Eating for energy

PUBLISHED: 01:54 01 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:41 20 February 2013

Eating for energy

Eating for energy

You are what you eat so here are some tips to make sure you're getting it right

You are what you eat, so here are some tips to make sure you're getting it right

You are what you eat is a somewhat hackneyed phrase nowadays but its spot-on when it comes to building a body thats bursting with energy.

Developing a lifelong habit of eating food to sustain and nourish you is important whether youre a busy working mother, a budding marathon runner or someone who simply wants to enjoy good health.

This article isnt about faddy diets, calorie-counting or slimming plans. Its about improving energy levels, good health and wellbeing, and it can begin the moment you take your first fresh mouthful. After all, if youre not fighting fit, you wont get as much out of life.

So make friends with food this summer and let soaring vitality be your goal.

Energy from carbs

We all know that sugars and starches can give us instant energy boosts but they can just as readily be followed by a low when they derive from refined, sugary snack foods or highly processed starches as in white bread products.

The trick to healthy, sustained energy is to eat carbohydrates from more natural, less processed foods that release their fuel slowly. This way, we experience fewer energy lows and more highs.

Think of a kindling fire. Shoving a tank of kerosene on it to help it along is hardly progress. The same happens with food fuel in our bodies. In nature it would take us an hour of chewing at a metre of raw sugar cane to extract the energy that a single teaspoon of refined white sugar instantly provides our bodies with. Sounds ideal doesnt it? But in fact its not. It places our system namely our precious pancreas under strain and can lead to bad dietary health, including diabetes.

Grains are good sources of starches and natural sugars especially in wholemeal form. Choose porridge oats for breakfast or add them to other foods, including savoury. If you eat crackers with cheese, go for oat-rich ones. Switch to wholemeal cereals and add fresh fruit for real slow-release, sustainable energy.

Try replacing white refined cereals with wholewheat ones and eat

Vital vitamins

Fruit and vegetables are a wonderful way to increase good health and are packed with essential vitamins, minerals and trace elements. However, there are two types of vitamins fat soluble and water soluble.

Fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K are stored in the body if we dont immediately need them and should not be consumed to excess as they are found in foods rich in animal fats.

Water soluble vitamins C, B and folic acid are not stored and we need to consume them more frequently. They are abundant in fruit and vegetables but also in grains and meat.

The best way to consume vitamins and minerals is via a broad range of fresh, seasonal produce. Local food that has travelled less and is indigenous to your area will always be far superior and if its organic itll be better still as it will be free from pesticide and artificial fertiliser residues.

Enjoy vegetables lightly steamed with sensible portions of meat, oily fish and egg, or pulse dishes for vegetarians. For health-food heaven try stir-fried chicken, turkey or Quorn goujons, served with spicy couscous and lashings of salad leaves, with citrus fruit and toasted nuts.

July is an amazingly abundant time
for English fruits so blitz excess seasonal fruit into a smoothie or add a smoothie to some low-fat yoghurt for a deliciously healthy drink or snack.

Its cherry time now and theyre one of natures wonder foods, rich in vitamins, anti-inflammatory nutrients and possibly cancer-busting elements too. Eat them greedily, straight from the fruit bowl for super-charged energy. Serve on the cheese board (especially with goats cheese) and in salads and meat dishes.

Vegetables dont give such instantaneous energy but their valuable vitamins, minerals and trace elements are vital for developing and maintaining a healthy body, which, of course, is an energised body.

Eat as much as you can raw and unprocessed to safeguard against nutrient loss from cooking especially for water soluble vitamins in fruit and veg and include them both in salads or stir-fries in each of your three meals a day.

Especially good are broad beans, picked from their pods and popped raw into a salad with perhaps pecorino cheese, olive oil and fresh mint from the garden a combo bursting with energy.

Healthy protein

Proteins are vital for building, repairing and maintaining a healthy body. Up to 15% of our daily energy comes from protein which can be made up from meat and fish, dairy and plant sources.

The protein we derive from meat contains all the essential amino acids we need but because of the saturated fat in red meat, its advisable to have a balanced amount from different sources.

To really nurture a healthy lifestyle, have at least two meat-free days a week and get your protein from lentils, which are very low in fat, and perhaps eggs or Quorn, the brand name for a fungi mycoprotein product with half the fat content of meat. To give those meat-free protein days a bit of tasty excitement, combine and mash a tin of mixed beans, a tin of chick peas, an egg, some fresh herbs and a bit of chopped garlic and bake as rissoles in a hot oven. Make a simple fresh tomato and onion salsa and add a squeeze of lemon or orange juice. Serve with the rissoles and a fresh salad for a healthy, balanced meal.

Gut instincts

Were talking friendly bacteria. Live yoghurt is the very best form of pre-digested milk and its remarkably good for your health because it can re-establish and maintain the flora in the colon. Sweeten it with honey, drink it, make dips, add it to sauces and curries or buy it in the form of Quark, a yoghurt/curd cheese from sour milk.

multi-grain/wholemeal breads. Make pasta a regular feature of your diet as its also a slow-release (low GI) food. Wholewheat pasta and brown rice are delicious and once youve used them youll probably even prefer them. Brown rice is great cold in a salad and goes really well with tuna and hard-boiled eggs.

Advice from a professional

Suffolk nutritionist Fiona Mealing, from Framligham, practises in Woodbridge and Colchester. Fiona, whose health-conscious, vegetarian father stirred her interest in positive nutrition, says that one of the best ways to ensure you get optimal energy is to have a full and healthy breakfast.

Fiona recommends a combination of oats, nuts, seeds and yoghurt with perhaps the fresh addition of grated apple and berries to start your day.

"I also recommend a good balance of medium to low GI foods which burn their starches and sugars more slowly. Theyll help stop fluctuations in blood-sugar levels and this will promote greater levels of energy. Choose red peppers, radishes and beetroot for antioxidants and fibre. Eat them raw wherever possible and try to keep yourself well hydrated."

Fiona Mealing Dip. ION, BANT.
Tel: 01728 720736

Practising at: Windmill National Healing Centre, Woodbridge Suffolk and also at Trinity Centre, Colchester.

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