Many individuals struggle with a lack of energy at different points throughout the day. Some may experience it all day whilst others may hit a slump just of an afternoon. There is no set diet or food that will guarantee a fix for your low energy levels. There is however particular nutrients and types of food that will definitely help! So you should take a look at your diet to see if you are receiving enough of these.
Food for energy
The first step is to ensure you do not have an underlying iron deficiency. Iron deficiency anaemia is particularly common in young women due to monthly blood loss and low iron intake. One of the main presenting symptoms is fatigue. The best sources of iron are:
- Meat, particularly red meat
Other sources include:
- Wholemeal bread
- Iron fortified breakfast cereals
See my blog on ‘iron deficiency anaemia’ for more detailed information.
One important job of the B vitamin group is to release energy. There are 3 in particular that achieve this:
Vitamin B 12
Vitamin B12 helps to prevent anaemia. It is only found in animal sources so those who are vegan should aim to consume B12 fortified products or take a supplement. Good sources include:
- Dairy products
- B12 fortified products e.g. some cereals
Thiamin works to convert carbohydrates in to energy for the body to use. This form of energy is particularly useful for the brain and nervous system. Thiamin can be found in foods like:
- Nuts and seeds
- Grain products like bread and cereals
- Lean meat
- Legumes and peas
- Dairy, fruit and vegetables also contain thiamin but only in very small amounts
Folate is needed for the production of blood cells – therefore this also helps prevent anaemia and also low energy levels. Good sources include:
- Green leafy vegetables e.g. spinach, asparagus, brussel sprouts, broccoli
- Grainy bread and fortified cereals
- Legumes, beans, peas
Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fatty acids play a crucial role in brain function. In fact, omega 3 DHA is the most predominant fat in our brain! This nutrient is essential for our bodies yet it must come from dietary means – we cannot make omega 3 fatty acids ourselves. Good sources include:
- Oily fish (such as: salmon,sardines,mackerel) and seafood
- Lean meat
- Omega 3 fortified products
It is also found in flaxseed, canola oil, soybean oil and walnuts but in a simpler form.
Lean forms of protein should be included as part of a healthy diet. They are more satiating which means they generally fill you up for longer and help make you feel more satisfied.
Organs need water in order to function efficiently, especially the brain, kidneys and skin. Without adequate water, it is no surprise that we feel more tired. As a guide, aim for at least 2L per day. This will increase depending on factors such as level of activity and temperature.
The Glycaemic Index (GI) can indicate the quality of energy you will receive from eating a particular food. By choosing mostly low GI foods throughout the day, your body will have the best shot at staying energised from meal to meal. Mixing a low GI food with a higher GI food will also bring down the overall GI of the meal.
Good low GI options include wholegrain breads, dairy products, fruit, vegetables, meat, nuts and seeds. Consuming High GI foods can give you a quick boost of energy but it will quickly drop off and leave you feeling tired.
Are you getting enough carbohydrate? Carbohydrates are a fantastic source of energy but many people try to avoid them. Our brains need glucose to use as energy in order to function and carbohydrate foods are what deliver this. Therefore a lack of carbohydrate/ glucose can lead to feelings of tiredness. This is why a small amount of carbohydrate is good to have with each meal e.g. porridge at breakfast, a sandwich at lunch and corn or potato with dinner.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist.
If you have questions about energy providing foods or other nutrition related issues, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.