Get Going with These Energizing Foods
Everyone has different energy needs and reasons why we may lack energy.
Coffee and invigorating coffee-free drinks can help sometimes but food is one of the basic cornerstones of fueling ourselves. Since we all eat every day anyway, we might as well make that food work for us to help fuel our bodies well and keep energy up. And remember: Drink your water!
How to Fuel Your Body
Our body needs the proper fuel to function. Complex carbs (versus refined carbs), beneficial fats from foods like nuts and avocado, and protein from purer sources like plants can help keep us going.
Sugar and refined carbs like bread, cereals, pastries and most pastas can give you a quick energy boost sometimes but that’s usually followed by a crash. Plus, those foods don’t have much as far as nourishment anyway.
Whether it’s a meal or a quick snack, here are some foods that can help fuel your energy.
Fruit has natural sugars plus fiber and other nutrients that help give you a boost. Grab a banana, apples, orange, grapes or others. Fruit juice is not the same since it lacks fiber and packs a lot of fruit sugar into a small package so it can lead to an energy crash. So stick to whole fruit or a balanced smoothie with protein and perhaps veggies.
“Almonds are a superstar in the snack world, as they contain important nutrients like magnesium and B vitamins that help convert food to energy,” Everyday Health notes. Plus they have protein and beneficial fats to help keep you full and fuel your brain. Have some on hand at work or in your purse for when you need a super snack. Or eat a couple tablespoons of unsweetened almond butter as is or on fruit.
Researchers found that dark chocolate could help give athletes more energy! Turns out, epicatechin, a plant chemical particularly abundant in dark chocolate, gives the body a boost by widening the blood vessels. Emphasis here on the “dark” in dark chocolate. A typical candy bar will just leave you with a sugar rush and crash. The darker the chocolate is, the less sugar it has, plus it’s richer so just a square or two will satisfy. Try Montezuma’s 100% dark chocolate bar now at some Trader Joe’s or Eating Evolved that offers a 100% dark choc bar and choc sweetened with coconut sugar instead if refined or cane sugar. If you want to drink your chocolate, check out more about cacao in our coffee-free energy options.
This leafy green contains the amino acid L-tyrosine, which helps give you a mental lift, as well as a number of antioxidants and fiber to fill you up and help keep your blood sugar stable, Rachel Berman, RD, CDN tells Everyday Health. “Skip iceberg lettuce and add an energy-boost to your salad by using nutrient-rich kale as a base. Kale is also great sautéed as a side dish, chopped into soups,” and blended into a smoothie.
In Asia, cardamom has long been valued medicinally for its ability to increase circulation and improve energy, says Mao Shing Ni, L.Ac., D.O.M., PhD, a doctor of Chinese medicine. Cardamom is found in teas like chai, herbal teas and curries. Try a cup of caffeine-free tea that has cardamom, test it out in a dish or sprinkle it on oatmeal, yogurt or fruit.
“High in complex carbohydrates and loaded with beta-carotene (vitamin A) and vitamin C, sweet potatoes will help fight off midday fatigue,” Woman’s Day notes. Try them mashed (perhaps sprinkled with cinnamon or energizing cardamom), baked and loaded with veg and meat or cut into strips, tossed with a little olive oil and baked for a healthier alternative to french fries.
Beans and lentils
These protein- and fiber- packed foods have complex carbs plus iron too to give you sustained energy. Try hummus, a southwest taco bowl from our healthier summer BBQ tips or our easy Black Bean Burrito Bowl. Replace the rice with quinoa for an extra energy source.
If you eat dairy, you can enjoy this creamy treat that has magnesium and double the protein of regular yogurt. Non-dairy almond yogurt has some magnesium too. Try organic, plain unsweetened yogurt (other kinds can have as much sugar as a dessert) and add fruit and perhaps some nuts or chia seeds.
Stay tuned for more in our energy series, like energizing practices and evaluating your vitamin needs.
Jessica Hamlin is an LA-born and bred journalist and editor who started taking pictures of food back when everyone used film cameras. A graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s health coach training program, she’s passionate about wellness and enjoys making and discovering delicious and healthy food. Her work has appeared in Clean Plates, NPR affiliate KPCC, AOL, and Eater LA.