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Natural Ingredients for Energy

By Chris Jensen, March 16, 2010  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Chris Jensen
In Part 2 of our series on Natural Energy, we take a closer look at ingredients in the top natural energy products and supplements. Dr. Hyla Cass tells us about what to look for, including vitamins and herbs, and what to steer clear of when choosing one of the many popular products that promise a boost these days. Dr. Cass is one of the country's foremost authors and speakers on the subject of integrative medicine.

Some listeners ask for a recap of our podcasts so they can refer to it later. So, here you go. (Don't forget to listen to the podcast for more details and information, though.)

Natural Ingredients for Energy

There are ingredients to look for, and to be aware of, in energy drinks, gels, and supplements:
  • A lot of energy products are very high in sugar. This is a concern not only because of calories, but also because sugar is just not healthy for you. Another concern is the artificial sweeteners in energy products.
  • Look for herbal ingredients that are proven to be safe.
  • Specific ingredients to look for are the B vitamins, vitamin C, yerba mate, goji berries and açaí. These provide energy and a lot of benefits.
The B vitamins and vitamin C are helpful for energy:
  • The B vitamins help the body convert food into fuel and play an important role in the nervous system in helping to make the neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers in our brain.
    • B vitamins are easily destroyed when foods are processed, which is one reason many people are deficient. They are also depleted during stress.
    • They are water soluble, so they are not stored in the body for long and need to be replenished daily.
    • The B vitamins B-12, biotin and folic acid are particularly essential for energy.
  • Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, is important for immune system, is an antioxidant and is also needed for building strong muscles. Natural vitamin C is found in acerola cherry and açaí.
Some star energy product ingredients include:
  • Yerba Mate is a South American herb that has high levels of antioxidants and xanthine alkaloids. These are natural stimulants that occur in herbs like this (including caffeine, theophylline and theobromine). Yerba mate has been used for centuries in South America to promote mental clarity and sustained energy.
  • Goji Berries are packed with antioxidant carotenoids. That's what gives them their bright color.
  • Açaí (ah-sigh-EE) is a berry, and it's a source of antioxidants and fiber, certainly needed for energy.
  • Green Tea has a 5000-year history in China-and recent research associations-with health, energy and alertness. This is based on its antioxidant content and caffeine content which promotes alertness.
Many energy products contain caffeine.
  • Some energy products do contain caffeine while others do not. This is from either added or from caffeine-containing herbs, which contain it naturally. Check the ingredients.
  • Just because something's natural, you still need to be aware of the ingredients.
  • Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others; some get rapid heart rate and other symptoms from caffeine. In those cases it should be avoided or in very low doses.
  • Dr. Cass recommended no more than 150 mg of caffeine per serving. For some people 100 or less is better. (For comparison, a cup of coffee has somewhere between 100-150 mg of caffeine.)
  • Bottom line is safety first. People are tempted to guzzle energy drinks, which is not a good idea. You have to use judgment. Notice how your body responds.
  • When used all the time, energy products do not give the same bang as when used periodically.




