If you're feeling tired, sluggish or low in energy, you may not be eating the right foods for energy and metabolism. Your body breaks down your breakfast, lunch and dinner to produce energy and provide the building blocks it needs for growth, development and repair. Vitamins in foods help facilitate and promote reactions that fuel every body system, and are also needed to produce and maintain cells, nerves, hormones and other compounds.
Like other B-complex vitamins, vitamin B-6 plays a key role in your body's metabolism and energy production. It is needed to make hemoglobin, the iron-rich part of red blood cells that holds oxygen. The oxygen is carried in the bloodstream to every cell in your body, where it used to produce the energy necessary for life. Vitamin B-6 is also necessary for healthy nerve function, balancing blood sugar levels and digesting proteins from meat and other foods. A deficiency in this vitamin can lead to low levels of red blood cells, causing tiredness, weakness, confusion and other symptoms. Get more vitamin B-6 by eating foods such as meat, poultry, whole grains, legumes, bananas and avocados.
Healthy red blood cells help give your body more oxygen and energy. Vitamin B-9 is also known as folic acid or folate and is another nutrient that helps produce your red blood cells. It is also needed in energy production and works with other B vitamins to maintain heart health. Low levels of vitamin B-9 can lead to anemia, a condition that causes symptoms such as fatigue, weakness and body aches. Good food sources for this nutrient include dark leafy greens, brussels sprouts, legumes, whole grains, root vegetables, milk and orange juice. Most cereals in the United States are fortified with vitamin B-9.
You need enough vitamin B-12 in your daily diet to help speed up reactions that help break down fats, proteins and other foods during digestion. This vitamin is vital to boosting your metabolism and energy levels as well as red blood cell production and nerve health. Additionally, B-12 stimulates your body to burn stored fat in your abdomen and other areas for energy. You can be deficient in vitamin B-12 if you have poor nutrition or cannot absorb this vitamin properly. This can lead to pernicious anemia, a condition that causes fatigue, low energy, depression, memory problems and numbness in the feet or hands. The best sources of vitamin B-12 are meat, particularly organ meats, poultry, eggs, shellfish and milk.
Eating oranges and other citrus fruits that contain vitamin C may also help improve your energy levels. This vitamin enhances the absorption of iron from the foods you eat. Iron is a critical mineral for the formation of red blood cells that fuel all your body's cells with oxygen. Vitamin C also plays a role in producing the hormone insulin, which is needed to transport sugar from the blood into the cells where it can be converted to energy. Additionally, vitamin C is important for healing and repairing your tissues and skin. A deficiency of this vitamin can lead to low energy, fatigue and other symptoms. Other high-vitamin C foods include green peppers, papayas, kiwi, tomatoes, pineapples and winter squash.
- MayoClinic.com: Vitamin Deficiency Anemia
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamins
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Pernicious Anemia
- Cleveland Clinic: Anemia
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B6
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B9
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin C
Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.