With how stressful our lives have become lately, it is common to feel fatigued and burned out. There is little we can do about external factors that affect our stress levels. However, we can change our diet and incorporate foods that boost our energy.
It is true that pretty much anything containing calories would technically give you energy. However, there is no point consuming calories if your body can’t release that energy. Certain nutrients in foods help your body do just that. For example, the B vitamins are heavily involved in energy metabolism by converting protein, fat and carbohydrates into usable forms of energy.
Here is a list of foods that you can go to for a quick pick-me-up when you feel tired or hungry:
1. Sweet Potatoes
Generally, carbohydrate-rich and starchy foods get a bad reputation amongst dieters. They are seen as foods that cause weight gain. However, this fear is quite misplaced. Refined, processed carbs like pizza, bread and pasta are what causes weight gain. Complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes are great for your energy levels.
Complex carbohydrates are often accompanied by fiber and are harder to digest than simple carbs like pasta. The fiber slows down digestion and helps to release the energy more slowly. The result is that your energy (and blood sugar) levels are sustained over a longer period.
If you need another reason to make yourself some eggs in the morning, add “a boost of energy” to your list.
Firstly, eggs are rich in protein which will give you a more sustained increase in blood sugar levels. They’re also rich in a particular amino acid called leucine that helps cells absorb more blood sugar. Leucine also stimulates energy production and the conversion of fat to energy in cells.
Bananas are an amazing and easily accessible source of energy. They are rich in fiber and simple carbohydrates, as well as micronutrients that help energy metabolism. The simple carbohydrates ensures easy access to glucose for energy. In fact, a study showed that eating a banana before a 75km race for endurance athletes was equivalent to taking a carbohydrate-rich drink.
Bananas are also famous for their potassium and vitamin B6. Potassium is needed for powerful muscle contractions. With little potassium, you may feel fatigued and weak. Vitamin B6 is an essential vitamin that is key to energy metabolism and cellular biology. It ensures your cells can turn the protein, fat and carbs you consume into useful energy. Consider blending up a banana along with other fruits and vegetables as part of your morning smoothie.
4. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate makes this list due to lower sugar content than regular chocolate and also due to the important minerals and antioxidants it contains.
Firstly, it is quite rich in iron. An ounce of dark chocolate (70-80% cocoa) can provide around 3.34 mg of iron, which is around 20% of your recommended daily intake.
Iron is the compound that makes red blood cells red, and helps them carry oxygen to your cells. Your cells need oxygen to convert glucose into energy, so iron deficiency is often characterized by fatigue and breathlessness. Dark chocolate also has other useful compounds like theobromine and caffeine which improves alertness and mood.
Enjoyed for breakfast all around the world, it’s no surprise that oats make this list. Oatmeal is full of good, whole carbohydrates, which gives you a sustained source of energy without sugar spikes. It is also full of fiber, keeping you full for longer. Finally, it contains other important vitamins and minerals like iron and vitamin B6, which is known to help energy metabolism.
Quinoa is also an excellent whole grain that is often featured in lists of superfoods. It is rich in good complex carbs, minerals, and has a high protein content. One cup of cooked quinoa gives 39 g of carbs and 8 g of protein. It is also rich in other important nutrients for energy metabolism like manganese, folate and magnesium.
Lentils are not only an underrated source of protein, but also an excellent source of energy. They’re rich in plant-based iron, protein and other important nutrients like zinc and folate. Iron improves oxygen delivery to cells while the other minerals are needed for energy metabolism.
Lentils are also a source of slow-digesting, fiber-rich complex carbs, ensuring a long and sustained energy release.
8. Green Tea
If you need a healthier substitute for your morning cup of joe, try green tea instead. It is also rich in caffeine, which can boost alertness, mood and energy levels. However, the energy is more controlled and doesn’t give the jittery restlessness that comes with coffee. This is because green tea contains compounds like L-theanine which can soothe anxiety and restlessness.
Nuts like almonds, brazil nuts, and cashews make amazing snacks on the go. They are filling and highly nutritious. The high protein and fiber content will keep you satiated for a long time and they’re full of minerals that help with energy metabolism.
Almonds in particular are quite rich in iron, needed for better oxygen delivery and red blood cells. They are also full of B vitamins that help with carbohydrate metabolism (converting glucose to energy).
Cardamom is an exotic spice that can add a punch to a regular cup of chai, while also boosting your energy levels. It is predominantly used in South Asian cooking, and has a piercing flavor like nutmeg. Cardamom helps to expand blood vessels, thus improving blood flow and improving energy levels.
You can incorporate it into desserts as well as curries, just like other spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. You could also combine it with other energy-rich foods like oatmeal and nuts to create energy balls that will keep you energized throughout the day.
These are just some of a long, long list of energy boosting foods. There are mainly two ways these foods boost energy levels-by keeping you satiated and providing nutrients that are directly involved in energy metabolism. You can get creative and combine several of these ingredients to reap multiple benefits at once!