Feeling low on energy? Need a boost that will last longer than an hour or so? The right foods could give you that, and more.
Vitality is a feeling of well-being that enables you to sail through a busy day and have enough energy to spare at the end of it.
When last did you feel that way? It could have a lot to do with the foods you eat, and today's diets contain way too many high-fat, sugary and refined and processed foods, along with caffeine and fizzy drinks, that we grab in a desparate attempt to get some energy. But all these do is give you a short-term boost while in the long run they are all energy sappers.
Even more people skip breakfast, eat badly during the day (a bag of popcorn and a coffee sound familiar?), only to arrive home starving and raiding the bread tin and stuffing their face with leftovers.
The solution? Experts suggest a diet based on low GI carbs (mostly raw from fruit and veg) combined with healthy proteins should do the trick.
THE RIGHT CARBS - UNDERSTANDING GI
Carbs are divided into low GI, medium GI and high GI.
Low gi - Glycemic Index or GI Index, is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels. Under 55 glycemic index figure is low GI. Medium GI = 56 - 69 and
High GI = 70 or more.
This is a value obtained by monitoring a persons blood sugar after eating the food. Your body will digest these foods slowly leaving you feeling full for longer and allowing you to eat less calories without feeling hungry.
Click here for a list of low GI foods. Snack on these foods throughout the day, and compile your meals using them.
Note: Adding a low GI food to a meal will lower the glycemic index of the whole meal.
So if you take a wholewheat pitta (GI 52) and stuff it with steamed broccolli, tomatoes, chilli and hummus and/or low-fat yoghurt, you've got a perfectly low GI meal.
Because the carb content of meat and fish is minimal, these foods have a low-GI value with minimal effect on blood glucose levels.
But stay clear of huge portions and fatty meat, opting rather for free range chicken, eggs, sustainable fish such as tuna in brine, and small amounts of fat-free, free-range beef, pork and lamb.Tofu is another good carb-free protein, and red lentils are full of protein and is low GI to boot.
EAT LITTLE AND OFTEN AND DON'T SKIP BREAKFAST
Kickstart your metabolism with a bowl of fruit and low-fat yoghurt, for breakfast and keep it ticking over by snacking on nuts, seeds, veggies, fruits, rice cakes, dried figs and apricots and dates throughout the day. Come evening, you won't be tempted to overeat.
While pasta, wholegrain breads and new potatoes generally have a low GI value, research shows that while it can improve your physical endurance, they have a calming, sedative effect on the brain, making you feel sleepy after a lunch based on pasta , bread or potatoes. Rather keep these for evening times.
TIP: if you're having pasta, never cook it beyond al dente, as this increases the starch in the pasta and pushes the GI value up.
New research has shown that protein foods stimulate brain activity by encouraging the brain to produce its own form of chemical stimulant, leaving people who eat a small, high-protein lunch more alert than those who had a high-carb lunch.
LAST THINGS TO CONSIDER
Fatigue can also be caused by allergies, lack of sleep, continued stress, alcohol and smoking. So if a change in diet doesn't help, address these issues.
Finally, excercise may drain your energy, but in the long term it will give you more. That's because regular exercise increases the oxygen storage capacity of the muscles and stimulate the immune system.
RECIPES FOR ENERGY
Bay cabbage slaw with dates tossed in a garlic and malty mayo
Grilled chicken skewers with hummus and yoghurt sauce
Beef and lettuce wraps with sweet chilli sauce (use regular chilli sauce, without the sugar)
Crunchy vegetable and salmon trout rolls
Dukkah lamb salad
Artichoke and pear summer salad with fresh greens tossed in a smoked white balsamic reduction
Tofu and coconut stir-fry
Spiced yoghurt with fresh and dried fruit confetti
Breakfast fruit tabbouleh (bulgar wheat has a low GI)
Stuffed vegetables with lentil rice, pine nuts and parsley (use brown rice)