Do you suffer from fatigue and find yourself trying to make sense of which foods to eat and which to stay away from?
I know the challenge of wading through the maze of what is healthy and what is not all too well. I was in the same situation not too long ago.
Let me see if I can lend a hand 😉
First, I want to say good for you for doing some digging! Keep at it!!
Next, no matter the exact cause of fatigue (because there can be a number of causes), the foods you eat every day have a huuuuuge effect on how you feel!
When I felt fatigued every day I had no idea that foods were partly to blame. I knew that I needed to eat healthy foods- everyone knows that, right? And I thought I was. Turns out some of the healthy foods I was eating were not so healthy for me. Maybe you’re experiencing the same thing?
Foods Can Wreak Havoc
Many people know someone who has a food allergy. For those people, foods definitely have an effect on their health. Offending foods can cause anything from digestive upset to anaphylactic shock.
But even if you don’t have a severe allergy, you may still want to consider making a change in what you eat. Even foods considered to be healthy can cause issues for some people because of undiagnosed food intolerances, poor digestion, or leaky gut. It is also possible that the food you have been told is healthy really isn’t.
When Food Isn’t Healthy
If you have fatigue (or any other health issue) it is essential to feed your body the foods that it needs in order to nourish, heal, and repair. This seems like an easy task to accomplish but, sadly, it’s not.
We are told through commercials, advertisements, and even healthcare professionals what makes up healthy food choices. But much of what we’re told is wrong.
The information and advice that we are typically given can cause inflammation, leaky gut, yeast overgrowth, fatigue, and a number of other health conditions.
Why? Because many of these foods are devoid of nutrients. They are also high in sugar, ultra-processed, full of artificial colors and sweeteners, and loaded with chemicals.
Foods To Avoid
Since we are examining the topic of fatigue and the role that diet plays, it just seems fitting to give a list of foods you may want to reconsider.
1. Fast Food
Ok, most people know that fast food burgers and fries aren’t healthy. But what about a salad and a yogurt parfait? Sorry, still not healthy!
These items contain poor quality meats and dairy, bad fats, unexplained natural flavors, and a lot of sugar. All of which can contribute to gut problems, blood sugar issues, and inflammation.
What To Eat Instead: If you are on the go and need a snack or meal, the best option is to bring a cooler with food. The second best is to stop at a grocery store and buy foods like fruit, veggies, nuts, or meat and cheese (organic is best!). Some grocery stores even have salad bars that would be an option in a pinch.
2. Refined Carbohydrates
What is a refined carbohydrate you ask? Bread, pasta, cereal, doughnuts. You get the idea.
You may be wondering why these are on the naughty list, after all, the USDA tells us that about 1/4 of our plate should be grains. Well, these foods are quite processed, can contain high levels of gluten which is HARD on the gut, and are typically not properly prepared.
Also, when processed and refined carbs are eaten, they can spike blood sugar levels much like a candy bar. The body turns refined carbs into glucose which causes blood sugar levels to rise.
You may hear some say that “good carbs” like whole grain products are better, that’s not really true either. Processed is processed.
What To Eat Instead: Opt for non-processed carbohydrates. Sweet potatoes, squash, zucchini noodles, apples, berries, an occasional banana are all fantastic carbohydrates.
Oh sugar, how I love thee. Let me count the ways.
Yep, I don’t like to admit it but I love sugar. Not so much in junk food or candy (I do love chocolate though!), but in other foods. I like ketchup, dried fruit, those “healthy” green juices at the store. I could go on.
The problem with sugar is that it feeds bad bacteria in your gut and can throw off the balance causing the bad to overtake the good. It also increases your blood sugar, increases triglycerides, causes weight gain, and negatively effects teeth. And it’s in EVERYTHING!
What To Eat Instead: Try making your own dried fruit, healthy juices, or baked goods. For baking, small amounts of honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar are great options!
Also, once you start eating less sugar you can typically cut the amount in a recipe and it will still taste good. Or, when you get a sweet tooth, opt for a piece of fruit or a few berries.
Alcohol is definitely one to remove from the diet if you are dealing with fatigue (or anxiety, panic, or depression). Even though a nice cold beer or a delicious mixed drink tastes great on a hot summer day, the alcohol can wreak havoc on a struggling body.
Alcohol can cause problems with the liver, blood sugar, bones, heart, and almost every other part of the body. And if the drink is mixed it is very likely full of sugar.