William Brown says ...
Just curious and maybe Im lazy but I wanted to know if someone could suggest specific products that WFM carries that will provide an instant energy boost and maintain it?
03/16/2010 8:56:48 AM CDT
Food Makes Fun Fuel says ...
I run first thing in the morning, and I have to say eating an apple right before I head out always makes me run further!
03/16/2010 10:47:14 AM CDT
Scott says ...
Hey. I drink 6oz of Acai Amazon Berry Juice This one : http://www.lakewoodjuices.com/product_detail/id-91/ Safe to drink every day yes? Tastes great and fills me up.
03/16/2010 11:46:04 AM CDT
Cindy says ...
Very cool- I am ready to be energized after a long cold winter inside!
03/16/2010 2:03:46 PM CDT
cathleen says ...
Snacking can be fundamental to a healthful diet and optimum metabolism. And to satisfy those munchies, rice cakes are an ideal choice. At 35-50 calories per cake, these natural both protein and carbohydrates, while satisfying our hunger.
03/16/2010 11:39:39 PM CDT
Kristin says ...
Although on one hand it is wonderful to have such global offerings as Yerba Matte from South America, Tea from China, and other rare items such as acai, gogi (sp?) berries at our fingertips for natural energy boosts, I question the practicality and long term viability of this method. Part of living sustainably is focusing on local economies, food systems and geographical offerings. I would love to hear about energizing foods and food combinations that are available regionally, such as in The north west, East Coast, South, etc, in America. I realize this might not be as exciting as some of these exotic items, but it would certainly bring us back in touch with regional offerings. Any suggestions?
03/18/2010 12:27:23 AM CDT
Brittney says ...
I looooooooove caffeine, and will always stick with it daily, but I understand the need to support the system with Vitamins as well!.
03/18/2010 10:04:27 AM CDT
Beth says ...
Gogi Berries- I had always wondered what the story was with this one, thanks for clarifying! Great podcast.
03/18/2010 10:04:45 AM CDT
Cathy says ...
Cool info on water solubility and B vitamins. I didn't think about this as part of the daily need to replenish.
03/18/2010 10:05:05 AM CDT
Connie says ...
Good pint- some thing as simple as vitamins are vital for energy.
03/18/2010 10:05:23 AM CDT
Charlie says ...
Vitamin C is one of the best health agents on our planet, and it works wonders for humans and animals!
03/18/2010 10:07:52 AM CDT
Gina says ...
Thanks for this podcast! I am trying to ease off of caffeine and certainly will look into some of these as good options.
03/18/2010 10:08:54 AM CDT
Cherri says ...
"Guzzle energy drinks" I love this quote from you and find it all to true :o
03/18/2010 10:10:14 AM CDT
Connie says ...
I agree with Kristen here- I understand that from early times things like Tea importation have really led to international strife and imperialism. That said I am sadly hooked on coffee.
03/18/2010 10:12:07 AM CDT
Connie says ...
Well as far as Dr. Cass' suggested daily caffeine quantities.... well I'm coming in about triple- but still feel good throughout the day and have no sleeping issues at night. Guess I am one of the lucky ones! Thanks for the podcast
03/18/2010 10:14:00 AM CDT
Terri says ...
I actually get a a great rush from Vitamins, and they work much better then other stimulating drinks.
03/18/2010 10:37:24 AM CDT
Elein says ...
Yerba Mate is such an amazing drink. I would suggest everyone try this out!
03/18/2010 10:45:17 AM CDT
Corey says ...
Many of my friends really swear by Green Tea, but I have always responded poorly to this. It makes me feel hot and bothered, but not in a good way. Not sure if I am full of toxins and subsequently react or if it just doesn't agree with me.
03/18/2010 11:33:10 AM CDT
Marg says ...
Glad I came across this podcast! As a parent it is so difficult to keep up with the kids schedule, work, home work etc. I appreciate your companies commitment to healthy natural options.
03/18/2010 11:36:42 AM CDT
Ellen says ...
If I can pull some energy out from some of these herbs, I will be greatful forever!!! My energy has dropped so much since I have become a parent and the days and nights seem like they all just blur together. good info!
03/18/2010 12:09:53 PM CDT
Emily says ...
I have really enjoyed this podcast series. I have listened for over a year now. It is a great extension of your in store experience. Keep them coming!
03/18/2010 12:18:18 PM CDT
Emily says ...
Cathleen, make a very good point! Snaking and eating light is a great way to not only keep your energy up, but not let it fall in the first place. This ties in well with your previous podcast.
03/18/2010 12:22:17 PM CDT
Stacey says ...
Bee Pollen is a great way to keep energy up. You can eat it raw or put it in your tea!
03/18/2010 12:29:40 PM CDT
Stacey says ...
I still believe that a balanced diet is the most important consideration when keeping your spirits, mood, and energy going. I don't eat meat so I don't have to deal with drain of digesting heavy food.
03/18/2010 12:33:35 PM CDT
Salley says ...
I appreciate the way you approach this subject from a positive perspective, and rather then focus on the evils of soda, you give us listeners nice action steps.
03/18/2010 2:29:41 PM CDT