Fatigue will get you down in no time, no matter if it’s from a long day at work, a lack of sleep, or a hard workout. Fatigue by circumstance is one thing, but if you’re always tired no matter what, it’s time to consider some other reasons. For starters, go see your doc or naturopath to rule out any possible health issues like chronic fatigue or an autoimmune disease. Also be sure you’re getting enough rest (eight-nine hours is best) and consider how much caffeine you take in each day. Too much caffeine (along with alcohol), not enough rest, and ignoring health issues will slow you down no matter what else you do. Aside from that, there are some dietary culprits you might be consuming that are also contributing to your fatigue.

Here are some of the worst culprits that can cause fatigue in many (or in certain) individuals:

1. Dairy Foods

Dairy is one of the worst foods for causing fatigue quickly, even if you’re not sure you’re sensitive to it. Dairy’s calcium isn’t the only reason it makes you sleepy; it contains natural amino acids that contribute to sleepiness and natural opiates (yikes!) that can cause brain fog and a trance-like state that makes you sleepy. It’s not only addicting for these reasons, but also pretty scary in terms of how it contributes to poor health. Better yet, go for plant-based sources of calcium that actually improve energy, and give you an abundance more nutrition. Great examples are kale, figs, almonds, oranges, chia seeds, spinach, and broccoli.

2. Processed Wheat Foods

Wheat is not an evil food, at least when eaten in whole (preferably sprouted) grain version, unless you’re allergic or have celiac disease. However, everyone can benefit from avoiding processed wheat foods which often trigger fatigue and inflammation in many people. They’re especially hard for the body to process and void of true, whole grain nutrition. Examples include regular wheat bread, wheat crackers, processed cereals, and enriched flours. Better choices are whole grain oatmeal, sprouted grain bread, and whole grain and seed crackers or whole meal or nut-based flours. If you’re avoiding wheat and gluten altogether, it’s still best to avoid highly refined gluten-free foods and stick to whole foods whenever possible.

3. Hidden Sources of Caffeine

Aside from coffee, many natural foods also contain caffeine that you might not be aware of. These include chocolate, green and black tea, yerba mate tea, and even cocoa powder. Other culprits could include protein bars that may have coffee or chocolate added, along with herbal supplements, energy pills, or energy drinks that may also contain caffeine. While many people tolerate these healthy foods fine, your body may not like all the excess caffeine and could become fatigued as a result. Try these natural ways to Eat Your Way to Energy: No Caffeine Needed instead.

4. Moldy Foods

Mold sensitivity is one of the most overlooked allergies and causes of fatigue that exists. Did you know some healthy foods even contain mold? Peanuts, cashews, dried fruit, black tea, chocolate, and even coffee are all prone to mold exposure during the growth process. Chocolate and coffee are also fermented foods, which may also lead to mold growth if specific cautions from producers aren’t taken. Check your home for mold overgrowth, but also eliminate moldy foods at the same time. Even though these can be healthy for you, some people are especially sensitive and have to eliminate them, even for a short while.

5. Processed Soy

Many people are also sensitive to processed forms of soy as they are wheat and gluten. It doesn’t mean you’re allergic necessarily, but you may just be sensitive to the highly refined versions of these products. One reason is the way processed soy affects the thyroid, and because it takes a lot for your body to digest, which causes fatigue. Go with non-GMO sources of soy, especially whole food choices such as edamame (shelled green soy bean) or miso (fermented soy). Tofu and tempeh may also be fine for some people, even though they undergo a bit more processing. Avoid soy protein bars, protein bars, cereals, and other processed food that may cause a reaction.

Other Tips for Energy:

When facing fatigue, be sure to fill your diet up with as much healthy, whole food plant-based foods as possible. Energizing foods include: leafy greens, seeds, legumes, raw nuts, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, root vegetables, superfoods, and a little coffee or green tea each day is also fine (choose a really fabulous brand to avoid contaminants).

Remember, what you put into your body is ultimately what you’ll get in return. Also be sure that you’re eating enough calorie and a wide variety of foods to gain enough nutrients. See our tips for how to eat a whole foods diet for more tricks that make eating for energy a breeze, all in a healthy, satisfying way.

Lead Image Source: keri/Flickr