Is your diet responsible for making you tired?
IN BUSY lives, fatigue is not uncommon - many of us work long hours, juggling the demands of family and relationships, while nutrition takes a back seat.
Here are some of the ways your diet may be contributing to your tiredness, and the easy ways to fix them.
Low on iron?
LOW iron levels are extremely common - up to 1 in 4 women has low iron - and it can leave you feeling like you've been hit by a bus.
Meat eaters 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, chicken and fish, it is not overly well absorbed.
Once iron stores are low it can be difficult to restore them from diet alone - often you will need supplements or even an iron infusion.
If you are constantly tired and know you don't consume enough red meat, it may be time for a trip to the GP and a blood test.
Low on vitamin D?
THIS is another 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 up to 50% of Australians may have low levels of the vitamin.
Low vitamin D is linked to fatigue, muscle soreness and a number of 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, but if you do take a supplement, remember vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and needs to be taken with fat such as nuts, avocado or olive oil to maximise absorption.
Low on fresh food?
BUSY lives means 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 our intake of vitamins, fibre and antioxidants can be reduced, leaving us prone to colds, infection and fatigue.
Make an effort to eat at least one fresh food meal packed with vegetables or salad every day.
Other 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.
Low on carbs?
WHEN we are trying to lose weight, we often cut right back on our carbs by ditching 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, in the long term, chronically low intakes of carbohydrates basically starves muscles, 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 include fruits, wholegrain crackers or bread, or starchy vegetables like 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.
Too much sugar?
MILK-based coffees, juices, smoothies, soft drinks, fruit yoghurt and snack foods are all packed with 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 dairy.