We all have days where we're dragging, but if you consistently feel sluggish and find yourself reaching for sugary energy drink, check your diet.
A lack of B vitamins may be the culprit. B vitamins play many behind-the-scenes roles in our bodies - they're important for nerve cell production, red blood cell production, protein synthesis and DNA replication - but they're also responsible for keeping us energized. So go ahead, graze on yummy fruits and veggies. Unlike some other lettered vitamins, "vitamin B" actually refers to a group of eight different vitamins called vitamin B complex. You are probably familiar with B9, or better as folic acid. A deficiency in B vitamins, and especially in folic acid, can result in low energy and even anemia. If you are experiencing extended periods of fatigue, see your doctor for blood work, which can help you determine whether a vitamin deficiency is the cause.
Getting Your "BS?"
If you eat a well-rounded, balanced diet, you should be getting enough B vitamins from your food. However, vitamin B supplements are recommended for pregnant women, who have increased folic acid needs for fetal development. They are also often recommended for older patients who have a diminished capacity to absorb vitamins and minerals, and in vegans, who may not get enough B12 due to their avoidance of meat, dairy and eggs. A simple supplement or increased intake of fortified foods like breakfast cereals are an easy fix.
The Color of Health
So which foods should you choose to meet your daily requirement of B vitamins? Start with fruits and vegetables that are as fresh as possible-your local farmers' market is a great resource. Fruits and vegetables lose nutrients the longer they sit on the shelf or in the refrigerator, and produce is most nutrient-rich within a few days of being picked. Also, opt for brightly colored produce-incorporating a rainbow of nutritious fruits and vegetables in your diet will reward you with a plethora of vitamins and antioxidants.
Add these B-vitamin powerhouses to your shopping list: strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas, avocado, broccoli, asparagus, beets, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms and leafy greens. Luckily for us in Southern California, most of these foods are grown locally, so it's easy to add fresh, nutrient-rich produce to your diet."
B vitamins (along with vitamin C) are water-soluble vitamins that travel through the bloodstream and are expelled regularly through urination. Unlike fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) that can be stored for long periods of time in liver and fat tissue, water-soluble vitamins need to regularly be replaced.
In order to get the full range of B vitamins (especially B12), you will need a balanced diet; so in addition to fresh produce, be sure to make fortified cereals, whole grains, legumes, beef, chicken, fish and shellfish, and eggs a part of your regular diet. And leave the energy drinks behind.