Top 10 foods and antioxidants to fight fatigue

By Stephen Eddey, nutritionist and naturopath, Principal of Health Schools Australia

Are you always yawning once 3pm rolls around? Or maybe you’re getting enough sleep but still waking up tired. The old adage ‘you are what you eat’ may sound outdated, but unfortunately it couldn’t be more accurate. If you’re relying on caffeine to get you through to 3pm, skipping breakfast or not nourishing your body with adequate nutrients, it’s worth considering that the reason you’re experiencing fatigue is that your body’s fuel sources (nutrient stores) are depleted. Before resorting to the office vending machine, consider what your body may be missing, and reach for one of these energy-boosting foods or antioxidants instead. Incorporating the following into your diet throughout the day may be just the thing to keep you powering through until clock-off.

10 energy-boosting foods to fight fatigue

cacao, hot chocolate, cacao hot chocolate
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1. Cacao

There’s a reason this ingredient has started popping up in every protein bar and superfood snack you see – it’s one of the most antioxidant-rich foods on the planet. Sadly, your average, store-bought piece of chocolate is made from cocoa – cacao that has been roasted at high temperatures. Raw cacao has a strong, bitter, dark chocolate taste and is capable of boosting particular neurotransmitters that promote a sense of wellbeing – making it a mood booster. Try adding this ‘feel good’ food to milk, find a recipe here.

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2. Ubiquinol

You may or may not have heard your doctor speak about the benefits of CoQ10, an antioxidant that is naturally occurring in our body. The majority of CoQ10 in our body is in the form of Ubiquinol and is responsible for not only providing our cells with energy but fighting free radicals, fighting inflammation, maintaining healthy cholesterol and strengthening our hearts. Our Ubiquinol levels naturally decline as we age, starting at age 30, and earlier if we’re stressed and physically active. So if you’re burnt out, there’s a good chance your cells are actually depleted from the energy they need – Ubiquinol. You can find it in food, but you’d need to eat 50 cups of spinach to meet your daily recommended intake, so it could be worth asking your health care practitioner about daily supplementation.
blueberries, energy foods, blueberry cheesecake

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3. Blueberries

You probably know this one already – healthies have been touting blueberries for years, as they’re one of the most potent antioxidant-rich fruits available. What’s even better is that freezing blueberries doesn’t destroy the beneficial anthocyanin antioxidants, which may help with both cognitive function (which we all need a little more of post-3pm) and decreasing age-induced oxidative stress.

garlic, aged garlic extract, garlic bulbs
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4. Aged Garlic Extract

We already know that garlic supports healthy immune function, is alkalising in the body and is loaded with nutrients such as zinc that help keep your bones healthy. Recent studies however, have also shown that an advanced form of garlic, Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) has all the beneficial and enhanced antioxidant effects of raw garlic, but without the garlic odour.
Aged Garlic Extract was developed just after WWII when German Professor, Dr Eugene Schwell was tasked with restoring the energy levels and overall health of the Japanese population. He introduced the popular Japanese practice of ageing and fermentation to garlic and found it increased the garlic’s potency beyond its natural levels.

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5. Dark Chocolate

Many experts say that chocolate cravings indicate magnesium deficiency, as dark chocolate (read: not sugar-laden) contains a significant amount of this nifty mineral. Two thirds of Australians are magnesium deficient. As magnesium is responsible for controlling the release of enzymes which dictate both energy and stress, a depletion can actually create serious stress and nervous tension, as well as anxiety and insomnia. Do you suffer low energy, eye twitches, or find yourself jolting awake with a ‘falling’ sensation as you go to sleep? These are tell-tale signs that you’re magnesium deficient so tuck into some of the dark stuff and try these sleep-happy apps.

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6. Tea

Green and white teas actually contain caffeine, but instead of giving you a ‘jolt’ like coffee, it is more of a sustained, slow release. Both green and white teas are also chock-full of antioxidants that fight inflammation, and are often a great way to make the switch away from excessive coffee.
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7. Leafy Greens

Dark, leafy vegetables (think kale, Brussel sprouts, and spinach) are all rich in iron. Iron deficiency can wreak havoc with your energy levels, and many women are prone to such deficiency. Leafy greens also contain folate, which is often deficient in those suffering from depression. Try incorporating a serving with each meal- yes, even breakfast – and see the effect it has on your overall health.
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8. Water

I promise I’m not scraping the bottom of the barrel with this one! Dehydration actually has a profound effect on energy levels. When we are dehydrated, our body has to work especially hard to perform the most basic of functions: regulating body temperature, circulating blood and more. If you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already dehydrated, so sip consistently throughout the day to maintain energy levels.

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9. Bananas

It may seem like a no-brainer, but there’s a reason why runners often carry these for marathons. Bananas are full of fructose and glucose, both of which are rapidly digested and converted into energy, providing you with a quick boost. Alongside this, bananas contain ample amounts of potassium, a muscle sustaining protein making them perfect for a mid-afternoon snack, before your late afternoon gym session.

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10. Curcumin (turmeric)

Turmeric lattes seem to be the latest rage at every hipster café, and they’re more than just a fad. Turmeric contains curcumin, which has incredible anti-inflammatory effects and cognitive-boosting properties. Many experts believe it’s no coincidence that India, where turmeric originates, has some of the lowest levels of cognitive decline in the world. Recent studies have also shown curcumin to have mood and energy boosting properties.¹
Eating energy boosting foods may sound too good to be true, but if you think about it, increasing your intake of the above will leave little room on your plate for processed, sugar-laden and caffeinated food, which is steadily sapping away at your energy levels and overall health. Consider a holistic approach to energy, as opposed to a quick fix, and feel yourself begin to glow!

¹J Psychopharmacol. 2015 May;29(5):642-51. doi: 10.1177/0269881114552744. Epub 2014 Oct 2.


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