NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- Do you feel tired all the time, despite getting sleep at night? Getting your energy back could be simpler than you think.
That's because certain nutrient-rich foods can help fight fatigue -- even give you energy to spare.
Lots of things can make us feel tired – work, watching television, raising children, for example -- but if you're getting adequate sleep at night -- and you're still tired -- experts say it may be time to start looking at your diet, CBS 2's Maurice Dubois reported Friday.
"We find that fatigue generally is coupled to foods that are nutrient-poor," nutritionist Nicolette Pace said.
Pace said our bodies need essential nutrients, like protein, fats and complex carbohydrates, as well as vitamins and minerals, to function properly. Without them, you feel tired -- even irritable -- and that can lead to even more poor food choices.
"Grabbing sugars and grabbing something quick to bring up that energy level, that's food that robs your energy. You will crash shortly thereafter," Pace said.
So what should we be eating?
"We know protein leads to mental focus and energy," Pace said.
Pace recommends eating more plant-based proteins like quinoa and buckwheat products, which your body digests slowly, keeping your blood-sugar stable, and, in turn, keeping your energy level up.
"Zinc is always a key thing for producing energy," Pace said.
She also recommends eating more foods high in the mineral zinc, which converts body fat into energizing fuel quickly, foods like dark chocolate, mushrooms and peanuts.
Other foods that have been proven to increase energy include sweet potatoes. According to Stanford University researchers, eating one cup of sweet potatoes a day helps 78 percent of women shake off fatigue in as little as three days.
Sipping two cups of ginseng tea can increase energy levels by 50 percent or more, according to a Korean study. And a daily serving of 1/4 cup of leeks a day can cut tiredness by up to 25 percent, said scientists at the University of Southern California.
"We see routinely more fatigue, more lethargy when we're not getting enough iron in our diet," Pace said.
Without sufficient iron your body can't carry oxygen to the body's tissues. As a result, doctors say, you may often feel tired, hungry and crave certain foods.
"Cravings, they may be a sign of some mineral deficiency, or in some cases an iron deficiency," said Dr. David Feldman, a gastroenterologist at Beth Israel Medical Center.
Whether you know it or not, you may be among 20 percent of women and 3 percent of men who doctors say don't have enough iron in their bodies. Good sources of iron include chickpeas, dried apricots, spinach, turkey and lean beef.
"The healing will come from giving your body what it needs," Pace said.
And think twice about grabbing a cup of coffee. Experts say the caffeine can actually make you feel more tired.
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