Top 10 ways to increase your energy on a vegan diet
A plant-based diet has many benefits for health and the planet. However, unless followed with care and knowledge, it can it can cause fatigue. This is because a plant-based diet lacks some of the nutrients essential for the production of energy that can only be sourced from meat, dairy and eggs. This is easily overcome if a few simple tips are followed.
|Boost your gut microbiome with fermented foods. Kefir made with plant-based milk, sauerkraut and kimchi all contain diverse bacteria which optimise the health of the gut wall. Poor gut bacteria can be a reason for leaky gut syndrome, which has been linked to allergies, intolerances, autoimmune conditions and fatigue. Vegans need legumes and pulses for protein but they contain lectins which can cause inflammation and intolerances to food if the health of the gut wall is compromised.|
|Balance your blood sugar particularly in the evening to avoid broken sleep. Vegan diets are very low in fat and can be low in protein if care is not taken. Fat and protein slow the digestion of food in the gut, slowing the break-down of sugar. Riding the blood-sugar rollercoaster will trash your energy reserves and disrupt your sleep at night, leaving you exhausted. Be particularly wary of free-from foods which tend to be high in sugar. Ensure you are getting enough calories to, if they’re too low you’ll also experience drops in blood sugar.|
|Eat foods rich in iron. Iron is essential for the production of energy and is carried in the haemoglobin of red blood cells. Vegans run a high risk of being anaemic because iron from plants (non-haem) is less bioavailable than iron from animals. It is still good to eat non-haem foods such as spinach, beans and legumes but add foods high in vitamin C to assist the absorption of iron through the gut wall such as tomatoes and, lemon and kiwi fruits. Spinach contains both iron and vitamin C!|
|Supplement with vitamin B12. This vitamin is essential for energy and the synthesis of red blood cells but animal foods are the only source. It is recognised as a key deficiency risk in vegans resulting in pernicious anaemia. Consider taking a high-quality supplement along with a vitamin B Complex supplement to avoid deficiency in other B micronutrients. Also look at for plant-based milk and cereals which have been fortified.|
|Eat sprouted beans and legumes for Zinc. The body has a high demand for zinc but although it is available in plant-based foods, the phytates in these foods bind it and prevent absorption. Sprouting beans, peas and lentils frees the zinc and makes it more bioavailable.|
|Eat foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids for brain function. Walnuts are an excellent source, as well as hemp seeds, linseeds, pumpkin seeds avocados and olive oil.|
|Ensure you eat a ‘spectrum’ of amino acids. Amino acids from protein are required for so many functions in the body and low levels one reason for fatigue. Tyrosine is needed to manufacture thyroid hormones (essential for energy), tryptophan for serotonin (to make you feel happy and motivated). Quinoa is the best plant-based protein source containing all the essential amino acids. Rather than having to constantly think about what to pair up to achieve the correct variety, just try to eat as varied a diet as possible with a mix of fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds.|
|Ensure your diet contains enough iodine. A diet low in iodine results in an under-performing thyroid gland. Low levels of thyroxine, the hormone produced by the thyroid, is linked to fatigue, weight gain, depression and brain fog. Fruit and vegetables will not provide enough. Eat sea vegetables such as kelp and consider buying iodized salt iodine is not added to salt in the UK).|
|Add plant-based protein powder made from pea, legumes or hemp seeds to smoothies and sauces. I am not a fan of soy products (tofu, soya milk and meat substitutes) which are highly processed and contain phytates which block the absorption of nutrients from the gut. If you’re not keen on powders, soak chia seeds for 30 minutes then add to smoothies or sauces. They are a great source of protein, B vitamins and Omega-3 oils.|
|Consume enough calories. How much you eat is just as important as what you eat. A vegan diet that relies primarily on fruit and vegetables is low in calories and low calorie means not enough energy to run the body on. The body will use fat stores as a supplement, but this is only sustainable for as long as the fat stores exist. Low calorie can result in the body becoming malnourished and this puts the body at risk of a host of illnesses including eating disorders. Please, if you’re losing weight then you’re not eating enough calories and you’re putting yourself at risk. Get advice from a qualified practitioner.|
Learn more about nutrition in my best-selling book ‘How to Prevent Burnout’ and my latest book, ‘Life Force. The revolutionary 7-step plan for optimum energy’.