.
A YouGov poll of 2,086 UK adults for the World Cancer Research Fund found that tiredness was the main reason preventing them from leading healthier lifestyles. It’s a chicken-and-egg situation; we feel tired so we don’t look after ourselves, which makes us feel even more worn out. But you can break the cycle!
Get up and go with these small but significant tweaks to your diet.
It’s the silent energy sapper, with an estimated 1 in 7 women, and 1 in 20 men having some degree of iron deficiency anaemia. The best dietary source of iron is red meat, but for both health and ethical reasons many of us are trying to cut down.
Thankfully, there are lots of plant-based sources of iron – like dark, leafy greens, dried fruit and pulses – which, when combined with foods rich in vitamin C like berries, citrus fruit and tomatoes, can be more easily absorbed by the body.
This salad is a great example… Make a dressing by whisking together 1 tbsp olive oil, the juice and zest of ½ a lemon, 1 tsp honey, 1 tsp dried thyme and a pinch each of salt and pepper.
In a large bowl, place a bag of rinsed baby spinach, ½ can drained chickpeas, 40g finely sliced dried apricots, 100g quartered cherry tomatoes and 40g halved black olives. Pour over the dressing, toss well to coat everything thoroughly. Crumble over some feta cheese to finish.
Because vitamin B-12 is also found primarily in animal products (meat, eggs and dairy), if we aren’t getting enough iron, chances are we aren’t getting enough B-12 either. It’s a nutritional double-whammy because B-12 helps keep your iron levels in a healthy range.
Another superb source of B-12 is oily fish such as trout, salmon and sardines, which also contain vitamin D – another micronutrient that keeps us from feeling tired.
Tinned sardines are a cheap and easy way to boost your B-12, and half a can contains around 4.5mg – three times the daily recommended amount in the UK. You can make your sardines more interesting by adding finely diced onion, a few drops of Tabasco or other hot sauce, and seasoning well before mashing on to wholegrain toast.
There’s plenty of scientific evidence for the energy-boosting effect of certain foods, especially those containing complex carbs, lean protein and healthy fats.
Bananas, oats and nuts are three of the best and they combine deliciously in this fatigue-busting “wake-up” smoothie. There’s also a hit of caffeine from coffee which increases alertness and boosts our inclination to exercise.
Place 1 large banana (peeled and chopped, frozen is even better), 1 tbsp good quality peanut butter (or other nut butter), 1 tbsp rolled oats, 200ml semi-skimmed milk (or other non-dairy milk) and 1 tsp instant coffee, in a high-speed blender. Whizz together for 60 seconds until smooth. Add a drop more milk if it’s too thick.