We welcome back Nutritional Therapist, Tracy Tredoux (@TracyTredoux); many of you have shared an interest in obtaining a healthier lifestyle; if you’re frequently feeling tired, foggy-headed, seeing a constant stream of headaches or just want to learn something new, then this is a feature for you. Tracy shares her insight into what foods can help give us a boost naturally without the dreaded crash that follows.
When was the last time you felt 100%? Are you tired of feeling sick and tired? Modern life with all its stresses and pressures has left many of us feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, with little time or energy to take proper care of ourselves. Reaching out for a bar of chocolate or having another cup of coffee to give us that spurt of energy may make us feel momentarily energised, but it won’t be too long before the quick high begins to wear off and we crash, feeling even more drained. Today, we have a greater understanding of the impact that foods have on our mood, health, weight, energy levels and overall feeling of wellbeing. So let´s make 2018 the year you empower yourself to start feeling healthier and more energised by making better diet and lifestyle choices.
Eat a nutrient-rich diet
When we eat the right foods for our body we improve digestion, reduce bloating, have clearer skin, no bags under our eyes, fewer wrinkles and more energy. However, when we eat poorly our body struggles to metabolise and break down the foods properly, resulting in weight gain, anxiety, depression, mood changes, bloating, IBS, constipation, low sex drive and low energy. A healthy, nutrient-rich diet boosts energy levels. Food is fuel and keeping blood sugar levels stable by eating correctly will provide the stamina you need to get you through the day. This means filling up on healthy protein (egg, meat, fish, tofu, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds), healthy fats (salmon, avocado, dark chocolate, chia seeds, full fat yoghurt and, for example, a green smoothie with an avocado instead of a banana) and whole grains (brown rice, barley, oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta, bread). These foods take longer for your body to break down, providing you with a steady release of energy throughout the day. Cut back on starchy carbs (white pasta, white rice, white bread, white potatoes) and include leafy greens with your meals and the new improved, energised you will have less sugar cravings and no 4pm crash.
You are what you eat and drink
2018 is the year to ditch processed foods and choose foods in their most natural state. Start to read labels and if foods contain ingredients you cannot pronounce, chances are your liver cannot process them. Forget foods that promise you a miracle in a box or a bar. You will be surprised at how many hidden sugars lurk in “healthy” protein bars, flavoured yoghurts, granola bars, low-fat snacks and ready-made meals. If you want more energy it’s also time to ditch the coffee, fizzy drinks and energy drinks which cause blood sugar spikes. Opt for the more invigorating herbal teas which stabilise blood sugar and increase antioxidant levels.
Herbal teas also increase hydration. Dehydration is one of the biggest causes of tiredness. Our bodies are made up of about 60% water and we need to keep our water levels topped up to make sure everything works efficiently. Aim for 2 litres of filtered water a day. If you dislike the taste of water, other fluids count, such as herbal teas, coconut water, smoothies and vegetable juices, as do foods with a high water content, such as cucumbers, oranges, celery, lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, melon and berries. Coconut water is packed with electrolytes and potassium and promotes proper rehydration. It also contains kinetin, which aids in keeping the coconut ‘young’ and fresh despite its constant exposure to the sun. It will have the same effect on your body.
Vitamins and minerals for more energy
Stress depletes our energy levels, as well as our vitamin and mineral reserves. Vitamin C helps the body clear out the stress hormone cortisol (the hormone which increases sugars in the bloodstream) and prevents our blood pressure rising in response to stress. Magnesium is one of the best examples of an energy nutrient in the body, providing us with energy on a cellular level. So, if you are feeling down or have low levels of energy, you might be suffering from a magnesium deficiency. Vitamin E and the B vitamins are also particularly useful for boosting energy levels. Counteract stress, fatigue and lack of energy by stocking up on the following foods:
- Vitamin C: Cherries, oranges, lemons, mangoes, red peppers, kale, parsley, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, watercress, cauliflower, cabbage, strawberries, asparagus.
- Magnesium: Figs, olives, avocado, bananas, brown rice, pumpkin seeds, kefir, beans, nuts, green leafy vegetables.
- Vitamin E: Nuts (especially peanuts and almonds), seeds, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, olive oil.
- Vitamin Bs: Whole grains, cereals, brewer’s yeast, almonds, miso, liver, milk, fish, sprouts, green leafy vegetables.
Snacking for energy
Reducing blood imbalances is often achieved by eating 3 meals and having 2 healthy snacks per day. It’s important to make sure your snacks follow the same principles as your meals. Choose snacks that include healthy fats and protein (nuts and seeds, oatcakes with avocado or nut butter, hummus and crudités, berries with full fat yoghurt and cinnamon). Make sure not to ‘fruit bomb’ your snack time. Although fruit is healthy, it is high in fructose sugar which, as we get older, our bodies find harder to breakdown. Non-metabolised fructose stays in your system, slowing it down, making you feel tired and lethargic.
Superfoods = super health
By adding superfoods to your diet, you will increase your energy and improve your health. Broccoli, berries, bee pollen, raw cacoa, sea vegetables, coconut oil and the grasses (wheatgrass, barley grass and spirulina) are all foods that will boost your health and increase your energy. Other foods to add to your diet for pure energy include leafy greens, avocado, healthy oils (such as coconut oil, olive oil and avocado oil) and healthy fats (such as flax, chia and hemp seeds).
Equally as important as including the right foods is excluding any factors that rob us of energy. Caffeine, as wonderful as it is for kick starting energy levels, is also the number one energy robber. It is a sneaky trickster that gives your body a short-lived jolt of energy which can be quickly burned-up and followed by a crash. If you are eating foods that your body is allergic or sensitive to, these too can wreak havoc on your body and deplete your energy. Not getting enough sleep and holding onto negative emotions will rob your body of the energy it deserves. It’s quite obvious that if you haven’t slept well, you will feel tired. The longer your sleeping patterns are disrupted, the more you will be susceptible to symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, poor concentration and low-energy. Sleep is when the body restores itself, so aim for 7-8 hours a night, if possible.
5 top tips for increased energy
- Eat food in its most natural state and include lots of healthy greens.
- Drink more water and start adding coconut water. Hydration is the key to increased energy.
- Get active. Sweating is a great way of getting rid of toxins. Regular exercise is one of the easiest ways to beat fatigue. It also helps produce those lovely endorphins (the happy hormone) that trigger a positive feeling in the body.
- Reduce sugar which is a well- known toxin creating inflammation, robbing the body of important minerals and responsible for the blood sugar roller coaster spikes and crashes which ultimately create havoc on our energy levels.
- Relax – even if this means taking 5 minutes a day to meditate or breathe deeply.
Tracy Tredoux is a fully qualified Nutritional Therapist, living and working in London. When not giving talks or consulting with clients, she writes health and nutrition articles, tips and recipes which you can find at @TracyTredoux