Recharge your body’s batteries with these powerhouse options
Do you ever find yourself dozing off after lunch or reaching for a candy bar to get you through your four o’clock meeting? The hours of sleep you clocked the night before may not be the only reason you’re sagging on certain days. The types and the amount of food you eat play an important role in your daily energy levels. In fact, did you know that foods high in fat and calories can leave you feeling fatigued, since they require more energy to digest? To stay alert all day, start by making smarter choices about what you’re using to fuel your body. Below, find 12 power foods that’ll give a powerful boost to your daily diet.
Carbs have gotten a bad reputation in recent years, but before you swear off bread for life, it’s important to note that not all carbohydrates are created equal. Carbohydrates offer fuel to the body in the form of glucose, which is the best energy source for the brain and central nervous system—two vital body systems. A diet rich in whole grains and complex carbohydrates is necessary for energy; find these in fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes and foods made with whole wheat.
Brown Rice: Rich in manganese, the mineral that helps produce energy from protein and carbs, it will help you maintain high energy all day. A versatile ingredient, brown rice can be served as a side dish with your favorite lean proteins (along with nutrient-packed veggies!) for a powerhouse lunch or dinner.
Sweet Potato: High in carbohydrates and loaded with beta-carotene (vitamin A) and vitamin C, these will help fight off midday fatigue. Bonus: Kids will love this sweet treat at mealtime. Try them mashed or cut into strips, tossed with a little oil and and baked for a healthier alternative to french fries.
Honey: A spoonful of honey is nature’s equivalent of an energy drink. Low on the glycemic index, this natural sweetener acts as a time-released muscle fuel during exercise and helps replenish muscles post-workout. Add a sweet drizzle to anything from breakfast yogurt to afternoon tea.
Fruit offers a significant dose of glucose, which your body can easily metabolize into energy. Most fruits can be digested in under half an hour, which makes them a quick, nutritious way to get a burst of energy.
Bananas: Because they are composed mostly of sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) and fiber, bananas are a foolproof energy food. Top them with peanut or almond butter for a well-rounded snack, or slice one into your morning cereal for an extra boost that will keep you going until lunchtime.
Apples: Not only will an apple a day keep the doctor away, it’ll also give you a powerful jolt of energy. High in fiber, apples take longer to digest, so they’ll give you a more prolonged lift than many other fruit picks. Snack on apples with cheese for an especially effective pick-me-up.
Oranges: High in vitamin C, potassium and folate, this citrus fruit rations out energy steadily over time instead of giving you a quick sugar rush. Peel and eat an orange whole to benefit from the pectin and fiber in the fruit’s membranes.
Food derived from plants
Foods that come straight from a tree or plant will help you maintain energy levels. Certain veggies have all the protein, carbs and good fats you need to keep you going all day. Plus, some nuts, such as almonds, are alkaline-forming—if you include them in your diet, they won’t zap your energy like acid-producing foods, but will instead help to regulate your protein intake.
Spinach: An excellent source of iron, a key component of energy production in the body. Eat a spinach salad for lunch and you probably won’t experience that afternoon energy slump.
Beans: Both a protein and a complex carb, they’re a must for both carnivores and vegetarians. Toss a cup into of a spinach salad or enjoy a bean burrito.
Almonds: Packed with protein, manganese, copper and riboflavin, almonds are a handy snack to keep at your desk or in your bag. Copper and manganese play an essential role in keeping energy flowing throughout the body by neutralizing toxins within cells. Riboflavin aids oxygen-based energy production.
Protein is an essential energy food—particularly when you’re trying to drop a few pounds. If you are, replace part of your regular carbohydrate intake with proteins; this will help ensure that your muscle mass remains constant as your body metabolizes fat cells as a source of energy.
Salmon: Salmon has been receiving a lot of hype lately for its high content of omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease. But this pink fish also contains protein and vitamin B6, niacin and riboflavin—all of which help convert the food you eat into energy. Top a spinach salad with salmon, or serve it with a side of brown rice and veggies for a power-packed lunch or dinner.
Yogurt: With a rainbow of flavors to choose from, yogurt is a healthy breakfast or snack option when you’re on the go. Rich in magnesium, which is crucial for the release of energy, yogurt also adds a dose of calcium to your diet. Enjoy it post-workout to help replenish your glycogen sources.
Eggs: Containing the highest complete form of protein in any food (a whopping 97% of it can be absorbed by your body!), eggs provide 30% of your daily value of protein. All of the essential amino acids that your body uses to rebuild muscle can also be found in eggs. Whether you eat them boiled, scrambled, baked, fried or as an omelet, don’t overlook the power of the incredible egg.