Has the summer heat got you beat? Feeling fatigued by noon? There are a lot of energy-boosting products on the market, from energy bars and drinks to supplements. And, some of these products do provide a burst of energy and some may even fit into a healthy diet (in moderation, that is). But, your best bet for sustained energy throughout the day is still whole, unprocessed foods. An added benefit, these foods are chock full of nutrients that keep you revved up and healthy.
Last week, I did another morning segment for Denver’s Channel 2 KWGN’s “Daybreak” morning show on the Top 10 Energy-boosting Foods. While this list is by no means exhaustive, these are the foods I highlighted…
The top 10 energy-sustaining foods
- Oatmeal is high in fiber for a steady energy stream and B vitamins for metabolism and stress reduction. Sprinkle on cinnamon (helps prevent type 2 diabetes) or top with fruit (frozen, fresh or dried) for an antioxidant punch and nuts for heart-healthy unsaturated fat.
- Almonds are high in fiber and protein to help keep us feeling fuller longer, vitamin E and magnesium, which helps convert sugar into energy. Nosh on raw or roasted almonds, or add to salads, baked goods, yogurt or cereals. Or if you’re really ambitious, grind and soak your almonds to make a silky almond milk.
- Pineapple is a great summer fruit, plus the water in pineapple (or any fruit or veggie, for that matter) keeps us hydrated for sustained energy. Pineapple, like most fruit, is high in fructose (for quick energy) and fiber (which helps slow digestion of that quick energy). Pair with a lean protein, like nonfat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese, or grill for a refreshing summer dessert.
- Spinach is a nutrient powerhouse and chock full of fiber, antioxidants vitamins A and K and folate. Use as a base for salads, add to smoothies or saute with a little olive oil and garlic and throw into pasta, sauces or other favorite dishes.
- Dark chocolate pairs great with berries and contains antioxidants and amino acids which help elevate energy levels. A good rule of thumb… the darker the chocolate, the more antioxidants and the fewer calories.
- Coffee… Clients repeatedly tell me “I love coffee, but I gave it up.” Vice or no vice, coffee–arguably more than any other whole food or beverage–has gotten an erroneously bad rap. While it does naturally contain caffeine, it’s a good source of antioxidants. Stick with one or two cups a day for the energy effects without the jitters or withdrawal symptoms. And, remember… a cup of coffee contains only about 5 calories, it’s the cream and sugar we add that bumps up the calories and fat.
- Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help protect against depression and heart disease. (Staying upbeat helps our energy levels!) Grill, broil or bake salmon or throw into stir-fry or salads.
- Greek yogurt is high in protein, magnesium and beneficial bacteria. Just choose the nonfat or low-fat varieties for fewer calories and fat. (The exception? Kids benefit from whole milk yogurt… the rest of us don’t!) Mix with cinnamon and a little sweetener and serve with fruit and flaxseed. Greek yogurt also makes a nutritious replacement for sour cream in recipes, dressings and dips.
- Edamame is high in protein, fiber, vitamin C, iron, vitamin A and antioxidants. Steam pods and sprinkle with sea salt or use shelled variety in stir-frys and salads.
- Water is one food we forget about it, but arguably the most important for energy. While the amount you need depends on multiple factors (your weight, gender, activity level and outdoor temperature, just to name a few), there is no doubt that dehydration and fatigue go hand-in-hand. Even mild dehydration may slow down you and your metabolism. Spruce up with lemon, lime, oranges, mint or cucumber.
Here a few other tips for keeping energy levels stable all day…
- Eat a mix of complex carbohydrate with a little lean protein and/or heart-healthy unsaturated fat. Carbohydrates are still our body’s preferred energy source–it’s fuel. Mix a complex carbohydrate (like fruit, vegetable or whole grain) for energy with a lean protein (such as beans, chicken, turkey, tofu, egg whites) and/or a heart-healthy unsaturated fat like olives or olive oil, avocado, flax seeds or nuts for blood sugar level stabilization and for keeping us feeling fuller longer.
- Eat small frequent meals throughout the day. By eating 3-4 hours, we help keep our blood sugar levels in check. Plus, large meals at one sitting cause insulin to surge our bodies and may lead to that post-meal “crash” later.
Remember… there is no “magic” food. Eat a variety of foods (mostly whole) every day. There is some evidence that diet can alter metabolism and brain chemistry, which affects our energy and mood. And, we all know that depression or negative thinking can quell energy faster than you can say “energy-boosting!”