5 Minute Read
Feeling a bit ‘meh’? It’s probably down to what’s on your plate.
The foods we eat and when we eat them can transform our energy levels from sluggish to supercharged. We spoke to chef and author of The Healing Cookbook, Gemma Ogston to unpick what’s sapping our energy, and how to get it back.
“When you’re a busy, working woman trying to juggle everything, potentially with perimenopause thrown in too, it’s normal to feel tired,” explains Ogston, a plant-based chef and mum of two with her own company Gem’s Wholesome Kitchen, based in Brighton. “But you can boost your energy levels with gut-nourishing foods and simple daily habits.
“Stress and worry are some of the biggest causes of low energy, so improving your digestion will really help gut health, which is linked to mood and wellbeing. Add more fibre, so a minimum of five-a-day fruits, and more prunes and dates, leafy greens, fermented foods and lentils or pulses in salads. These will all boost digestion and stop that sluggish feeling.”
Top 5 energy-boosting foods
This means avoiding refined foods where possible – anything ultra-processed, in a packet and with added sweeteners and preservatives. Instead, go for wholegrains, such as oats, brown rice and brown pasta and whole foods, so plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Poor gut health is one of the biggest reasons why people feel tired and fermented foods are great for the gut. Try things like kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, pickled vegetables to avoid that sluggish feeling that drains energy. I’m a massive fan of apple cider vinegar, which you can use as a salad dressing with olive oil, or make a little daily shot, diluted with water and add some honey. Make sure the apple cider vinegar contains “the mother” which means it’s organic.
These are a brilliant food source because they are a good carb that’s full of energy but isn’t going to make you crash. They’re packed with nutrients and vitamins, so swap regular potatoes for sweet potatoes to keep energy levels more stable. You can use them for everything from making cakes, to making sweet potato chips or mash. They’re tasty and make everything look nice as they’re bright and colourful.
This is a massive food trend and the new superfood. I’ve been using them for years and you can now buy varieties such as Lion’s Mane or organic Chaga in mainstream stores in powder or tincture forms. Athletes use them to increase stamina and focus. Reishi is another great medicinal mushroom if you’re feeling exhausted and can’t get rid of fatigue. It can really improve your sleep pattern, especially for women going through early stages of menopause.
Bananas and avocados
These are my top tip for fruits and vegetables to add to any diet because they’re full of healthy fats as well as slow-burning energy. Dates are an amazing energy booster too, so eat them whole or as part of a snack with nut butter.
Sweet potatoes are a “good carb” full of energy
Top 3 energy-boosting swaps
Where possible, try to swap refined white bread, white pasta, white rice or white sugar for wholegrains. So, think wholegrain pasta, brown rice and decent organic bread for better gut health and longer lasting energy.
There’s no need to give up your beloved morning coffee or tea but try to limit it to one cup because caffeine triggers those energy spikes and crashes. Swap tea or coffee for green tea or matcha where possible, so you’re less likely to add sugar and milk.
Juices and fizzy drinks are packed with sugar so swap them for infused waters. Drinking three litres of water every day has huge benefits for energy because your body will absorb nutrients better if you’re hydrated. You can jazz up water with fruits and the more you drink the less tired you’ll feel.
Rethink how you eat
Don’t eat too late. Like many people, I find it difficult to sleep if I go to bed on a full tummy because everything is still digesting as you try to rest. It can be difficult with busy working lives but try not to eat too late at night because it will impact digestion.
Plan ahead. Often we grab lunch or breakfast on-the-go and it can be difficult to reach for healthy options. It all depends on your routine and levels of activity throughout the day, but I always recommend planning ahead. Make overnight oats or a smoothie that you can have on the train, and take your lunch with you.
Eat raw. The cooking process strips wholefoods of their nutrients so eat as many raw, seasonal fruits and vegetables as you can. Eating seasonally is always better, for example strawberries in summer, because you know they’re fresh. I try to have lots of raw, leafy greens in a salad or smoothie, or alfalfa sprouts as we go into autumn and want something heartier. If you are cooking, try to keep a bit of bite in your veg to maintain those nutrients.
5 ways to snack smarter
- My number one rule before you even think about snacking is to drink loads of water or herbal tea to first work out if you’re hungry or thirsty. It might just be that you need hydrating.
- If you do find yourself reaching for the snacks, choose something fibre-rich like dates. I like to remove the pip, add nut butter and cinnamon, or a bit of cream cheese and herbs on top.
- Make some energy balls. I have some great recipes in my book using handfuls of roasted nuts or seeds, combined with maple syrup and salt and kept in a jar until you need them. If you’re short on time, grab a rice cake and spread on some nut butter.
- Homemade granola with melted coconut oil, maple syrup or honey added to oats is delicious. You could add some toasted seeds or dried banana chips or mango, pop on baking paper and stick it in the oven for 20 minutes so it’s nice and chewy.
- Fill your cupboards with energy boosting food for when you’re short on time. Dried dates, mango or banana are long-lasting and ideal for grabbing on the go.
Recipes to boost your energy
Gemma Ogston shares her top three recipes for energy-packed meals and snacks. Extracted from The Healing Cookbook by Gemma Ogston. Recipe photography all by Xavier Buendia.
Turmeric, ginger and citrus are a powerhouse trio of immunity support. Packed into muffins with a sweet-sharp glaze on top, these tasty snacks will make teatime treats feel virtuous!
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