How often do you feel tired and lethargic? Does your energy dip dramatically in the afternoons, making you feel dozy (even if you have not washed down a three-course lunch with a bottle of wine) ? If your life is regularly disrupted by fatigue and you want to take action, one of the wisest things to do is to look at your eating habits and, if necessary, change what you eat and how you eat it.
OFF TO A GOOD START. If you start the day with a substantial breakfast your body will get all the energy it needs early on. It is also true that those who fail to eat something sustaining for breakfast are more likely to snack mid-morning and this is unlikely to be a good nutritional choice. A bowl of muesli or porridge with fruit is a good slow-release option that will energize you to start your day.
CHANCING YOUR EATING HABITS. You are most likely to succeed in changing your diet if you eat regularly, in moderation, and slowly and savour every mouthful. Although the bonuses of eating in a balanced way do not come instantly, if you take stock now and concentrate on eating the fresh foods suggested below, as well as avoiding high-fat, sugar-rich foods such as cakes, pastries and salty snacks, you will probably notice a marked difference in your energy levels within a couple of weeks. If your energy levels take a dive because your blood sugar is low, don’t reach for chocolate or a rich biscuit. The quick energy boost these give will be followed by a slump, and you may end up far tired than you were at the start. Eat a wholemeal salad sandwich instead; the carbohydrate in the bread will give be more prolonged and even.
VITALITY FOODS FOR EXSTRA ENERGY. A diet that makes you feel more energetic is based on natural, wholesome foods that are nutritious, rather than fatty and fast foods. If you want to boost your energy levels, stock up on fresh and dried fruits that are hight in natural sugars, such as pears, kiwi, fruit and apricots, vegetables such as peas, spinach, cabbage, onions, oily fish, poultry, and red meats such as game and lean beef. Eat nuts, brown rice, seeds, pulses (legumes), wheatgerm, wholegrain, and foods that contain minerals such as magnesium, phosphorous, and zinc, and water soluble vitamins B and C. Use cold pressed oil such as grapes, olive, sesame, sunflower, hazelnut and walnut to dress salad; do not skip dairy foods but use milk and natural yogurt (preferably low-fat); replace sliced white loaves with bread made from wholemeal flour.
SUPERFOOD. Some foods are such a super rich source of concentrated nutrients that they have earned themselves the title “superfood”. Some, such as tofu, are old favorites, while others, such as quinoa, have only recently acquired widespread acclaim. Recent scientific research has discovered that plants contain thousands of these compounds – know collectively as phytochemicals – has its own function. It is believed that some of them play a crucial role in preventing diseases such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis and hypertension. To get the best from phytochemical you need to eat at least five different types of fruit and vegetable daily, plus wholegrains, pulses, nuts and seeds. A number of phytochemicals also have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are vital for limiting damage to body cells by unstable molecules known as free radicals. The main antioxidant nutrients are vitamins A, C and E, and the minerals zinc and selenium. Good sources of antioxidants are: sweet potatoes, carrots, watermelon, broccoli, peas, citrus fruit, watercress, strawberries and nuts and seeds.
VITAMIN – PACKED JUICES
Drinking freshly made juices is a quick and easy way to increase your nutrient intake and boost your energy levels without placing the digestion under any strain.
Here are some good juices to try:
- apple, orange and carrot: packed with vitamin C and energizing fruit sugars to give you a lift
- papaya, melon and grapes: papaya is smoothing to the stomach, and this juice can help the liver and kidneys.
- carrot, beetroot and celery: a good juice to kickstart the system in the morning. Try using 90g / 3½oz beetroot to three carrots and two celery sticks.
- grapefruit, orange and lemon: this refreshing juice is great for boosting the immune system. Use 1 pink grapefruit, 1 blood orange and 30ml/2 tbsp lemon juice.
ENERGY BOOSTING SMOOTHIES
Homemade fruit juices and milk or yogurt based drinks are energy boosting alternatives to commercially prepared drinks, and are easy to make. They are quick, low in fat, high vitality and a great way of boosting your fruit intake. Choose sweet fruits such as mango, banana and apricots – these have a naturally high sugar content – then switch on the juicer or blender and drink them chilled. Here are two energizing smoothies to try:
- This shoothie is full of energizing natural sugars. Use 1 mango, 2 slices of pineapple, 1 banana, 150ml/¼pint/¾cup semi-skimmed or skimmed milk or a small carrot of natural low-fat yogurt and 2.5ml/½tsp honey.
- For a more zesty energy boosting smoothie use a handful of raspberries and strawberry, 2 apricots and 120ml/4fl oz/½cup of milk or natural low-fat yogurt.