A hectic lifestyle can mean you don’t always eat as well as you should. But there are some simple additions to your diet that can make all the difference
In our usual lives, many of us turn to caffeine and fast food to give us the energy we need to get through the 9-to-5. And now, in more uncertain times, we can feel more emotionally and mentally drained than ever. If you find yourself struggling to stay awake in the evening, or battling energy crashes post-lunch, it could be time to take a look at your diet. While no one food is a miracle energy-booster, here we share 10 foods that, when added to your diet, could make a real difference to your energy levels.
Instagram may be full of trendy smoothie bowls, but you don’t need powders and ‘superfoods’ to feel good. In fact, the humble oat can be a great breakfast staple that’s really inexpensive. Oats contain soluble fibre – a great ingredient for your gut health – and release their energy much slower than some other carbohydrates. This slow release, combined with the fact oats are higher in protein than other grains, prevents sugar spikes (which can then lead to energy crashes later on in the day) and keeps you full for longer.
Many women suffer with low iron levels, and this can really impact their energy – leaving them feeling fatigued and out of breath. Red meat is a good source of iron, but so is spinach – and other green vegetables like broccoli and kale. Non-meat-based sources of iron are thought to be absorbed better when they’re combined with vitamin C, so tuck into an omelette packed with leafy greens and a glass of orange juice to start your day.
Did you know that eggs are actually a nutritional powerhouse? We know egg whites are a great source of protein, but don’t forget the yolks, which are a super source of vitamin D (something we all need during the colder months), and vitamins E and K.
Nutritional therapist Jodie Brandman says: “Eggs are a great source of protein and healthy fats, so they release their energy slowly, preventing energy dips. The choline in the egg yolk supports the neurotransmission in your brain, keeping you going for longer than just carbs!” Unfortunately, Creme Eggs don’t count!
4. Peanut butter
Peanut butter on toast is a satisfying snack – and it turns out it’s pretty good for you, too. Why? Well, first up peanuts (and all nuts) are a great all-rounder. They’re a good non-meat form of protein, a source of healthy fats, and a great source of zinc and magnesium. However, lots of brands do add things like sugar and salt, which aren’t great for your overall wellbeing. Make your own, or look out for natural varieties that are 100% nuts. It can also be worth switching it up and trying different varieties of nut butter; almond butter is a great source of calcium, and cashew butter is a good source of iron.
We’re not saying tucking into a chip butty will give you all the energy you need but, actually, potatoes are more nutritionally balanced than you might think. Potatoes are a source of carbohydrates, and contain protein, iron, calcium, and even vitamin C. In fact, one study found that potatoes were as effective as fancy energy gels for helping cyclists keep up vigorous exercise.
Sweet potatoes provide similar amounts of calories, protein, and fat as the regular kind, but are higher in fibre and nutrients such as vitamin C. Combine potatoes with a source of protein (such as fish or lean meat) and add in some vegetables (for a fibre boost) to make a perfectly balanced lunch.
A bowl of any fresh fruit is a great snack idea, but blueberries are Jodie Brandman’s top pick. “Blueberries are amazing as they have natural sugars, fibre to help slow down that energy release, and they’re amazing brain foods as they’re full of antioxidants.” Why not keep a punnet in your fridge to snack on throughout the day, or try our delicious baked oats recipe?
If you’re looking for an alternative to chicken, why not tuck into duck? It’s higher in iron than chicken and, if you’re worried about the high fat content, it’s as lean, too, once the skin is removed. It’s also high in B vitamins and even omega fats. According to the Gressingham Duck company, 100g of duck contains 23% of our daily value of protein.
Low-carb diets might seem fashionable at the moment, but you can actually get a lot of energy from your loaf of bread. We need carbs to provide energy, but you may need to upgrade your usual breakfast of toast and butter to make sure you reap the most benefits. “The best thing is to have wholegrain and granary breads, as the good fats in nuts and seeds slow down the sugar release,” explains Jodie Brandman. And the toppings on your toast are just as important. “You could add things like avocado, nut butter, eggs, or tofu on top to keep that energy stable,” she adds.
You may use cinnamon at Christmas, but it’s actually an ingredient you should be reaching for throughout the year. Studies have shown it’s jam-packed with antioxidants, can help with digestion, and is perfect for helping with sweet cravings by adding some sweetness to a dish without sugar.
10. Chia seeds
You’ve probably seen them in the health food aisle, but how can chia seeds improve your energy levels? Well, in several ways actually. They’re a great source of several nutrients, such as omega-3, protein, and calcium, and are also rich in fibre. This means they can help you feel full, improve your digestive health, and help prevent sugar spikes and energy dips by slowing the release of glucose.
Jodie Brandman is a nutritional therapist who specialises in women’s health and fertility. Find out more at jodiebrandman.com
For more information on healthy eating visit nutritionist-resource.org.uk