We should eat more fruits and vegetables! We’ve heard it all before, but why are they specifically good for shift workers, or why are they a shift worker’s best friend?
Well before I get into the nuts and bolts of it I think it’s important to understand that a staggering 96 percent of Australian adults are not consuming the recommended 5 servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day.
Given we live in a country that has an abundance supply of fresh produce, it’s a pretty woeful and somewhat embarrassing statistic.
In fact, depending on which part of the world you live, those statistics may be similar to where you reside too.
So why are they so important – especially if you work 24/7?
There are many reasons, but these are my Top 2 recommendations as to why you need to be incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet if you work irregular hours:
- They help to boost hydration – because plant foods have a very high water content, in fact, most fruits and vegetables are at least 70% water.
Given dehydration is one of the leading causes of of fatigue (in addition to sleep deprivation), and water represents a critical nutrient that is essential for life, increasing your fruit and vegetable intake is a great way to boost your hydration status and feel more energised in addition to drinking water itself.
For example zucchini, celery, cucumber, watermelon, strawberries, tomatoes, capsicums, lettuce, oranges, cauliflower, rockmelon and cabbage all contain high amounts of water.
- They help your body to sleep. Fruits and vegetables are very high in dietary fibre, which is the non-digestible parts of plant-foods that provide food for our gut microbiome – the trillions of microscopic organisms that reside in our digestive tract.
Without sufficient fibre or prebiotics, our gut microbiome are unable to produce hormones and neurotransmitters that are essential in helping us to relax and sleep such as GABA, serotonin and melatonin.
They quite literally starve to death when they don’t receive sufficient dietary fibre, which over time, can contribute to an imbalance in gut bacteria, otherwise known as dybiosis.
The reality for many shift workers, however, is that their diets are often low in fibre due to a tendency to consume fried, packaged and fast foods that contain very little, if any, dietary fibre.
So by simply upping your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables you’re not only going to boost your intake of vitamins and minerals, but also feed the organisms that reside in your gut which play an instrumental role in helping you to sleep which is absolutely essential if you work 24/7!
Carpenter, S 2012, ‘That gut feeling’, American Psychological Association, vol. 43, no. 8.
Elliott, B 2017, ’19 water-rich foods that help you stay hydrated’, Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/19-hydrating-foods.
Nutrition Australia 2018, Nutrition Australia urges Australians to eat more! Vegetables that is, https://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/news/2018/02/nutrition-australia-urges-australians-eat-more-vegetables.
Popkin, B, D’Anci, K & Rosenberg, I 2010, ‘Water, hydration and health’, Nutrition Reviews, vol. 68, no. 8, pp. 439-458.
Takada, M, Nishida, K, Gondo, Y, Kikuchi-Hayakawa, H, Ishikawa, H, Suda, K, Kawai, M, Hoshi, R, Kuwano, Y, Miyazaki, K & Rokutan, K 2017, ‘Beneficial effects of Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota on academic stress-induced sleep disturbance in healthy adults: a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial’, Beneficial Microbes, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 153-162.