Fuelling for increased energy

Di Dixon is a graduate of the NCFH Graduate Certificate in Agricultural Health and Medicine and founder of Panoramic Health and Fitness. In this blog, Di combines her expertise in farmer health and her passion for empowering people to overcome lifestyle obstacles with confidence, courage and ease.

The agricultural workforce is constantly on the go. Working long hours and often eating on the go, it’s no wonder that one of the biggest complaints is that you’re tired. Between family life, off farm work and the running of the farm, it’s no wonder you’re often leaning towards ‘grab and go’ style foods. Yet, while those ‘grab and go’ foods are easy in the moment, are they leading to the long term tiredness you’re feeling each day? 

It’s no secret that farmers and farm workers have increased rates of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and certain cancers compared to their city counterparts. Lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, can reduce the likelihood of some of these conditions.

So how does diet and exercise decrease the chance or severity of these diseases and increase our energy? 

By decreasing chronic inflammation in our body and allowing our immune system to work as effectively as possible. 

The key thing to remember is that our bodies are geared towards survival – always. Inflammation is the body’s protective response to what it sees as invaders or trauma, and is part of the natural recovery process from an illness or injury. However, when this inflammation is constant, it can slow the processes in the body down in an attempt to heal or fight off the invader. 

Common signs of inflammation include:

  • Excessive fatigue
  • Excess Visceral (belly) fat
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Digestive problems
  • Excess bloating of the stomach
  • Persistent infections

There are two types of inflammation:

  • Acute inflammation – this is when the body responds to illness or trauma in a specific region of the body. For example, if you tear a muscle, the area around that tear will swell in order to heal. This is the body doing its job to help you recover as soon as possible. 
  • Chronic inflammation – this is when we notice signs of inflammation that have no known trigger and don’t go away. 

Put simply, if the body is busy implementing a protective response to an injury or illness (that may or may not be there), then its taking resources away from other systems and processes that we need to live optimally.

The good news is that one of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation doesn’t come in a prescription box but instead from your local fresh food grower or your local supermarket.

Foods known to increase inflammation, and that we should try to limit, are ones that include: 

  • Refined (processed) carbohydrates, such as soft drinks, white flours, and high fructose corn syrups. 
  • Trans fats – often listed as hydrogenated oils, they’re often added to foods to extend shelf life.
  • Excessive alcohol.
  • Processed meats – incl, sausage, bacon, ham, beef jerky, salami.

Foods known to decrease inflammation, and that we should try to increase our intake of:

  • fruits, incl tomato
  • green leafy vegetables
  • Nuts
  • healthy oils, 
  • fatty fishes, like salmon.

I hear you, “that’s all good, but how do I get those fresh foods into my lunch box and them still be edible by lunch or dinner time, when I’ve been on the tractor all day?” 

  • Ice packs are your new best buddy. Supermarkets now stock a whole array of ice packs for lunch boxes. Check out the school lunch box section in the supermarket or in the online apps. 
  • Separate your salad or meal ingredients and mix them just prior to eating. Lunchboxes with built in separators or smaller individual tubs are widely available. 
  • Freeze your sandwiches. A wholegrain sandwich is still a great option. Pre-make and freeze it and it will act like a cool pack for the rest of your lunchbox while it defrosts during the day. Same goes for fruit. Freeze and let it defrost during the day until you’re ready to eat. 
  • Pre-prep your salads for the week so you can ‘grab and go’ easily. If you know you’ve got a busy week coming up, plan out 1 or 2 lunches and have them in the fridge ready to go. A couple of different dishes including beg, beans and some added protein takes just a few minutes to throw together and provides a much healthier option than the usual grab and go foods. 

For further info regarding inflammatory foods or if you think chronic inflammation might be an issue for you please see your local GP, Registered Dietician or Nutritionist. 


Health Line: Chronic Inflammation – https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-inflammation#symptoms

Farmer Health and Safety Toolkit – AgHealth Downloadable PDF

Further Information

NCFH fuelling farmers lunches toolkit – Diet and Nutrition – Fuelling Farmers’ Lunch Boxes | National Centre for Farmer Health

NCFH farmer fitness – Farmer fitness | National Centre for Farmer Health

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This blog was written as a part of an ongoing collaborative blog series written by Di Dixon to help farmers, agricultural workers, and rural communities improve their overall health and wellbeing in a sustainable, achievable way. Di’s blog posts will be released fortnightly, and she welcomes any questions, topic requests or feedback.

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