Reviewed by Dr Lee Smith, Associate Professor of Public Health
When it comes to wellbeing, all foods will provide you with energy, in the form of calories. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy, but fats and proteins also provide you with some get-up-and-go. These are classified as macronutrients because these are what the body needs in higher quantities for energy.
As vital as macronutrients are, micronutrients are also equally important. These are mostly vitamins and minerals that the body needs but in smaller quantities. Micronutrients are critical for human health, and deficiency in any of them may negatively affect your health and wellbeing, or in the worst circumstances can be life-threatening.
Six Essential Nuturients
Vitamin B12 is naturally present in animal-based foods and is needed to make red blood cells and DNA. The main job of red blood cells is to transport oxygen around the body. B12 deficiency can cause anaemia and symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, confusion, and depression.
Iron is also essential for the production of healthy red blood cells. If you have an iron deficiency, then there won’t be enough of this essential mineral to make haemoglobin, the protein responsible for binding to and transporting oxygen around the body. Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common of the anaemias and can cause symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, headaches, and dizziness.
Ferritin is the main storage protein for iron and is vital for keeping iron levels in the body balanced. A low ferritin level can indicate iron deficiency anaemia causing symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches, low energy, and breathing issues.
Folate is also known as vitamin B9. It is essential for the normal development of red blood cells and DNA. Pregnant women are also advised to take a folic acid supplement for proper foetal and placental development.
Magnesium has many vital functions in the human body, especially in energy production, muscle contraction and neurological function. A low magnesium intake can increase the risk of illness as well as depression and migraines.
The sunshine vitamin, or vitamin D, helps to keep your teeth, bones, and muscles in tip-top condition. Without enough vitamin D you’re at a greater risk of bone deformities such as rickets and osteomalacia. That’s not all, deficiency can also make you feel very tired, depressed, as well as cause bone and muscle pain.
Which Foods Are These Nutrients Found In?
Because all of these nutrients are essential, you’ll need to eat the right foods to make sure you’re getting enough of them. Remember, essential means you must get them from your diet because your body is unable to make these nutrients itself.
Here’s some of the best sources of these nutrients:
- supplements if you do not eat meat or animal-based foods
Iron and ferritin
- red meat (beef, lamb, pork)
- dark green leafy veg
- nuts, seeds, and pulses
- fortified foods such as bread and cereals 
- dark, green leafy vegetables
- dried beans
- fortified breakfast cereals
- sunlight exposure
- oily fish
- egg yolks
- fortified foods such as milk, bread, and cereals
Tips To Boost Your Energy Levels
When it comes to dieting to improve energy, there are a few things you should consider. So when you’re putting together a meal plan to boost your energy levels be sure to use the following tips and advice.
- Eat regularly throughout the day
Aim to eat 3 meals and a healthy snack if you need some extra energy. Choose nutritious foods like nuts, seeds, or a piece of fruit.
- Don’t skip breakfast
It really is the most important meal of the day. Stick to low sugar and high fibre options like porridge or eggs (however you like them) with wholemeal toast.
- Stay hydrated
Low energy is often caused by a low water intake. So, try to limit your caffeine consumption and try sipping water throughout the day. If you can’t drink plain water, try adding fruit slices or herbs for extra flavour.
- Incorporate starchy carbs into your meals
Like potatoes, bread, pasta, and rice. Choose brown or wholegrain varieties because these are also full of fibre and help to keep you satisfied for longer.
- Keep added sugar to minimum
We all love a treat now and again but the sugar high they give you doesn’t last long and it’s not good for your teeth. If you’re craving a sugar fix, try a piece of fruit or vegetable batons with hummus for a healthy snack.
- Supplement if you need to
For example, if you’re vegan, you’ll struggle to get your daily vitamin B12 intake, so you’ll need to supplement your diet. However, if you incorporate all of the food groups into your diet you shouldn’t need to supplement vitamins for energy.