I’m hearing this refrain a lot among friends lately: I’m soooo tired! Is it life? Politics? Work or family stress? Are we doing too much, trying to absorb too much information, sitting too much, and moving too little? Whatever IT is, I have some terrific food news for you that you can employ to improve that feeling of fatigue.
My little sermonette on sleep
A couple of things, actually. There have been a lot of studies recently showing that sleep is really your best friend when it comes to your brain health. That’s when the janitor comes in and sweeps away the debris of the day. (Did you know you had a mini-janitor?). Sleep is king in brain health. If we DON’T get enough sleep, an interesting thing happens: we crave simple carbohydrates. It’s a wiring thing. I feel so crappy, I’m so tired, I didn’t sleep, I was up until whatever, my sleep was disturbed… I want a bagel!!! Oh god, just give me a pretzel! If I eat that it’s going to comfort me and somehow bring me back to life...
It’s a trick! What actually happens is the body says, I want the sugar, I want the simple carbs, I want the coffee… But it turns out THAT just makes you feel worse! Now you’re dragging around, trying to metabolize the food. That bagel is sitting in your gut, acting like sugar, spiking your insulin, and you’re on a roller coaster. You’re running on fumes. You need premium gas in the tank! When you don’t get enough sleep, it starts the cycle, and you wander around feeling fatigued.
When you’re feeling fatigue, go against that craving! Instead of reaching for the bagel, eat green: green tea, eggs with greens, salads, things that are lighter, garnished with healthy protein. It’s counter-intuitive, for sure, because your body is CRAVING inappropriate stuff. But really, it’s the time to go with the healthier choice. THAT will start to bring you out of your fatigue and your haze.
In addition, I strongly (and lovingly!) suggest shifting your sleep habits, a little bit. This is not easy to do, I know. I’m asking a lot when I say if you went to bed 15 minutes earlier — optimally a half hour, but let’s just say you can swing 15 minutes — you’ll be increasing optimal sleep which happens in the earlier hours. Not eating 3 hours before you’re going to sleep will allow you to digest your food, and is another great habit to cultivate to increase premium sleep, so your cleaning crew can come in and you’ll feel more rested. You’ll be able to make healthier food choices throughout the day — a virtuous cycle, that pays off in wonderful dividends!
These delicious breakfast smoothies come from my buddy Drew Ramsey MD and his terrific book Eat Complete: The 21 Nutrients That Fuel Brainpower, Boost Weight Loss, and Transform Your Health. A great way to start the day!
You might be skeptical about starting your day with four cups of greens, but that will quickly pass. Mixing greens into your smoothies is an easy way to boost nutrient intake. The fiber in the greens plus the protein in the kefir will keep you full longer, and the live cultures in the yogurt or kefir promote overall gut health. To avoid bitterness, be sure your kiwis are ripe, which means they should be soft to the touch. Leave hard kiwis on the countertop for two to three days to ripen.
Kale is quirky; with the right touch it shines like an emerald and tastes delish, but if you ignore a few key steps it can resemble Astroturf. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to get on kale’s good side. Once it’s ripped and stripped it loves a bath in olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. This spa treatment break down the kale’s fibers, making it easier to digest (the olive oil’s fat also increases the bioavailability of kale’s fat-soluble nutrients). I’ve included mint, parsley, quinoa, cumin, and coriander in the dish and added one additional surprise: red grapes. There’s something about chomping on a sweet grape that’s just joyous! And studies showing they may also enhance memory.
I find many people who were previously indifferent to lentils fall in love with them in this recipe! Perhaps because with most salads, you pour the dressing on at the end; but in this salad, the lentils cool off in the fridge in a bath of dressing — in this case olive oil, lemon, and cumin. They absorb all of this wonderful flavor, which is heightened by the addition of red bell pepper, kalamata olives, parsley, and mint. I can tell you for sure this one is a winner!