Spring brings a massive energy surge in nature, but how can we feel recharged and refreshed? Nutritionist Esther Mills-Roberts explains…
The cold season’s over. With its stodge and podge, less sunlight hours, it’s a breath of fresh air to be seeing the sun and feeling like nature is waking up. So how can we make the most of this springtime energy charge?
Too Good to be Forgotten
With enthusiasm for all things phytonutrient rich and colourful, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, berries, cherries, soya, nuts, green foods and tropical fruits, it’s easy to overlook the simple nutrients that have been used to help maintain energy levels for years; iron, vitamin D and B vitamins.
Iron-deficiency anaemia can result in severe lethargy, so it makes sense to get this checked out, either with a dietary analysis or through a blood test. Iron-rich foods include fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, beans, pulses and wholegrains. Supplementation is one way to increase intakes quickly over time, and the form of iron that you choose could greatly impact on absorption. Cheaper forms such as sulphates are poorly used by the body, but amino acid chelates are very well absorbed.
Whilst vitamin C increases the absorption of iron, it’s important to remember that there are compounds that bind to iron such as phytates found in soya, walnuts and fibre, and oxalates found in tea, spinach, kale, beets, nuts, chocolate, wheat bran, rhubarb, strawberries and herbs such as oregano, basil and parsley. Eggs contain phosvitin, a protein compound that binds iron molecules together. Phenolic acid, which can also be found in apples, peppermint and some herbal teas, spices, walnuts, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries can also prevent iron uptake by the gut, so some practitioners recommend that they should not be consumed two hours prior to or following your main iron-rich meal.
Vitamin D supplementation is now recommended at various levels which, for adults, is 10 micrograms daily. This is because liver stores are not thought to be sufficient to carry people through the winter months. A blood test can assess this but supplementation is still recommended. Low vitamin D levels can lead to fatigue and tiredness, low mood, bone pain and poor immune function.
B vitamins are essential for energy production, with low levels limiting the ability and rate at which energy production can occur in the body. Many people choose to supplement with a multi-nutrient that is rich in B group vitamins, or even top up with a separate supplement.
Something a Little Different
At the end of the energy production cycle in the body, there are coenzymes which finish the process off and one of them is coenzyme Q10. We know that body levels deplete as we get older, and levels are also impacted by exercise. In both cases supplementation could prove useful. Supplements of CoQ10 often include other key energy-producing nutrients such as B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc and selenium.
Antioxidant nutrients are important to help the body to clear unhelpful, potentially damaging free radical reactive compounds in the body. They also help to support healthy immune function and are involved in key biochemical pathways around the production of hormones, brain chemistry, control of blood sugar and digestive health function. Thankfully, eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, wholegrains and high-quality proteins will make sure that your diet is rich in minerals.
It’s worth mentioning that many practitioners see potential risk of selenium deficiencies in their client’s diet diaries, and this was highlighted by the government 15 years ago. To counter this, it’s sensible to increase intakes of seafoods or brazil nuts, or if you don’t fancy either of these, to look for a good antioxidant nutrient that includes selenium. The recommendation is 55 micrograms a day.
Over the past 10 years, there has been an increase in understanding about the importance of the gut microflora in helping to regulate metabolism, assist in the final breakdown of foods, play a part in strong immune function and even help to manage a healthy weight (which is important for good energy levels). A broad range of gut bacteria is very important to make sure that our digestive system is functioning to its full potential, so opt for a broad-spectrum probiotic and supplements to help regulate bowel function, such as senna, if constipation is an issue.
About Esther Mills-Roberts
Esther Mills-Roberts is a degree-trained nutritional biochemist and registered nutritionist. She is the founder of www.allaboutnutrition.co.uk.
Esther studied nutrition and biochemistry at Nottingham University and worked for a number of nutritional supplement companies before eventually setting up as a consultant on nutritional marketing, PR, quality standard, labelling and new product development.
She has also lectured and educated many about the science of nutrition, written for a number of health titles, written her own books and has featured on both TV and radio. Esther is a member of the Guild of Health Writers, London.