When you need a high-energy fix, do you reach for an Energy bar or Energy drink? Or do you resort to caffeine, chocolate, or high-sugar snacks when you feel that “end of the day” sag?
You might already know that the real energy-boosters are fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs and whole grains. These are the foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals and are full of all the good parts that nature has to offer. They are so alive with nature’s intelligence that fatigue-causing toxins cannot accumulate in the body when you eat them.
Grains for Power
Not all carbohydrates are the same. A croissant, for instance, is high in fat and low in nutrition. The most nutritious carbohydrates are whole grains, which have been found to lower cholesterol, inhibit cancer-causing activity and harmful bacteria in the intestines, and stabilize blood glucose levels.
And of these whole grains, Ayurveda considers rye, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat and millet as the most nutritious, because they are especially high in protein and minerals. They are also high in fibre, and thus have a detoxifying value.
One-half cup of amaranth (measured dry), for instance, contains 14g protein, 8mg iron, and also magnesium and zinc. The same amount of quinoa contains 13g of protein, 9mg of iron and 3mg of zinc. Rye is also high in protein, with one-half cup yielding 15g of protein and 4mg of zinc. Millet is a good source of B vitamins.
All of these grains contain copper, which is an essential trace mineral that improves energy and immunity, and their zinc content also boosts your immunity (called ojas in Ayurveda).
Energizing Vegetables and Fruits
Other high-energy foods include fresh vegetables, which should constitute at least forty percent of the meal. Green, leafy vegetables are especially high in minerals and fibre, so should be eaten often.
Fruits are also a great source of energy. You can start the day with a stewed apple, and if you feel hungry in between meals, try snacking on a juicy pear or some nice kiwi fruit. If you are feeling heavy and bloated after lunch, eat a fresh papaya, because they contain enzymes that aid digestion. Fruits should ideally be eaten as a meal by themselves or as snack in between meals.
According to Ayurveda, raisins are among the best of fruits because they enhance satva (purity), pacify the mind and heart and increase the coordination between them. They are also a rich source of iron and Vitamin B6, and provide magnesium, calcium, zinc, and potassium. Raisins aid digestion and elimination when they are soaked in water overnight. One handful per person is a good amount.
A Date-Milk Energy Shake is a great pick me up energy drink.
Date-Milk Energy Shake
4-5 whole dates (Medjool dates are ideal)
1 cup whole organic milk (unhomogenized if possible)
Or 1 cup ricemilk or almond milk
1 pinch of ground cinnamon
If you use milk, boil the milk until it creates a foam. Turn off the heat and cool until the temperature is comfortable for drinking. Combine the milk with the other ingredients and blend until the dates are ground up. Drink it warm in winter and at room temperature in summer.
Beware of Energy-Draining Foods
Just as there are foods to boost energy, other foods drain it. Any fast foods, canned, frozen, packaged, leftover, or old foods — or foods containing preservatives, chemicals, and additives — are difficult to digest and contain little nutritional content.
If you are feeling dull, sluggish, and drained of energy every day, it probably means that your diet contains too many energy-draining foods, which have clogged your micro-channels with toxins. This means that you need to overhaul your diet to include foods that create immunity and energy.
It’s important that our digestion is functioning properly as it is not just about what we eat but also about how we can digest the food we eat.
Adding spices and herbs to your food is an easy way to improve your digestion. Try sauteing cumin, coriander, fennel, and turmeric in ghee or oil, then add vegetables or cooked grains. Or add spices like fennel and cumin to your drinking water to boost your energy.
1 litre water
1/2 tsp whole cumin
1/2 tsp whole fennel
2 pinches of licorice
Boil the water first. Place it in a thermos and add the spices. Sip the water throughout the day to improve digestion and increase your energy. If you are a Pitta constitutional type, you may want to let the water cool to room temperature before drinking.
The important thing is to eat foods every day that boost your energy, rather than relying on artificial boosters when you feel your energy sag, because there will always be negative side-effects.