7 nutrients you need for energy

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Friday, 28 November 2008.
Tagged: energy, healthy cooking, healthy eating, healthy lifestyle, hydration, nutrients, omega-3

7 nutrients you need for energy

I'm always looking to ways to boost my energy level. While no food can guarantee this, I've found seven that are critical to the supply of energy in the body and the peak functioning of your brain. If you're constantly tired or lacking in energy, check your diet for these seven.


Low stores of iron are often the reason why many women complain of being tired. Monthly blood loss coupled to an inadequate iron intake explain why women are more likely to experience iron-deficiency anaemia than men.

Haem iron from red meat, pork, chicken and fish is the best absorbed form of iron. Just a small amount (like a few beef strips in a vegetable stir-fry) will boost the iron from vegetables or grains.

Vegetarians can obtain iron with the help of vitamin C, which "enhances" iron uptake. Adding citrus juice or tomato or capsicum (all rich in vitamin C) to a meal increases the amount of iron from grains or lentils.
Aim for 12 to 16 milligrams daily

B vitamins

Most of the B group vitamins function to release energy in the body, but three are critical for ensuring your vitality:

Thiamin (vitamin B1)

Thiamin is needed for the metabolism of carbohydrates and for energy production. A healthy digestive and nervous system also depends on adequate thiamin. Found in yeast spreads, wheatgerm, nuts, breakfast cereals, lean meats, peas and wholemeal breads.
Aim for 0.8 milligrams daily


Widely publicised for its role in preventing birth defects, folate is also central to the formation of blood cells (so with iron helps to prevent anaemia). Look for it in leafy green vegetables, avocado, fruits, cereals, legumes and grainy breads.
Women should aim for 400 micrograms a day.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 works with iron to prevent anaemia and keep your blood in top order. It's only found in animal-based foods like meat, seafood, eggs and milk. For strict vegans, B12-fortified soy milk or a supplement is suggested.
Aim for 2 micrograms daily.


DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, is the most abundant of the fats in our brain. Our brain, eyes and nerves depend on omega-3s. Omega-3s are found in fish, seafood, lean meats and omega-enriched foods as well as in a simpler form in canola, flaxseed and walnuts.

Low-fat protein

Protein from beef, lamb, chicken and fish can create a feeling of satiation (fullness immediately after a meal and over the next 4 hours). Protein appears to slow down the rate of gastric emptying.


Dehydration quickly diminishes the capacity of most of our organs, especially the brain, kidneys and skin. So drink at least 8 glasses (2 litres) of fluid a day, more in hot humid weather.

Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby knows nutrition! She is an accredited nutritionist, food commentator, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Catherine Saxelby's Food and Nutrition Companion answers all those tricky questions on healthy eating, diets and supplements. It draws together a lifetime of advice and gives you all you need to know to eat right! It's a complete A to Z. A handy desk go-to reference.