This rainbow power salad is designed to boost your energy, promote a healthy gut, reduce inflammation, raise your mood and fill you up! It’s packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, fiber, and flavor to keep you feeling full without weighing you down.
As a person living with CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), I know how hard it is to find the energy to simply make it through the day, and although there’s no food that can cure this condition, the foods I choose to eat can make things easier, or much, much harder. This is my go-to, power-up salad when I know I’ll need some wind in my sails to make it through the day, and make me feel a lot better.
Not many people know that I’ve suffered with CFS for over 20 years. After all, I love throwing dinner parties, I love spending time making ornate recipes, and I also have a full-time job – all things that are very difficult for people with this condition.
Friends see me do these things, but what they don’t see are my crashes, the moments I need to sit down on the stairs up to my apartment because I ran out of energy on the way up, or the nights I cry because feel like I simply can’t move.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also known as Myalgic encephalomyelitis, is a spectrum disorder, and I’m lucky that I’m on a high-functioning end of that spectrum most of the time, but sometimes, I swing to the other end of that spectrum and I can barely get up at all.
What keeps me going is the love and company of friends and family, being creative with the food I make for them, and eating food that energizes me.
The recipes I share on this site (and this site, itself) are what I use to boost my creative energy, but the recipe in this post is one of the recipes I use to keep my body healthy, boost my physical energy and make me feel healthy.
Every single ingredient is a well-researched, chronic fatigue fighter! I set out to create the very best meal to give me the energy I need to live my life, and this is it! Here’s a list of every ingredient and how it contributes to a more energized, healthy, happy life.
1. Sweet Potato
The gut-friendly, fiber-packed root vegetable
Sweet Potatoes are rich in antioxidants which help to protect the body from free radicals, making them a great resource for preventing cancer and heart disease, but they’re an especially great source of fiber, which is important for promoting a healthy gut and digestive tract.
If the gut biome is over-run with unfriendly bacteria, or overgrowths of yeast or SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), symptoms will range from chronic fatigue to insomnia, anxiety, depression, brain fog – not to mention constant bloating, stomach pains, gas, diarrhea, constipation (or both).
For some, an unhealthy gut and/or SIBO is the entire cause of their chronic fatigue. For others, it’s a contributing factor. Regardless, taking care of that tummy is essential for someone who suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
The high-protein, high-fiber, blood sugar regulator
Quinoa is high in protein and one of the few plant foods that contain sufficient amounts of all nine essential amino acids (which is great for energy). It contains more than twice as much fiber as most grains (which is great for that gut), AND it’s rich in magnesium which promotes healthy blood sugar control.
According to Psychology Today, people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome often have difficulty regulating their blood sugar, resulting in low levels in some CFS patients and elevated levels in others.
Doing what you can to regulate your blood sugar as best you can, by cutting back or eliminating refined sugars from your diet, and replacing them with natural sugars in fruits is a great start, but introducing quinoa into your diet can take you a step further in getting your blood sugar levels under control.
The low-carb, healthy fat-packed, filler-upper
Olives are full of antioxidants, they’re anti-inflammatory, are thought to possibly lower blood pressure and improve heart health, and they have a very important benefit for CFS sufferers: a small amount of them will make you feel more full. Digesting, alone, can be exhausting and drag someone with CFS down.
A burrito lunch or chicken curry with rice and garlic naan is a recipe for a completely unproductive afternoon. The smaller my meals, the better I feel, but I still have to feel like I’m full or I’ll just snack all day.
Because of olives’ monounsaturated fatty acids, just a handful will slow down digestion and stimulate the hormone cholecystokinin to send a message of fullness to the brain. Studies also show that olive oil will also make you feel fuller!
The anti-inflammatory, gut-friendly, pain-reliever
Cucumbers are hydrating, heart-healthy, anti-aging, bone protecting, low-calorie veggies, but since they’re full of water, and their skin contains insoluble fiber, they move gently and easily through the digestive system, promoting a less-exhausting digestive experience and promoting overall gut health.
They also contain flavonoids, which are anti-inflammatory substances, and tannins that have been shown to reduce pain. Some CFS sufferers experience painful joint and bone symptoms, and anti-inflammatory foods like cucumbers might help to reduce that pain.
5. Cherry Tomatoes
The antioxidant folate provider
Cherry tomatoes have higher beta-carotene than regular tomatoes, they’re full of antioxidants, vitamins A, C, K, potassium, and folate. Folate is one of the B vitamins that is needed to make red and white blood cells.
A folate deficiency causes extreme fatigue, lack of energy, breathlessness, and feeling faint, among other unpleasant symptoms. So including tomatoes, and other vegetables that include folate into your diet is a great way to ensure you’re not deficient in this important vitamin.
