Energy Boosting Foods for Women

Rebecca McPhee with Credit to Diabetes NSW & ACT


3 Minutes

All food provides us with energy, however, the amount varies greatly. Wholefoods including whole grains, vegetables, fruit, protein and good fats provide sustainable energy, helping you to perform at your best right throughout the day. Refined, processed foods on the other hand gives you a quick boost of energy but will often leave you feeling tired and sluggish hours later.  

Whilst there is no one food that will magically give us energy, eating a varied diet with particular wholefoods will assist with maintaining longer-lasting energy levels. Here are 10 Dietitian recommended foods to include in your diet each day. 

  1. Leafy greens - There is a lot of truth to being told to 'eat your greens'. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage and dark coloured lettuce are a powerhouse of nutrition. They provide essential B-group vitamins, which are needed to help the body to use important nutrients such as carbohydrates, fat and protein for fuel. Getting a good dose of your greens each day will also supply you with iron, an important mineral that many women struggle to get enough of, and causes fatigue. To boost iron absorption, combine leafy greens with vitamin C rich food such as tomatoes, red capsicum or citrus. 
  2. Wholegrains - forget no-carb diets! Whole grains have many proven benefits including a valuable energy source. Whole grains such as oats, brown rice, barley, quinoa and wholegrain/sourdough bread are high in dietary fibre and have a low glycemic index which means they digest in the body slowly, keeping your blood glucose and energy levels stable.  
  3. Blueberries - These little morsels of low calorie, natural sweetness get 5 stars when it comes to nutrition. Compared to other food categories, blueberries contain the highest antioxidant value per weight.i  Antioxidants have been shown to eliminate free radicals, reducing damage to our cells, and therefore reducing our risk of developing certain diseases, such as heart disease and some cancers. Blueberries are also rich in vitamins C, A, E, folate and fibre.  
  4. Bananas - If I was paid a dollar for every time I was told 'bananas are fattening', I would retire! This fallacy could not be further than the truth. This low calorie, the convenient snack is not only rich in B-group vitamins, potassium, dietary fibre but also a good source of slow-release energy. One study found that consuming a banana before a long bike ride helps endurance and performance as much as a sports drink.ii 
  5. Nuts - whether its walnuts, almonds, macadamias, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts or cashews, they are all are rich in vitamins and minerals including magnesium, which has an important role of converting sugar into energy for fuel. Their high levels of essential fatty acids also help to reduce inflammation, which may reduce fatigue.iii
  6. Animal protein - Including lean sources of protein including beef, chicken, turkey and pork provides you with the amino acid tyrosine and tryptophan which boosts brain chemicals including dopamine which keeps you alert, focused and helps to reduce insomnia and low mood.iv Red meat especially is a rich source of absorbable iron. Including 65-100g three times of red meat will help meet your iron requirements. 
  7. Oily fish - Including oily fish at least 2-3 times per week such as salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel will provide the body with protein and B group vitamins, providing you with energy throughout the day. They are also rich in essential omega 3 fats, which has been shown to improve brain function and reduce inflammation, which is linked to fatigue.v
  8. Legumes - Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, soybeans and red kidney beans are a cheap source of plant protein but rich in dietary fibre, helping you to feel fuller for longer and sustain energy levels.   
  9. Yoghurt - Greek and natural yoghurt are a great source of naturally occurring bacteria called probiotics. Probiotics help to improve digestion, strengthen the immune system, support nutrient absorption and improve energy levels.vi
  10. Citrus - Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, mandarins, tangerines and tangelos are all excellent sources of immune-boosting vitamin C, which can help reduce oxidative stress in the body and prevent fatigue. 

 

Putting it all together 

Here is what a day's intake could look like, combining energy-boosting foods. 

 

Breakfast 

Blueberry yoghurt crunch: 1/2 cup natural muesli topped with 3 heaped Tablespoons Natural/Greek yoghurt and a generous handful of berries  

 

Morning snack 

3 wholegrain crackers with 100% nut butter e.g., peanut or almond or hummus 

 

Lunch 

Salmon avocado chickpea salad: 100g cooked salmon flaked and tossed with 2 large handfuls of baby spinach, 1 small chopped tomato, 1/2 cup canned chickpeas, 1/4 avocado. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice. 

 

Afternoon snack  

1 banana and a small handful (1/4 cup) almonds or walnuts  

 

Dinner 

Beef and vegetable stir fry with brown rice - lean beef strips stir-fried with broccoli, snow peas, red capsicum, onion and mushroom.  

*Pregnant and breastfeeding women will need to increase their amount of some food serves to help provide nutrients and energy for the baby and for breastmilk production. Refer to 'breastfeeding diet plan' and 'pregnancy diet'.  

 

In summary 

Our fast-paced lives often call for extra energy. Whilst there is no magic food that will be the answer to low energy levels, there are many whole foods we can include in the diet that will provide us with the essential nutrients we need for optimal health and sustained energy.  

 

References:

i Carlsen M et al,. The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide. Nutrition Journal. , Article number: 3 (2010)
ii Nieman D et al. Bananas as an Energy Source during Exercise: A Metabolomics Approach. PLoS One. 2012; 7(5): e37479.
iii Calder, P. Functional Roles of Fatty Acids and Their Effects on Human Health. JPEN, 2015 Sep;39(1 Suppl):18S-32S.
iv Lieberman, H. Amino Acid and Protein Requirements: Cognitive Performance, Stress, and Brain Function. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1999.
v Molfino, A et al. The Role for Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acids Supplementation in Older Adults. Nutrients. 2014 Oct; 6(10): 4058–4072.
vi Krajmalnik-Brown, R., Ilhan, Z. E., Kang, D. W., & DiBaise, J. K. (2012). Effects of gut microbes on nutrient absorption and energy regulation. Nutrition in clinical practice : official publication of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, 27(2), 201-14.
 


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