There are “energy centers” in your body that need to be fueled with the right key vitamins in order for you to feel your most energized and vibrant. A lack of proper vitamins and nutrition can lead to you feeling run down and depleted. While taking a high quality multi-vitamin can be good nutritional insurance, it is better to focus on creating a lifestyle of eating vitamin-filled whole foods in a complete nutritional package, rather than taking dozens of different individual vitamin supplements.
I designed this Vitamin Plan to include vitamins to jumpstart your energy in five different key energy centers, which will benefit you the most. Focus on getting these vitamins into your body every day, via these and other supercharged foods, and you’ll start to notice a big difference in your energy levels in just five days.
Day 1: Energize Your Lungs
Lungs are a key organ for boosting and maintaining your energy, as they are responsible for taking in oxygen required for all aerobic metabolism in the body. Even a slight change in lung function can lower oxygen levels, which can cause severe fatigue. To boost lung energy, get an infusion of vitamin E, which some research suggests may improve or support lung function.
A great way to reach the daily recommendation of vitamin E is to combine a half-cup of sunflower seeds, three-quarters of a cup of dried apricots, and a half-cup of hazelnuts. These are easy foods to pack in your purse for when you’re on the go, or to store at work when you feel like a snack. Sunflower seeds are delicious on green salads, and add a nice crunch.
I recommend storing your sunflower seeds and hazelnuts in the fridge, which will help keep their natural oils fresh, prevent rancidity, and ensure you are getting the maximum amount of nutrition from them.
Day 2: Energize Your Brain
Your brain is the ultimate energy center, since it drives all bodily functions related to energy, including your respiratory rate, heart functions, hormones, and sleep.
Vitamin D (which is truly a hormone) is key for helping your brain function at its peak. You can obtain vitamin D from sun exposure and certain foods. One of the best superfood sources for vitamin D is mushrooms. Like humans, mushrooms produce vitamin D when exposed to light.
Portobello mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamin D. Look for portobellos grown under UV light. Just one cup, or about two of them, meet the government’s daily recommendation of 400 IUs. Maitake and shitake mushrooms also contain vitamin D, and to a much lesser extent, white button mushrooms do as well.
For an easy dinner, try marinating portobello mushroom caps in a mixture of one-third cup low-sodium tamari, 2 cloves of minced garlic, and a quarter-cup cooking wine for at least an hour, spooning the mixture over the mushrooms so it really soaks in. Bake covered in a baking dish for 35-40 minutes at 375 °F. Pair with salad and veggies or a starch as a meat replacement. Besides being high in vitamin D, portobello mushrooms are also a great source of protein.
Day 3: Energize Your Intestines
Though you may not think of your intestines when you think of energy, they are an absolutely key energy center. If your intestines and digestive tract are sluggish or backed up, you are not going to feel energized. The intestines are the frontline in getting energy from your food into your cells, which supply your body with energy. To promote the health of your intestines, you need a sufficient amount of the B vitamins.
It is important to note that B vitamins are water-soluble rather than fat-soluble, which means you can't store them in your fat cells to use later; you need to include them in your diet regularly.
A super source of B vitamins is nutritional yeast, which is an inexpensive primary product that you can find at health food stores. It is different than the yeast used in baking you might be familiar with. Nutritional yeast has a cheesy and nut-like taste, is rich in the B-complex vitamins, and is a complete protein source. A teaspoon and a half has 40 calories and supplies over 100% of your daily value of most types of B vitamins. Sprinkle it on salads, or directly on veggies, raw or cooked. It works particularly great on steamed broccoli as a cheese replacement. Store your nutritional yeast in the cupboard.
Day 4: Energize Your Liver
The liver is key for detoxifying the body. This contributes to energy, because if your body isn’t properly detoxing itself and ridding itself of toxins, you can start to feel run down. The liver is where most vitamin K is stored, and it needs vitamin K to function optimally.
The best way to infuse your body with vitamin K is through the leafy green like kale. One cup of kale has an incredible almost 700% of the daily recommendation of vitamin K. There are different kale types you can explore, including Lacinato/Tuscan kale and curly kale.
Try making kale salad instead of a traditional mixed green or romaine salad. Strip the kale leaves off the dense middle stalk, tearing them into small pieces (which makes it for easier digestion). For one head of kale, use a dressing of 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, fresh lemon juice and half an avocado, mashed up (which also contains potassium and fiber), to serve as the fat in lieu of oil. Mix these three ingredients together then work through the kale. Clean hands work best!
Day 5: Energize Your Thyroid
The thyroid is a gland that’s part of the endocrine system that controls your metabolism. Having a boosted metabolism contributes to energy, as well as weight loss.
The best booster for the thyroid is actually not a vitamin, it is a chemical element called iodine, which helps your thyroid function at optimum levels. A fantastic source of iodine is sea vegetables, including kombu or kelp. Only 1 gram contains three times the daily recommended intake of iodine, which is 150 mcg. You might not be familiar with these vegetables from the sea, but you can find them in the Asian section of health stores. Another great quality about these vegetables is that they are high in trace minerals. They are also fairly low in sodium, so they won’t contribute to bloating while still adding a salty taste to dishes.
The best way to work with them is to soak them in water first, to reconstitute them. Then you can cut them into pieces and add them to soups or salads. You can even “hide” them by puréeing them directly into soups if the sight of them is off-putting to you or your family. The iodine won’t be destroyed by heat, so don’t be afraid to cook it. You’ll get the benefit, and remember a little bit goes a long way.