Boosting energy with high energy foods

Summer is here, the days are longer and the nights are shorter and you want to feel as energetic as possible to make the best of them. In the last few issues of Natural News we’ve looked at a number of ways to boost your energy naturally. Last month we looked at herbal energy boosting helpers. This month and next we’ll take a look at natural ways to boost your energy through simple dietary changes.

Discover the zest

There’s a reason nutritionists tend to recommend lemon juice as the first drink of the morning. If you’ve ever been to a health farm or to India for that matter, you’ll know that lemon juice is typically drunk immediately on waking. The reason is that lemon juice is a wonderful digestive aid. If your digestive system isn’t functioning optimally it doesn’t matter how many so-called ‘super foods’ you eat, you won’t be getting the ‘good-for-you’ nutrients your body needs to produce energy.


Lemon juice, being a digestion-boosting power-house with an energising tangy flavour, is therefore exactly the right drink to kick start both your metabolism and your energy levels first thing. So as soon as you wake up – before getting dressed or having breakfast – drink a glass of lemon juice.

To make energy-boosting lemonade you will need:


           2 tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice (approx. ½ to 1 organic or unwaxed lemon)

           300-500ml water

           1 tsp organic Grade B maple syrup (optional)

           pinch cayenne pepper


Use fresh lemons only, and mix your lemonade fresh just before drinking. Adding a pinch of cayenne pepper adds extra zing to the flavour as well as a stimulatory heating effect that speeds cleansing and elimination. Grade B maple syrup (Grade A is over-processed and refined) adds a sweet taste for those who find the drink too bitter.


Dynamic breakfasts

A mobile phone needs recharging regularly so that its battery doesn’t run down, and it’s the same with your body. When you wake up in the morning your body has been without food for many hours and it needs refuelling.


The old cliché about breakfast being the most important meal is true. Brains need a regular supply of glucose to function, and in the morning there isn’t much glucose up there, so never skip breakfast. If you do you’re likely to hit an energy wall at around 10am. Eating breakfast will boost your energy first thing and help stop your blood sugar from dipping during the morning. In other words, it will give your body and mind the energy they need to function optimally, setting you up for the day ahead.


Eating breakfast also kick starts your metabolism (fat-burning), so if you have weight to lose, skipping breakfast is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. You need to get your metabolism up and running as soon as possible so that it isn’t on hold during the day and clinging onto the fat reserves you don’t need.


You may not feel like eating 2 minutes after you jump out of bed, so give yourself a little time to wake up before eating. And don’t just grab any food for breakfast; you need to make sure that what you are eating is optimum fuel for your body and brain. Avoid coffee/tea, white bread and muffins and sugary cereals made from refined grains because these will only give you a short lift and then your blood sugar can come crashing down. Make long lasting energy-boosting choices instead.


Dynamic breakfast choices include:

• A bowl of organic cereal that is low in fat, sugar and salt with milk (organic cow’s, organic soya or rick milk) with a herb tea.

            • A boiled egg and wholemeal or rye toast with fruit smoothie.

• Porridge topped with berries and ground nuts or seeds and a herb tea.

• For rushed mornings, a fruit or protein smoothie can be made the night before. In the morning just shake it up and drink as you get ready to start your day.


Freedom from trans fats

Banned in Denmark, and linked to cardiovascular disease and weight gain – trans fatty acids must go. If you ditch the transfats you will eat less of the junk that clogs your system and leaves you feeling sluggish, tired and bloated. In the long term you can also stave off high cholesterol. One study showed that by increasing consumption of trans fats by just 2% it can increase the risk of heart disease by a massive 30%.


Many manufactured foods have trans fats in them, including margarine, cakes, pies, biscuits, some vegetable oils and ready meals, as well as cheap chocolate, confectionary and ice cream. Instead of margarine it is better to go for a small amount of organic butter. Look on the label in the ingredient list for the words ‘hydrogenated fats’ as this is how the trans fats will appear. 


Avoid the rush

The typical way many of us find ourselves eating is a small or non-existent breakfast followed by a light snack during the day and a big meal at night. Sometimes people don’t eat anything at all until their evening meal which can be as late as 8.30pm. Stacking your calories like this isn’t a good idea and will almost certainly lead to fatigue and energy-draining weight gain.


In the fasted state your body will reduce your metabolism (fat-burning) and then – when you do eat before you go to bed – your body has little opportunity to produce energy and burn any of the calories that have been consumed. The result: poor digestion, weight gain and fatigue.


For sustained energy release you should start the day with a healthy breakfast, have a mid-morning snack, then lunch, a mid-afternoon snack and then supper. Eating every few hours will avoid a rush of blood sugar followed by a low, keeping your blood sugar levels and your energy levels as stable as possible. A snack doesn’t have to be anything more than a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts and seeds. The important thing is to avoid going for long hours on nothing more than a cup of coffee and a chocolate bar.

For steady energy release, try to make the basis of your daily meal pattern a healthy proportion of unrefined carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes) and protein (fish, eggs, nuts, beans, quinoa and seeds) to keep your blood sugars balanced. It’s an excellent idea to avoid sources of saturated fat from red meat, fried and fatty fast foods, cakes, pastries and crisps, and to concentrate on obtaining omega-3 and omega-6 essential fats from oily fish, nuts, seeds, extra-virgin olive oil and sunflower oil.


Raw potential

Eat something raw at the start of every meal. By eating foods in their natural state you can access their valuable energy-boosting nutrients more easily. So, without going overboard, begin each meal with something raw – for example an apple at breakfast, a stick of celery or some chopped cucumber with lemon juice and olive oil at lunch or supper.


Always remember that fresh food becomes unhealthy if it’s cooked unhealthily, for example if it’s deep fried or boiled for too long. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t cook at all. Certain foods, such as eggs, meat and fish, can be dangerous to eat raw and need to be cooked thoroughly. Try to balance cooked food with more raw food, perhaps 50:50, and cook gently at a lower heat and for longer if necessary. Steaming is the best way to cook veggies, stir-frying is good for fish, and poaching is useful for eggs and fish. Interestingly, some nutrients like lycopene in tomatoes are found at higher concentrations when the food is cooked rather than when the tomatoes are raw. So variety is the key. 


The big chew

Most people think that digestion begins in the stomach, but it actually begins in the mouth. The process of chewing is a vital part of good digestion, and therefore of good health and steady energy levels.


Avoid eating on the run. You need to chew your food thoroughly if you are to digest it properly and get the maximum benefit from what you eat. So don’t eat at your desk while working and try to avoid grabbing a bite to eat as you run from one appointment to another. Make time to ensure that you eat a proper meal rather than just the fuel you need as quickly as possible.


The next time you have a meal or snack, concentrate on noticing every morsel: what it looks, smells and tastes like. Count to five between each bite, or put your knife and fork down between mouthfuls. It doesn’t really take much time or effort to chew your food, and what you get in return is better digestion, better health, more energy and a greater enjoyment and appreciation of food.


(Next month: Boosting energy with more high energy foods)

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