How to Maximize Your Energy Through Your Diet
We are all inherently aware that some foods directly fuel our energy, while others severely drain us (recall yourself lying in a semi-comatose state on the sofa after a takeout). However, being heavily influenced by fickle marketing campaigns and media messaging that tell us what we are eating is ‘natural’, makes us ‘feel good’ or ‘rewarded’ and offers us ‘energy’ or ‘sustenance’, we can easily be duped or confused. However, certain foods do provide a fail-safe value to our daily diet, helping us maintain a well-nourished, energised body that can keep going strong and readily face the daily grind.
Tip: Before looking at what foods offer your body the best kind of energy, it can be helpful to consider what foods you may be eating that have the opposite effect. Are you eating too many processed foods, saturated fats and simple carbohydrates? If you’re serious about addressing how your diet affects your energy, commit to writing down all you eat in a week and take a close, hard look at your dietary habits. Then eliminate all the ‘baddies’ from your food regimen and see what happens. The culprits that cause weight gain, sluggishness and brain fog usually include fast foods, excessive alcohol and coffee, white bread (and other refined carbs), sugary and fried foods.
Before we get to food, let’s take a look at the importance of water. Not drinking enough H20 causes dehydration, which has numerous adverse effects, from exhaustion and headaches to a restless hunger that misguides us to eat more than we should. The heart, cardiovascular system, intestine and brain are all heavily affected by a shortage of water, which helps keep blood volume – essential for good circulation- regular, and to flush out toxins from the system. Tip: The daily recommended amount of (ideally of well-filtered) water is 8-10 glasses, starting with a glass (ideally warm or at room temperature with sliced lemon that has been in the water for at least 8 hours – this helps balance PH) first thing in the morning. If you’re not a big fan of plain water, drinking teas (ideally invigorating herbal teas like peppermint and rosemary, or green tea, which is a good source of caffeine and rich in mood-lifting L-Theanine), and one or two juices made from fruit and vegetables will also help hydrate you in a healthy way.
Dried Fruit & Nuts
Dates, prunes, cranberries, blueberries, goji berries, and other dried fruits can offer an instant and qualitative source of energy because they’re loaded with antioxidants, micronutrients, fibre and have high levels of vitamin D, which helps direct energy to the muscles. Walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, pistachios and other nuts and seeds are nutritionally dense foods packed with calcium, iron, magnesium, healthy fatty acids and antioxidants that prevent inflammation and maintain cellular health.
Salmon, tuna, sardines, and other fatty fish are a great source of protein, B vitamins, which plays an integral role in converting food into energy and omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation.
Avocados are a high-fat (unsaturated fats) superfood packed with B vitamins, fibre and potent antioxidants. They are good for the heart and help maintain a steady/low weight (despite being considered a “high fat” food) and help keep energy levels high throughout the day.
Apples offer a great kickstart to the day, similarly to a shot of espresso in terms of the kind of energy boost they provide. They’re rich in fibre and antioxidants that slow down the breakdown of carbs and keep energy levels high.
Dark Leafy Greens
Spinach, kale, Swiss chard and broccoli are very rich in vitamin K, (which works with calcium to strengthen the bones), iron (remember Popeye?) and lutein (which helps improve eyesight).
Now for the really good news! Rich in antioxidants such as flavonoids, which increase energy sustainability, as well as minerals such as magnesium, iron, copper and manganese, chocolate that has a 75% cocoa content is a great energy booster. Cocoa is also found to help improve cognitive function and heart health.
A great breakfast choice, oats are high in fibre and protein that help sustain energy levels throughout the day. Oatmeal also contains B vitamins, manganese and iron.
“Eggs are rich in B vitamins and packed with high-quality protein that helps the body stay energized,” says Chicago-based registered dietitian Maggie Michalcyzk, RD, of Once Upon a Pumpkin. Rather than going for egg whites, eat the entire egg. “The yolk is where most of the vitamins and minerals are found,” she says.
Brown Rice & Sweet Potatoes
Whole grain rice is not processed and thus has stronger energy-boosting properties! This vitamin, fibre and mineral-rich food takes longer to digest than white rice and therefore keeps you feeling full – and more energised – for longer.
Like brown rice, sweet potatoes are high in manganese, which helps turn food into energy. Also rich in complex carbohydrates, this root veggie provides long-lasting energy.
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