If you plan it right, what you eat can help keep you healthy and energized all day long. The key is to maintain balanced blood sugar levels and to eat meals made up of low glycemic index carbohydrates combined with protein and small amounts of healthy fats. A well-balanced meal can keep you fueled for as long as four hours, so another pro tip is to eat every four hours or so, to keep a steady flow of energy. The worst foods to eat for sustained energy are high-sugar foods because they cause your blood sugar to quickly rise, triggering the release of too much insulin, which triggers a plunge in blood sugar levels, AKA a sugar crash.
Steady energy feels great. To optimize your daily energy level, try adding some of these foods into your meal plan.
- oatmeal. The complex carbs in oatmeal mean it’s a slow-burning source of energy. Oats also boost serotonin production which can help us manage stress and enhance learning and memory function. Caveat: sugar-packed packets of flavored instant oats are worth avoiding. Make your own instead and load them up with berries, bananas and a drizzle of maple or honey for a healthy treat of a breakfast.
- bananas. One of the best foods for energy, whether frozen and blended into a smoothie, sliced onto oatmeal or eaten on the go. They’re full of complex carbohydrates, vitamin B6, potassium and even a little protein.
- Yogurt. The carbs in yogurt are mainly in the form of simple sugars, such as lactose and galactose. When broken down, these sugars can provide ready-to-use energy. Greek yogurt is an especially good choice. Top with fresh berries and a drizzle of local honey or maple syrup.
- sesame seeds. Toasted sesame seeds add a little crunch and flavor to salads, soups, stir fries and more. They’re chock full of magnesium, which helps convert sugar into energy, plus they’ve got a blood-sugar-stabilizing dose of healthy fat and fiber.
- Cinnamon. Cinnamon works to keep blood sugar levels stable, therefore it also helps to stabilize your energy levels. One teaspoon of cinnamon contains as many antioxidants as half a cup of blueberries, one of the most antioxidant-rich foods. Shake a little into your yogurt or add a dash to your coffee.
- water. Dehydration is a certain cause of low energy and even brain fog. Feel a slump? A nice tall glass of cool water might just do the trick.
- beans. Whether you opt for pinto, Great Northern, red, black or Anasazi beans, or any of the hundreds of other varieties, they share a similar nutrient profile. They digest slowly, which stabilizes blood sugar. They also contain antioxidants, fiber, protein and carbs. Beans are great sources of folic acid, iron and magnesium, which help produce energy and deliver it to our cells.
- Lentils are tasty little legumes, rich in carbs and fiber. Just one cup of cooked lentils contains about 15 grams of fiber and 36 grams of carbs. Lentils are energy powerhouses, upping your energy levels by replenishing your stores of iron, folate, zinc and manganese. These nutrients help break nutrients down and help with cellular energy production.
- hummus. Chickpeas in hummus are a good source of complex carbs and fiber, which your body can use for steady energy. The tahini (sesame seed paste) and olive oil in hummus contain healthy fats and slow the absorption of carbs, which helps us avoid blood sugar spikes.
- dates are high in natural sugars, so if you need a quick burst of energy mid-day, instead of going for a second cup of coffee go for a handful of dates. Or, if you don’t like plain dates, whip up some energy balls or oatmeal bars packed with dates and cinnamon to fight the mid-day slump. Dates contain vitamins and minerals like iron, manganese, copper, potassium and magnesium, in addition to fiber and antioxidants.
- brown rice is a very nutritious, satisfying food. It’s less processed than white rice which allows it to hang onto more nutritional value in the form of vitamins, fiber and minerals. Just a half-cup of brown rice packs two grams of fiber and lots of your recommended daily intake of manganese, a mineral needed for enzymes to break down carbs and proteins, turning them into energy. It’s also low on the glycemic index, meaning it could help regulate blood sugar levels and promote steady energy levels throughout the day.
- avocados. They’re a superfood! Avocados are rich in ‘good’ fats, fiber and B vitamins. Around 85% of the fat in avocados is from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which promote healthy blood-fat levels and boost the absorption of nutrients. About 80% of the carb content in avocados is made up of fiber, which means delicious, sustained energy.
- Sardines & fatty fish. According to an article from Harvard School of Public Health, fish and other seafood are the major sources of healthful long-chain omega-3 fats and are also rich in other nutrients such as vitamin D and selenium. Fatty fish is high in protein and low in saturated fat. There is also strong evidence that eating fish or taking fish oil is good for your heart and blood vessels. In addition to boosting your energy, eating fish once or twice a week may also reduce the risk of stroke, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic conditions.
- eggs are satisfying and packed with protein, which means steady and sustained energy. They also contain leucine, an amino acid known to stimulate energy production in several ways. It helps cells take in more blood sugar, stimulates energy production in the cells and ups the breakdown of fat to produce energy. Eggs are also rich in B vitamins, which help enzymes perform their roles in the process of turning food into energy.
- Shrimp. These versatile little critters are low in calories and offer nice helpings of vitamin B12 and omega-3 fat, a known mood and energy booster.
- cashews are low in sugar and rich in fiber, heart-healthy fats, and plant protein. They’re a solid source of copper, magnesium and manganese which are key ingredients for energy production, healthy bones brain health and immunity.
- sweet potatoes are a great source of iron, magnesium and vitamin C, a nutrient needed for energy production. Add to that a healthy dose of fiber (complex carbs) and these nutritional powerhouses are also rocket boosters for your energy level.
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