What To Drink Instead: Love relaxing with a drink after work or enjoying a night out with friends? You could always try getting together and making your own drinks, at least that way you can cut down on the amount of sugar in mixed drinks. These fruit infused water recipes are great for making your own. Or, you could have fruit water or another drink of your choice and just enjoy good company 🙂
5. Poor Quality, Processed Meats
Who doesn’t love a good hot dog or hamburger? I do! Especially in the summer 🙂 But these processed meats can cause inflammation, are often low quality, have preservatives, excess sodium, and may contain nitrates. Just an FYI, nitrates have been linked to certain cancers.
I don’t know about you but I don’t love hot dogs or hamburgers enough to ingest all of that other stuff!
What To Eat Instead: Find reputable sources for your meat. Your local organic farmer is a great place to start! If you do a little searching I’m positive you will be able to find high-quality meats that have been fed and cared for properly, and that do not have preservatives or nitrates.
If you’re looking for local food sources a great place to start is your local farmer’s market or you could look on the Local Harvest website.
Margarine is not a food, it is a food-like substance. It is made to resemble butter but is nothing like it. This butter imposter is often made with low-quality oil and contains trans fats. These trans fats can raise cholesterol and stress the liver.
What To Eat Instead: Butter! Real, organic, grass-fed butter! You could also opt for a healthy oil like coconut, olive, or avocado oil for cooking.
7. Vegetable Oils
We’ve already talked a little about vegetable oils (margarine) but vegetable oils themselves are not healthy. These oils are often used for cooking, frying, and greasing pans. I have heard that vegetable oil can be used for squeaky door hinges as well. You name it, (apparently) vegetable oil can do it!
That doesn’t mean we should really be eating it though. Vegetable oils are highly refined, often from GMO crops, and oxidize when heated causing trans fats. Trans fats are not good for arteries, cholesterol, or a body in general.
What To Use Instead: Coconut oil and avocado oil are great for frying. Olive oil is beneficial when used on lower heat or for salads or other cold dishes.
8. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s)
GMO’s are plants or animals that have had their DNA altered or modified. These modifications end up making products that are not known to nature. Since safety is unknown, it is a good idea to stay away from anything that is considered genetically modified. In fact, many countries require the labeling of GMO foods or have outright banned them altogether due to safety concerns.
What To Eat Instead: GMO’s are in almost every prepackaged and prepared food. To limit exposure consider buying organic products and getting food from a reputable source. Also, ditch the boxed and prepackaged items!
I know, “milk does a body good”, right? Nope, not so much. Dairy from conventional farms is often ultra-processed, from cows that have cramped living conditions and are fed foods that are not appropriate. The processing removes any and all good bacteria (along with any bad) and synthetic vitamins are often added.
Not to mention, some dairy products like flavored yogurt, are extremely high in sugar and contain food colors and artificial sweeteners. All of which are inflammation-inducing substances.
What To Eat Instead: Be sure to look for a reputable source and products (a good place to start is a local farmer). You could also consider making your own butter, cheese, and yogurt, it’s actually not too hard and is a lot of fun! If that’s not an option look for organic, grass-fed products at your local grocery store.
10. Large Fish
If you’re a fan of fish you might want to think about ditching tuna and sticking to smaller types. The problem with fish is that the larger the fish, the more likely it is to have higher levels of mercury. Mercury is not something you want to add to your diet. It is known to be one of the most toxic substances and can move through cells in any organ or tissue.
What To Eat Instead: Fish like salmon, trout, or whitefish are generally smaller and have lower levels of contaminants. These would make good substitutions for larger varieties.
Caffeine can be a hard one for some to give up. I remember giving it up and even though I wanted to, it still wasn’t easy! Caffeine in small amounts (from healthy sources like organic coffee) is probably fine for healthy folks, but for those who are struggling it’s probably causing more problems than it’s worth.
Caffeine is most often found in coffee, energy drinks, and soda. Energy drinks and soda are usually loaded with sugar, artificial colors, and other sweeteners. Coffee is typically chemically processed. All of these chemicals in these drinks, along with the caffeine, can take a toll on a body.
What To Drink Instead: Kicking the caffeine habit isn’t easy but if you stick with it you will find a healthier drink you like just as much.
Water is always a great option. You can add lemon or a little apple cider vinegar for flavor. If that doesn’t do it for you, what about some organic tea? You could drink it cold or hot. For an occasional treat, you could also look into sparkling water that is flavored with real fruit. You can buy it or make it yourself.
12. Diet Drinks
Diet drinks can include soda, powdered mixes, or diet energy drinks. These are kind of like margarine, they are beverages but are devoid of any nutritional value.
Diet drinks are often loaded with artificial colors, sweeteners, and contain a mix of chemicals that really shouldn’t be ingested. These drinks have been linked to cancer, kidney damage, obesity, and can cause bones to become weak. Yikes!
