If you're wondering why you're tired after a full night's sleep, or jittery even without a venti latte, the answer might be on your plate. "Marginal nutritional deficiencies may make you feel 'under the weather,'" says Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of Eat Your Way to Happiness. And eating too much of the wrong things can have the same effect, she says. So if you haven't been functioning at 100%, try these foods to give your well-being a big boost.
Eat this to boost energy
Feel like every day is a slog? You may not be getting enough iron. Add in the fact that you lose the mineral when you menstruate, and you may feel groggy and fuzzy-headed even if you don't have a full-blown deficiency.
The remedy: Eat more red meats, fish, and poultry — the best animal-based sources of iron. (Liver contains one of the highest amounts, too, but steer clear if you're pregnant, since its high vitamin A content may be dangerous to a developing baby.) Don't eat meat? Go for soybeans, lentils, spinach, and fortified cereals. Iron isn't as easily absorbed by your body in those forms, but adding vitamin C will help, so enjoy a glass of OJ with those cornflakes.
If you tend to have heavy periods, you're probably losing more iron than the average woman, so be extra sure you're eating plenty of iron-rich foods, adds Carol Haggans, RD, scientific and health communications consultant with the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Eat this to feel calm
You know that caffeine can put you on edge. But here's another source of jitters: too many refined carbsfoods high in white flour (cookies, sugary cereals, white bread, etc.) and stripped of nutrients and fiber that normally keep your blood sugar stable.
"A big dose of refined carbs causes your blood sugar level to soar and an excessive amount of insulin to be secreted by the pancreas," says Alyse Levine, RD, nutrition advisor for Livestrong.com. You may be antsy as a result: think toe-tapping and/or an inability to focus. Then, the extra insulin will make your blood sugar plummet, Levine explains, leaving you feeling sluggish.
To help prevent those drastic spikes and drops in blood sugar, Levine says, your meals and snacks should be based around lean protein, healthy fats, and unrefined carbohydrates. That means loading up on brown rice, whole-grain bread and pasta, whole oats, and, of course, fruits, veggies, and legumes.
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Eat this to get sharp
So you misplaced your car keys. Again. A lack of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12 — both brain-boosting nutrientscould be to blame. "Omega-3s are loaded with DHA, a type of fatty acid that helps promote well-functioning synapses," says Joseph Quinn, MD, associate professor of neurology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland.
Translation: It keeps neurons in your brain firing more effectively. A lack of B12, meanwhile, has been linked with confusion, numbness, and fatigue. Up to 15% of Americans could be low on B12, according to the NIH, in part because some people may have trouble absorbing the nutrient.
Get your brain back on track by chowing down on fatty, omega-3-rich fish like mackerel, trout, herring, tuna, and salmon. To get more B12, try fortified breakfast cereal (many have 100% of the recommended daily value), liver, cooked clams, yogurt, cheese, whole eggs, and ham, as well as fish like salmon and trout. If you're upping your intake of these foods and still feel disoriented, ask your doctor if you should consider having your B12 level tested, Haggans says.
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