Have you read articles bragging about superfoods that lead you to believe you’ll eat them and gain super-human energy? Many of them describe ingredients guaranteed to boost your energy levels through the roof. Of course, for those of us with fibromyalgia, we’re not looking for through-the-roof-results. Or, super-human energy. We’ll settle for regular-human energy, thank you very much.
Achieving even “normal” levels of energy seems an unattainable goal, but there are actions we can take.
If not, you may be in for a pleasant surprise. It’s true that superfoods can actually boost energy levels. And, before we dig into some examples, let’s review why fibromyalgia fatigue exists in the first place.
The fibromyalgia body is commonly compromised by the following factors. There are more, of course, but these basics give you a few ideas of where to look for what issues apply to you.
- Hormonal and thyroid dysfunction
- Nutrient malabsorption (leaky gut, etc.)
- Over-active stress response
- Unaddressed infections
- Whole body inflammation
- Toxic exposures
Think of your body’s natural energy as flowing through you like a river. Our body’s complex systems work together to provide us with the energy (flow) we need to get through the day. However, when the body is compromised by dysfunction, energy resources are channeled to where they’re needed most.
That creates an energy flow that’s blocked or redistributed. The more blocks there are, the more the flow is diminished.
That paints a pretty vivid picture of fibromyalgia, doesn’t it?
Your body’s energy crisis is a portrait of diverted resources.
When compromised by poor digestion, poor hormonal regulation, chronic stress and more, your body is likely to have very poor overall energy resources.
Chronic and systemic health challenges result in this downward spiral effect. The fibromyalgia body struggles for adequate function on a daily basis. Any kind of struggle expends energy.
So, let’s not make the fibromyalgia body work any harder than it has to.
Addressing the energy-depleting issues that affect you most can be very simple. Just take small steps – one at a time. You can review lists of energy-boosting and energy-depleting topics in this feature article entitled, “The Fibromyalgia Energy Crisis: A Balancing Act,” for more information.
Now that you know why your body has an energy crisis, what can be done? As one example, adding superfoods to your regular meal plans can be very helpful. They’re definitely not a quick fix (no super-human energy levels promised), however, adding superfoods to your diet can be rather effective at rebuilding energy levels.
I’m always a fan of efficiency. So, when one approach has multiple benefits, I’m all in. Superfoods can help to address nutritional, digestive, cognitive and detoxification challenges. Some are shown to lower overall inflammation while introducing much-needed micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) into the daily diet.
As a convenience for my clients, I provide a list of my favorite nutrient-rich superfoods. Several years ago, it began as a simple list of a handful of items that has now grown to over four dozen delicious foods to try.
To simplify, we’ll discuss FOUR superfoods here:
Avocado – a Fruity Delight
This is probably the most-talked about food in my holistic health care practice. Yes, it does happen to be a fruit, but it’s usually listed in a category by itself. It’s a fruit that features the creamiest and healthiest fat on the planet.
Here are just a few of the reasons why avocados are a nutritional superfood. They’re a fabulous source of:
- Vitamins K, C, B5, B6, and E.
- And fiber, folate, potassium, and heart-healthy, energy-rich natural fats.
- They also provide manganese, copper, iron, zinc, phosphorous, magnesium and more.
If you’re unsure about why healthy fats are important, please review this article, “Why Being Fat-Fearful Launched my Weight Loss Journey.”
Chia – an Incredibly Versatile Seed
Who hasn’t heard of ch-ch-ch-chia seeds? Yes, the cute little pottery animals that “grow” a coat of sprouted seeds have made this Aztec superfood a household name. But, if you buy a chia pet, don’t eat the seeds; they’re not food-grade.
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Instead, head to your local natural health food store or purchase organic varieties online. Chia is one of the biggest nutritional “bang for your buck” foods you can consume. They can be used to add protein and fiber to your smoothies, juices, salads, soups, porridge, and more. They absorb liquids and thicken when added to various recipes. Try adding them to nut milks (i.e., coconut, almond, hemp, etc.) to make puddings and delicious desserts.
