As busy and productive people with over-scheduled, stressful lifestyles—sometimes combined with little quality sleep and poor eating habits—it is no wonder so many of us feel drained.
Saying that you “feel tired” usually describes a symptom; however, it could mean that we’re feeling emotionally burned out. We may have brain fog. Or, it could be actual physical fatigue from not getting enough sleep. All of these ailments are rooted in chronic stress, which leads us to not feel as engaged and focused as we want to be.
By managing inflammation, stress, and oxidation and improving nutrition, we can boost our energy levels. Anti-inflammatory foods boost energy because having too much inflammation in your body can cause the brain to experience mental exhaustion and burnout.
Anti-Stress & Anti-Inflammatory Foods for a Healthier You
The two best anti-inflammatory foods to add to your grocery list are dark chocolate and blueberries. Dark chocolate contains both theobromine, for sustained mental energy, and a small amount of sugar, for reducing sweet cravings induced by the stress hormone cortisol. Blueberries are packed with potassium, vitamin C, and flavonoids, which activate the body’s internal production of antioxidant enzymes for profound anti-inflammatory benefits, particularly for the brain.
The body produces more cortisol when it is exposed to chronic stress, which leads to muscle loss, immune system suppression, and both mental and physical exhaustion. Two of the most effective anti-stress foods are pumpkin seeds and green tea. Munching on roasted pumpkin seeds can have a relaxing effect, from the actual crunching action, and their high tryptophan content, an amino acid that has a relaxing effect in the brain. Green tea contains another amino acid called theanine, which has known physical and mental relaxation effects, the ability to improve mental focus, and the ability to improve a state known as “relaxed alertness.”
For a direct injection of energy, be sure to get your Bs, Cs, and omega-3s! Whole grains are a rich source of the entire family of B-complex vitamins, which are essential for the metabolism of food into cellular energy. Eating more omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish or fish oil supplements has been shown in numerous research studies to support mood and reduce inflammation. Brightly colored fruit and veggies provide cell-protecting phytonutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E, flavonoids, and carotenoids that reduce oxidation and inflammation—both of which can cause cellular damage, drain energy levels, and accelerate aging.
Avoid traditional caffeinated and sugary energy drinks. The high levels of caffeine and simple sugars in most energy drinks can cause an initial blood sugar spike and a subsequent energy crash a couple of hours later. Likewise, refined carbs and processed foods cause inflammation and lead to the destruction of collagen and elastin in the skin—so you’ll look as bad as you feel. Instead, look for the new generation of “feel good” drinks like those that combine flavonoids, theanine, B-complex vitamins, and other nutrients to maintain sustained mental and physical energy levels with the added benefits of stress resilience, improved mood, and sharp mental focus.