Top 10 Healthy Energy-Boosting Foods
Instead of instinctually refilling your coffee mug, try one of these healthier, more effective ways to recharge.
Foods to Boost Your Energy
More energy: we all want it, but in this gotta-have-it-now world, we too often rely on caffeine, sugar, and other unhealthy fixes to boost our energy levels, only to crash later. Instead of that energy shot, Nicole Moore, MS, RD, CNSC, LD, clinical dietitian at Georgia Health Sciences Medical Center, recommends these 10 quick and easy foods that will get you going—and keep you going—all day long.
Carbohydrates are your body’s fuel, breaking down into glucose to keep your cells running. But which type of carbs you choose matters. Healthy whole grains, like those in oatmeal or wholegrain bread, take longer to digest and give you sustained energy. Processed carbs like white bread deliver a quick energy blast only to let you down later.
A new power grain is quinoa, a super source of fiber, B vitamins, and protein. Cook it like rice for a side dish or mix with honey, nuts, and berries for a delicious breakfast.
If you’re eating carbs, add some protein. When added to carbs, protein slows digestion further, for more sustained energy. Greek yogurt in particular is packed with protein, boasting 15 to 20 grams per 6-ounce serving—about the same as in 2 to 3 ounces of lean meat. Traditional yogurt typically provides about 5 grams of protein. Either way, it’s a great breakfast, especially when combined with granola. Just make sure to choose a variety with less added sugar.
Ever wonder why peanut butter sandwiches were Mom’s go-to lunch for you? Nuts are an excellent source of protein, fiber, and nutrients. A tablespoon of peanut butter on whole wheat bread is a quick, satisfying lunch that will help you push through the mid-afternoon doldrums.
Need a snack? Try a handful of almonds or other nuts. Just don’t overdo it. Nuts are also high in calories, and a mere quarter-cup equals one serving.
Often called “nature’s dessert,” fruit is a great way to satisfy those sweet cravings, and is another excellent source of healthy carbohydrates. Plus, it’s packed with vitamins and minerals like vitamins A and C, which help prevent infections and keep you healthy. The USDA recommends up to 2½ cups of fruit (and vegetables) a day for the average adult.
To get your daily allowance, try adding berries to your morning cereal or yogurt, or grab an apple or banana to take to work as an easy portable snack.
Fish and Shellfish
Quick-cooking, light, and delicious—it’s no wonder the USDA recommends we consume two servings of fish and shellfish a week. Low in fat, seafood like salmon is an excellent source of lean protein and omega 3 fatty acids—important in protecting heart health.
Seafood is also an excellent source of minerals like iron, a component in hemoglobin that is helpful in carrying oxygen throughout the body. Clams and oysters in particular provide 30 to 45 percent of your daily value of iron per serving.
Yeah, yeah, you know the old joke. But beans are in fact very good for your heart. They are a significant source of low-fat protein (especially for vegetarians) as well as iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and B vitamins, all of which support healthy metabolism. Add them to tomatoes and vegetables to make a hearty bean stew; puree them with tahini to make a hummus dip; or add to whole-wheat pasta and greens for an Italian-inspired meal.
Dark Leafy Vegetables
When choosing a vegetable, select one that’s rich in color, because that also means it’s rich in nutrients. The dark greens of collards, Swiss chard, spinach, and other leafy vegetables supply generous servings of vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, fiber, and protein.
In fact, a single serving of spinach can supply over 200 percent of your daily allowance of vitamin A according to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS). Plus, leafy greens are easy to prepare: just boil them or add to a stir-fry for a quick dose of nutrition.
It’s estimated that the average American consumes about 3.6 ounces of chocolate per week. Believe it or not, that’s actually OK—as long as it’s the right type of chocolate. Dark chocolate—and the less processed the better—is rich in a type of antioxidant called a flavanol, which studies have shown can help protect heart health. And a healthier heart means more oxygen delivered, which translates into higher energy levels.
Popcorn can be a great, low-fat, yet filling snack food. As a whole grain, it’s chock-full of fiber in an easy-to-eat form. Just be wary of theatre popcorn, which is heavy on salt, oil, and calories. Instead, choose air-popped corn if available, or microwave a low-fat version at home.
Readily available, cheap, and
good for you, water helps carry nutrients to your cells. Even mild dehydration
can sap your energy, so drink a glass of water, milk, juice, or other low- or
no-calorie beverage when you are thirsty and before, during, and after exercise.
You should be getting at least eight 8-ounces of fluid each day. Much of that requirement you will get from
the food you eat. Drink water when you
Water-rich foods—like watermelon or oranges—will count toward fluid intake. Just don’t depend too much on caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, or soda, which can make you jittery, add un-necessary calories and affect your sleep.
Bonus Tip: Exercise!
What to do with all this energy? Expend some of it doing exercise, and you’ll increase your energy levels even more. Regular exercise—the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends just 30 minutes per day—builds strength and cardiovascular endurance. When your heart works more efficiently, your whole body will benefit. As more oxygen and nutrients reach your cells, energy levels rise, mood lifts and sleep improves—ensuring that you can get more out of every day.