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Always Feeling Fatigued? You Might Need More Fiber

fiber and energy

Photo: Getty Images/ Daniel de la Hoz

There’s tired and then there’s flat-out fatigued. Tiredness is knowing you really needed an extra hour or two of sleep. But fatigue is more than that. Sophia Tolliver, MD, a family medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, describes fatigue as an “overwhelming sense of feeling tired, not like yourself, or feeling really worn down.”

If fatigue is something you’ve been experiencing for a prolonged amount of time, it’s definitely worth booking some facetime with your doctor who can run tests to see if you’re deficient in a specific nutrient. Being low in iron, for example, can lead to fatigue. Registered dietitian Lindsey Klein, RD, says there’s another nutrient that plays a role in preventing fatigue: fiber. “Although fiber doesn’t provide energy, it does aid in energy regulation,” she says. Here, she explains more about what that means and gives her best tips for eating to avoid fatigue.

The fiber-fatigue connection

When it comes to eating to avoid fatigue, the first nutrients most people think of are protein and healthy fats. That isn’t wrong—these two nutrients are massively important in providing the body with energy—but Klein says that it would be wrong to say that fiber isn’t also a piece of the puzzle. She explains that though fiber is considered calorie-free (or energy-free), there is a specific type of fiber, soluble fiber, that provides energy for bacteria in the gut to produce short-chain fatty acids. “Your body can then use those short-chain fatty acids for energy for the large intestine,” she says.

Experts In This Article
  • Lindsey Klein, RD, registered dietitian, nutritionist, mindfulness enthusiast, and former team USA figure skater

A quick fiber 101 lesson: There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. The primary sources of insoluble fiber are the roughage from fruits and vegetables and help bulk up stool. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, can be found in foods such as oats, beans, lentils, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Kelin explains that soluble fiber absorbs water, swells, and creates a gel-like substance that helps aid the digestive system. “When soluble fiber is in the picture, it slows down the rate that sugar enters the cells,” Klein says. This helps keep blood sugar levels steady.

Without soluble fiber, Klein says blood sugar levels tend to spike and drop, which can lead to similarly tumultuous fluctuations in your energy levels. (BTW, Klein emphasizes that you still need insoluble fiber too; both are key for good digestion.)

“Fiber is also filling and has a satiating effect,” Klein says. “This means less hunger and more ability to focus on other tasks. When you are providing your body with enough calories and fiber, your brain will not be thinking ‘when is my next meal.’ It will allow for focus on the present moment.”

Now that we’ve gotten to the bottom of why fiber is important for avoiding fatigue comes the question of what to eat to make sure you’re getting enough.

What to eat to avoid fatigue

In general, it’s recommended to aim for eating 25 grams of fiber a day. But remember, protein and healthy fats are hugely important for avoiding fatigue too, so Klein says to really eat to avoid fatigue, you should make sure your meals and snacks cover all three bases. Need some examples of what exactly that looks like? Below are three snack ideas Klein recommends:

1. Pears with ricotta cheese, honey, and cinnamon

Pears are a great source of both types of fiber and 29 percent of its total fiber content is from soluble fiber. Ricotta cheese is full of protein as well as selenium, calcium, and both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The cinnamon sprinkled on top doesn’t just add sweetness—it helps keep blood sugar levels steady, which, as you know, is key for avoiding fatigue.

2. Dried dates with peanut butter

There’s so much energy-boosting goodness packed into these two simple ingredients. Both are high in fiber while the peanut butter is high in protein and healthy fats.

3. Avocado on whole wheat bread, apple slices, feta cheese, honey, and arugula

Klein says this is one of her personal favorite fatigue-fighting go-tos. The avocado, whole wheat bread, apple slices, and arugula all have fiber. The creamy avocado and feta cheese have both protein and healthy fats. Clearly, there’s a legit reason why avocados are so beloved by healthy eaters.

Watch the video below to see why avocados are so nutrient-filled:

Getting to the bottom of what’s causing you to feel completely drained can feel like a game of detective and it is absolutely worth talking to your doctor about. But it’s also worth it to think about your fiber intake. After all, the vast majority of people in the U.S. don’t get enough. And hey, any problem where the solution is eating more avocado toast can’t be too bad, right?

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