Feel like you’re always running on empty? Need your morning coffee hit to get going in the morning? If this sounds like you, and don’t worry you are definitely not alone, there are some really important dietary changes you can make to help boost your energy levels and have you bouncing through the day again.
1. INCREASE YOUR IRON INTAKE
Iron is an extremely important mineral needed for good energy levels and health. Iron is necessary for the production of energy from glucose, which is the main fuel for both the brain and the rest of the body. Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies seen in people all over the world, and commonly seen in women, especially pregnant women. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, reduced oxygen supply to cells in the body and lowered immune function leaving you more vulnerable to illness, and fatigue. Red meat has always been thought of as the best source of iron, however scientists have recently found that eating legumes such as soybeans, lentils and chickpeas is another effective way to increase your iron levels as it’s iron is readily absorbed. It is recommended to include a variety of animal based and vegetarian iron sources in your diet including organic red meat, chicken, eggs and fish, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables. Iron supplementation is recommended along with iron-rich foods if you have an iron deficiency or anaemia.
2. BALANCE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS
If you want to keep your energy levels constant, you need to keep your blood sugar levels stable. As soon as your blood sugar levels drop, so too does your energy. Skipping meals, especially breakfast, and eating sugary and refined ‘white’ carbohydrate foods will send your blood sugar levels off kilter. When we eat sugary and refined carbohydrates our blood sugar levels, and insulin levels, surge quickly, only to plummet again soon after.
This will leave you feeling flat and tired, unable to concentrate and craving sugary carbs again, which is your body’s way to try and bring your blood sugar levels up again and provide you with some energy – and so the viscous cycle goes on. Regular consumption of these sugary foods will not only leave you lacking in energy but will increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, obesity and lowered immune function.
The best way to keep blood sugar levels balanced is to eat smaller meals more regularly throughout the day, and have mid-morning and afternoon snacks. Eating protein with each meal is the best way to curb sugar cravings and stabilise blood sugar levels. High fibre foods will also slow down the absorption of sugars from foods we eat and provide a slow and steady supply of glucose for energy, without causing a sharp rise in blood sugar levels. Therefore you should choose unprocessed wholegrain breads and cereals over ‘white’ refined varieties, such as grainy breads, brown rice, quinoa, whole oats, buckwheat and wholemeal pasta. That is also why it is better to eat whole fruit than to have a fruit juice that is void of its natural fibre content.
3. UP YOUR MAGNESIUM
Magnesium is an essential mineral that is vital for good health and vitality. Magnesium is needed for many cellular functions in the body, particularly for the production of energy. It is also an important mineral for supporting nervous system and adrenal health. Magnesium is considered the ‘anti-stress’ nutrient as it helps calm the nervous system and is therefore beneficial for people who are anxious, or have trouble sleeping. Magnesium occurs abundantly in natural, unprocessed foods. People who consume large amounts of processed refined foods will risk becoming deficient in this important mineral. Best dietary sources include tofu, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and green leafy vegetables such as spinach. You should avoid overcooking foods to minimize loss of magnesium.
4. BOOST B VITAMINS
B vitamins play a crucial role in energy production, helping the body use carbohydrates, proteins and fats as fuel. Without adequate B vitamins you will start to lack energy. B vitamins are important for supporting healthy nervous system and adrenal function and thus are especially important for stressed and anxious people. The best vitamin B-rich foods include wholegrain cereals and bread, wheat germ, nuts, seeds, legumes, meat, poultry, salmon, eggs, milk and green leafy vegetables. For those of us who lead busy or stressful lives it is also a good idea to take a good quality B complex multi-vitamin daily, to ensure you are getting a nice balance of all your B vitamins for extra energy.
5. TRY SUPER GREEN JUICES
If you haven’t given a green smoothie a go yet, you must! They are super-healthy and packed with energy-giving nutrients including B vitamins, iron and magnesium. To get started choose a handful of organic green vegies that are easy to blend such as parsley, cucumber, spinach, chard, kale, coriander and wheatgrass. Then select some organic fruits such as apples, banana, pears, berries and kiwi fruit. Avocados also go well in smoothies, giving them a lovely creamy texture. You should add around 40% fruit to give your smoothie enough sweetness and extra vitamin C and antioxidant goodness. Now all you have to do is throw it all in a blender with some filtered water and blend away. A benefit of blending over juicing is that your fruits and vegies will retain all of their beneficial fibre content. For an extra energy boost add 1-2 teaspoons of spirulina powder. Spirulina is a type of fresh water algae that possesses many wonderful healing and health-promoting properties. Spirulina is also rich in energy boosting nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium and iron, and other important nutrients like vitamin C, D, zinc and beta-carotene, for strong immune function. This nutrient dense superfood is also an excellent source of high quality protein, which helps keep blood sugar levels balanced and in-turn helps prevent drops in energy.
What’s your best remedy for boosting energy levels when you are feeling flat?