Besides being a great source of protein and fiber, chia provides omega 3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorus, calcium, and more.
As a reminder, protein, fiber, and omega 3s provide fabulous nutritional benefits. They help us to feel fuller longer – all while stabilizing our blood sugar levels.
Berries – a Juicy Treat
While fruits in general (because of their sugar content) can negatively impact whole body inflammation, berries offer a low-sugar, yet sweet, option.
Superfood berries such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries, lingonberries, cranberries, acai berries and more are powerhouse fruits when it comes to antioxidants. When you think of high-antioxidant foods, think of color-rich produce that features pigments that penetrate deep – from skin to flesh.
Look for deep, rich, concentrated colors throughout.
Other fruits – ones not as high in antioxidants – may have a different colored skin as opposed to its flesh. This isn’t bad, of course – there are no “good” or “bad” fruits. A concentration of colors is simply one way to identify antioxidant-rich foods.
Why are antioxidants important?
Oxidation is a natural process of aging. While we could focus on the exterior signs of aging (wrinkles, thinner skin, drier hair, etc.), it’s important to note that the aging process happens on the inside, too!
And, who wants to age any faster than we have to?
Antioxidants are the vitamins and minerals found in certain foods that feature proven natural anti-aging benefits. Besides external benefits such as skin and hair health, antioxidants have been shown to positively impact artery health, nervous system function, immunity, and brain health. Antioxidants also include anti-inflammatory properties.
Berries, in particular, provide the following key nutritional benefits:
Fiber, folate, flavonoids, vitamins K and C, manganese, copper, and more.
The blackberry, in particular, features anthocyanin – a phytonutrient – that may prevent and protect the body from disease.
Greens – More Than a Garnish
Greens are a superfood category that deserve an article all their own. In fact, that’s why we’ve already written one for you. Check out “6 Proven Ways Leafy Greens Pack a Powerful Healing Punch for Fibromyalgia.”
In this segment, we’ll focus on the category of greens that have the most intense concentration of energy-producing nutrients – parsley and cilantro.
These wonder herbs are easy to find and simple to use. Don’t think of them just as garnishes for your plate! Adding these deep green, nutrient-rich herbs to your salads, soups, smoothies, juices, veggies, and more can give your meals an extra energy boost, not to mention a burst of flavor.
Phytonutrients (the healthful, healing compounds found in plants) are highly concentrated in cilantro and parsley, so remember that a little goes a long way. These herbs feature the following vitamins and minerals:
Beta carotene, chlorophyll, folic acid, iron, potassium, calcium, manganese, magnesium, vitamins A, B6, C and K, and much more.
In fact, these nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory herbs can help the body to defend against infection, balance hormones, ease digestive upset, protect against food-borne illnesses, improve liver function, regulate blood sugar and other benefits too numerous to mention.
If it hasn’t occurred to you so far, let me share that these superfoods (and more) are easy to add to your daily nutritional meal plans.
Sprinkle herbs and seeds onto your soups and salads. Add avocado to your veggies and wraps. For creamy cravings, blend avocado into your smoothies and salad dressings. For a sweet treat, add berries to your juices, salads, and smoothies.
Looking for a tasty dessert? Enjoy sun-ripened berries fresh on their own. Or, add them to a bowl of nuts, unsweetened coconut flakes, and a drizzle of raw, organic, local honey.
Are you ready to jumpstart your energy levels with superfoods? When it comes to the healing benefits of nutrition, here’s a great quote to keep in mind:
Sue Ingebretson (www.RebuildingWellness.com) is an author, speaker, certified holistic health care practitioner and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Center at California State University, Fullerton. She is also a Patient Advocate/Fibromyalgia Expert for the Alliance Health website and a Fibromyalgia editor for the ProHealth website community.