If you experience lack of energy, fatigue or sleep problems, you will be pleased to hear that there are a few ways to boost your energy naturally through diet.
It can be tempting to reach for an energy bar or energy drink for a quick pick-me-up when you feel yourself flagging throughout the day, but these are not great choices for lasting energy. Energy bars often contain sugar or excess calories, and energy drinks often rely on caffeine or artificial stimulants which can cause ‘highs’ and ‘crashes’ in energy.1 Instead, here are four foods for you to include in your diet which are natural sources of energy.
1. Dark leafy greens
Dark leafy greens are rich in iron, which helps prevent fatigue. A lack of iron can cause iron deficiency anaemia, where your cells don’t get enough oxygen. This leads to tiredness and fatigue, so make sure you are incorporating dark leafy greens into your diet.
Dark leafy greens are also vitamin powerhouses, incorporating vitamin A, vitamin C as well as the mineral folate. A deficiency in folate can cause tiredness. Spinach, watercress, kale, broccoli and rocket are all very nutrient-dense, and dark lettuce varieties such as romaine is also high in vitamins and iron.
Don’t forget that leafy greens also contain fibre, which helps you maintain a healthy gut, which has been linked to keeping your energy levels in balance.2
Enjoy dark leafy greens lightly steamed alongside a portion of meat or fish, or added to soups and pasta dishes. They can also be added to fruit smoothies for a tangy flavour and a delicious energy boost
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Snack on fruit to stay alert. The natural sugars in fruit provide energy alongside essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin A and folate. Fructose also helps stabilise blood sugar, which helps keep energy levels steady. Fruit has high nutritional value, meaning that it is relatively low in calories compared to the amount of nutrients and energy it provides.
Keep a fruit bowl on your desk and on your kitchen counter at home, and fill it with bananas, apples, peaches, apricots, mangos, papaya and oranges.
Dried fruit is also very energy-dense but is much higher in calories and sugars than fresh fruits, as the water has been removed.
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3. Chia seeds
These ancient seeds are a great source of energy thanks to the high amounts of protein, fibre and omega-3 fats they contain. Chia seeds also swell with water in your stomach which forms a gel-like substance, which helps slow the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar.3 This can help provide you with steady energy and prevent against blood sugar spikes and dips, which might stop you craving sugary foods.
Do you tend to ‘carb-load’ before exercise or a sporting event? Eat chia seeds and you might not need to! A study in the US has discovered that chia seeds could be used effectively to enhance performance in endurance events, allowing the participants to decrease the amount of sugar and carbohydrates they consumed prior to the event.4
Mix them with your porridge or yoghurt at breakfast, add to smoothies, or to soups and stews.
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4. Healthy fats
Fat provides energy in the form of calories, but it is important you choose your fats wisely. Healthy fats (incorporating food and oils containing omega 3, omega 9 and triglycerides) are used by the body as a primary source of energy. These fats have a low glycaemic load, which means their breakdown in the body is a slower process than the breakdown of sugars such as those found in simple carbohydrates. This means healthy fats deliver stable energy without any adverse effects on blood sugar levels.5 Good sources include nuts and seeds, avocado, olive oil, oily fish, coconuts, and eggs. A great tip is to snack on an apple with a few cubes of cheese for a perfect energy-boosting snack.
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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1. [Online] https://endocrinenews.endocrine.org/energy-drinks-cause-blood-glucose-insulin-levels-to-spike-and-hinder-blood-sugar-control-in-teens/.
2. [Online] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25200299..
3. [Online] http://eu.ironman.com/triathlon/news/articles/2014/07/benefits-of-chia.aspx#axzz5APEdlcgT.
4. [Online] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21183832.
5. [Online] https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/enjoy-food/carbohydrates-and-diabetes/glycaemic-index-and-diabetes.