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5 Functional Foods for Great Energy Levels

By Kim Wilson

The latest health crisis involves energy, and it’s not related to Eskom (for once). A lot of us are feeling overworked, overstressed, over fatigued and overwhelmed from dealing with all that we have had to handle over the past couple of years. As a result, there’s a great need for enhanced energy levels.

“Energy” may technically mean “the ability to do work”, however, in the context of your health it’s a broader term. Energy encompasses not only physical stamina, but mental stamina, too. When we seek out energy-enhancing foods, we are seeking out foods that also improve our mental clarity, mood, and motivation level.

Energising Functional Foods

It goes without saying that simply eating a healthful diet, including sufficient calories, is important to sustain your energy levels. However, beyond this there are in fact a few ingredients that offer functional nutrients designed specifically to enhance energy and improve overall wellbeing.


As an adaptogen, ashwagandha supports the body to adapt to stress by regulating the cortisol response. Ashwagandha may not directly boost energy levels, but rather it prevents the negative effects of a poor stress response (which in itself drains energy levels). In relation to sports performance, Ashwagandha has been shown to increase the maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max) in healthy adults and athletes. Furthermore, it may help increase muscle strength.


As with Ashwagandha, Ginseng is also known as a

N adaptogen. Ginseng is an herbal supplement that has a long history of use in Chinese medicine. It has been shown to increase energy levels and fight feelings of fatigue. It may also enhance sports performance by increasing energy production and decreasing oxidative stress in cells.

Medicinal Mushrooms

Medicinal mushrooms have been used in Eastern medicine for centuries. The list of benefits of medicinal mushrooms as a group is lengthy, but individually each mushroom is unique and provides its own set of distinct health benefits. To combat stress and its related fatigue, Reishi is one of the most popular medicinal mushrooms. It has unique calming properties which have been associated with decreased anxiety and depression, and better sleep. Reishi can also sharpen focus, making it great for concentration and motivation. For greater mental clarity, your best choice is Lion’s Mane. This medicinal mushroom supports the production of compounds that are absolutely crucial to brain health. Lion’s Mane has been shown to improve cognitive function, increase concentration, and decrease irritability and anxiety. Finally, for a targeted sports performance and energy boost, we have Cordyceps. Cordyceps is the medicinal mushroom that helps the body utilise oxygen more efficiently and improves blood flow. It has been shown to improve exercise and sports performance, as well as speed up muscle recovery.


Turmeric has been popular for some time now, mostly due to its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Turmeric has also been extensively studied in relation to brain health. The active component, curcumin, has been shown to improve mood, decrease fatigue and lessen symptoms of depression. These benefits in turn all contribute to greater feelings of energy and motivation.

Cannabidiol (CBD)

This one may be surprising as most often CBD is used for relaxation and inducing sleep, however in the right dose it can help increase energy levels and focus. A low dose of CBD can in fact act as a stimulant, rather than a sedative. CBD taken at the right dose, at the right time, can encourage greater focus and mental balance. Further research to clarify this ideal dose is still needed, but this is a promising area to look out for.

Final Thoughts

High-quality diets can enhance your energy levels, as well as every other area of general health and so this is always a good place to start. For stressful times when this healthful diet isn’t sufficient, then functional foods such as Ashwagandha, ginseng, medicinal mushrooms, turmeric and CBD can provide you with the added boost you need.

Lifestyle Health

Lifestyle Center, Ballito

032 946 0441


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