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6 Surprising Foods That Make You Tired

You might want to avoid these to keep your energy up during the day

By Ellen Breslau and

(This article previously appeared on

We've all eaten a big meal and then felt exhausted afterwards, but what about the times that you thought you were eating something good for you and still got tired?

Turns out there are some foods we wouldn't normally think of that can cause us to feel fatigued. We asked Dr. Pamela Peeke,  author of The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Hunger and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction, about these hidden energy-zappers. In the slideshow below are some items you might want to reconsider if you need to keep your energy up.

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retro still life with assortment of uncooked pasta
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Yes, the carbs give you a jolt of energy, but "eating refined carbohydrates like pasta can cause a rise in blood sugar, followed by a plunge in insulin levels, which can cause fatigue and weakness," says Peeke. Same goes for white bread, pastries, muffins and processed foods. "Their high flour and sugar content will bring on drowsiness," she says.

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Bananas are well-known for being rich in potassium, which helps with nerve function and heart health. But bananas are also high in magnesium, an essential mineral for the body that also aids sleep. Dr. Mark Hyman, founder of the UltraWellness Center, calls magnesium the "relaxation mineral."

A piece of red meat
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Red meat

Red meat does give you iron, which is an energy booster, but it also has a high level of fat. High-fat meats, whole dairy products, pizza and creamy gravies and sauces can make you feel weighed down after eating them. "That's because fats are more difficult for the body to break down and require a more elaborate process than other nutrients," says Peeke. "Because of this, your body sends more energy to the source of digestion, leaving you feeling zapped."

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Cherries are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone known to improve the quality of sleep, which is great for evening hours, but not during the day. "Eaten regularly, cherries can even help restore your natural sleep cycle and regulate your body’s circadian rhythms," says Peeke. As for tart cherry juice, which is gaining in popularity, a small study shows that when adults with chronic insomnia drank a cup of tart cherry juice twice a day they experienced some relief in the severity of their insomnia.

Grilled salmon
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Salmon is a great source of protein and good-for-you Omega-3 fatty acids. However, salmon and some other kinds of fish like halibut are rich in vitamin B6, which the body uses to make melatonin, the sleep hormone, says Peeke. "If someone is naturally low energy and wants to maintain peak energy and attention, have salmon at night when its sedative effects can be used effectively. The same goes for halibut."

Green lettuce
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Believe it or not, "lettuce has sedative properties that affect your brain in a similar way to opioids," says Peeke. The sedative substance is called lactucin, which has been shown in studies on mice to have a calming and pain-relieving effect.

Roast turkey
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A word about turkey

We've all heard that turkey makes you tired because it's loaded with tryptophan. "Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, which is a mood modulator, inducing relaxation and supporting sleep," says Peeke. However, it's not the tryptophan that makes you tired. It's combining tryptophan with carbohydrates that does it, according to Peeke. When you think about Thanksgiving dinner, "it’s not the turkey that's causing Thanksgiving sleepiness," says Peeke. "It’s the turkey plus the cranberries, rolls and pie." And, she points out, turkey actually has slightly less tryptophan than chicken. So now you know.



Ellen Breslau Read More
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