What To Drink Instead: My suggestions would be the same as above- water, tea, or an occasional sparkling water with fruit.
13. Protein or Granola Bars
Protein or granola bars are often seen as healthy, but really they often contain a large amount of sugar, GMO’s, and processed oils. These ingredients can cause inflammation, blood sugar spikes, and other health issues mentioned previously.
What To Eat Instead: If you love the portability and convenience of these bars you could always make your own. That way you can control the ingredients and sugar content. If making your own isn’t an option, consider snacks like organic meat sticks or jerky, fruit, veggies, or cheese from healthy sources.
14. Fruit Juice
Fruit juice is often thought of as a serving of fruit. But consider this- many juices available in the store have a little fruit juice, extra sugar, and added colors or flavors. Even if the juice is from 100% fruit, it is still missing the fiber and is just the juice. Did you know: A glass of orange juice has the same amount of sugar as a can of soda?!
What To Drink Instead: Water. It really is the best thing for a healthy body. Nice, refreshing (and filtered!) water is just what a body needs.
15. Canned Soup
I cannot tell you how many cans of soup I have eaten in my day. It is relatively cheap, easy, and really quick. I wish I knew then what I know now :/.
Cans of soup may claim to be healthy, but they are usually far from it. First, they are packaged in cans that are lined with BPA. Also, they are typically full of sugar, salt, GMO ingredients, and poor quality bits of meat.
What To Eat Instead: Homemade soup is a perfect option! Throw a few ingredients in a crockpot or Instant Pot along with some gut-healing bone broth, and with little effort, you will have a meal (or a few meals) that is healthy and nourishing!
16. Soy Milk
People drink soy milk for different reasons, but if you choose it because you feel it is better than cow’s milk you might want to reconsider. Soy milk is typically loaded with sugar, can be made with GMO soybeans, has “natural flavors” (which are not usually natural) and other additives. Soy is also known to cause or contribute to hormonal issues because it is considered by many to be an endocrine disruptor.
What To Drink Instead: Sorry, I know I’ve said it way too many times, but the best thing to drink is water. That doesn’t really help if you’re looking for a milk product or substitute though. If milk or an acceptable substitute is needed try a local farm, an organic option from a reputable company, or making your own.
Some people make homemade almond, rice, or coconut milk with organic ingredients. Here is a rice milk recipe that looks really simple and much healthier!
17. Anything Low-Fat
If something says “fat-free” or “low-fat”- run away! Seriously, put it back on the shelf, my friend, it’s total junk. These “foods” (and I use that word loosely) are nothing more than a chemical cocktail of additives, preservatives, sugar, and who knows what else.
What To Eat Instead: Choose the full fat or least processed version. If it’s milk, yogurt, or cheese choose the organic, grass-fed, full fat, whole milk product. If it’s snacks or convenience foods- choose a whole food snack like fruit, veggies, a hard-boiled egg, or jerky.
Other Sneaky Food Ingredients To Avoid
In addition to the foods already listed, there are a few ingredients that you might want to eliminate to increase health. These products have been found to cause liver problems, disrupt the connection between the gut and brain, cause neurological problems, increase insulin and blood pressure and more.
These ingredients will not help your health in any way but may very likely cause health issues if eaten regularly.
The ingredients and additives are:
- High Fructose Corn Syrup– sometimes listed as corn syrup, maize syrup, isolated fructose, or glucose/fructose syrup.
- Monosodium Glutamate- often listed as glutamic acid, autolyzed yeast, yeast extract, hydrolyzed protein, or whey protein.
- Artificial Sweeteners– also known as sucralose, saccharin, aspartame, sorbitol, erythritol, or phenylalanine.
- Artificial Colors- you will see FD&C blue, green, red, and/or yellow.
- Carrageenan- can be listed as algus, carrageen, algue rouge marine, or carrageenin.
A Few Last Thoughts on Food….
It may seem challenging at first to eliminate these foods and ingredients, after all, they can be found in so many products in the grocery store!
Please keep in mind though, change doesn’t happen overnight and health really is a journey.
Small steps really do add up, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed, pick one item to change and one new recipe each week. Before you know it you will have a pantry full of healthy foods and a recipe box or Pinterest board full of easy, healthy, and delicious recipes.
Need A Few New Recipes To Get You Started? Give These A Try!
I have a background in natural health and homeopathy, have been a licensed massage therapist for over 14 years, and have a degree in Human Services. But most importantly, I am a wife and mom.
My mission is to provide researched information and actionable steps to help you on your road to good health.
Because there is nothing more important than....