6. Organic Chicken
The mineral and protein-rich energy booster
With 21 grams of protein per 100 grams, chicken is one of the highest protein foods. Chicken is made of amino acids which are essential to building and sustaining our muscles.
It’s also high in B vitamins which energize the body, as well as Vitamins A, D, Potassium, Iron, and phosphorus; all vitamins essential to strengthening the immune system, promoting brain function, and naturally energizing the body.
However, be sure to choose organic chicken, as non-organic commercially produced chicken can be treated with antibiotics and subjected to terrible living conditions that not only make for a very sad life but much less healthy meat.
7. Goji berries
The blood sugar-stabilizing, anti-anxiety, sleep helper
The Goji berry’s benefits range from anti-aging, blood sugar-regulating, energy-boosting positives, among many others, but studies show that goji berries may also improve depression and anxiety-like behaviors.
Much like depression, anxiety is a well-documented problem in the CFS community. Whether it’s an issue related to unhealthy gut flora (which can greatly contribute to anxiety) or exasperated by debilitating symptoms of CFS, anxiety is a problem many of us face.
Interesting studies are being performed that show signs that goji berries can reduce anxiety in mice, and drinking goji berry juice can also result in better sleep quality. Contrary to popular belief, having CFS doesn’t mean you sleep like a log. It can mean the opposite.
Poor sleep quality is very common in CFS sufferers, so adding more gojis to your diet may help improve your sleep quality while reducing anxiety, fatigue, and stress.
The heart-healthy omega-3, memory-booster
Walnuts are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals like Copper, folic acid, phosphorus, vitamin B6, and Vitamin E, which are essential to cell production and promoting a functional immune system.
They’re also very high in brain-healthy antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Sufferers of CFS often experience the symptom of “Brain Fog,” marked by clouded thinking, memory, and concentration problems, especially after physical exertion.
Doctors don’t entirely understand why this symptom accompanies Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, so it’s difficult to understand how to specifically target this symptom with a treatment. However, doing what we can to improve brain health, overall, is the best we can do, and walnuts are considered the top nut for brain health.
According to Brain HQ “They have a significantly high concentration of DHA, a type of Omega-3 fatty acid. Among other things, DHA has been shown to protect brain health in newborns, improve cognitive performance in adults, and prevent or ameliorate age-related cognitive decline.” So including walnuts into your diet may help with this troubling symptom.
The fiber-rich, amino-acid-packed, blood sugar-stabilizing mood-booster
We all know kale is a “superfood.” It’s packed with fiber, amino acids, antioxidants, and vitamins, but there are a few that are particularly helpful to a person with CFS. Kale is a natural mood-booster, and depression is a very big problem in the CFS community. For some, the symptoms of CFS are debilitating at worst, and at best, they make doing simple, but important things, very difficult.
Kale is certainly no cure for depression, but it does contain omega-3 ALA, a nutrient linked to numerous health benefits, including lowering the risk of depression. Kale also contains plenty of iron, folate, and B6, all vitamins needed to help the brain produce molecules like serotonin and dopamine. Two chemicals, essential to a regulated, positive mood.
I hope this rainbow salad gives you some colorful energy and helps you make it through the day with a little pep in your step.
Rainbow Power Salad
- pot – for boiling 2 chicken breasts
- meat thermometer
- cutting board & sharp knife
- medium mixing bowl
- foil-lined baking sheet
- pot – for boiling 1 cup of quinoa
For the Roasted Sweet Potato
- 1 small sweet potato
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- salt & pepper to taste
For the Shredded Chicken
- 1 chicken breast
- 1 tsp. salt
For the Salad
- ¼ cup quinoa – cooked
- ¼ cup green olives – sliced
- ½ cup cucumbers – sliced
- ½ cup cherry tomatos – sliced
- 1 cup kale
- 1 tbsp. goji berries
- walnuts – a small handful
- Make the roasted sweet potato. Pre-heat oven to 400. Slice a sweet potato into small, bite-size pieces. Toss with 2 tbsp. of olive oil in a medium-size bowl, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour onto a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes. Set aside when done.
- While your sweet potato roasts, make your shredded chicken. Place a chicken breast in a pot with a tsp. of salt, and cover it with water, a half-inch above it. Simmer on low for 18-20 minutes, until the center reaches 160 degrees. Remove and use 2 forks to shred apart the chicken. Season with any spices you like. Set aside.
- While your chicken boils and your potato roasts, boil your quinoa. Add ¼ cup quinoa to a half cup of water (or double the recipe to have more left over). Boil for 15 minutes or follow instructions on your brand of quinoa if they differ. Set aside when done.
- When the first 3 ingredients are finished, slice cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and olives. Combine with all cooked ingredients, goji berries and walnuts into a delicious salad.