Whatever your schedule might look like, without eating a well-balanced diet, you may feel like you're seriously lacking in the energy department. While the way you feel might leave you reaching for a processed energy drink or sugar-laden snack, ask any nutritionist like me and they'll tell you that you should instead focus your attention on energy-boosting whole foods and, of course, lots of water.
Foods that contain carbohydrates give us energy, as carbohydrates will be converted to glucose which is our cell's preferred energy source.
The best carbohydrate sources contain fibre, as they'll give you sustained energy without the spikes and dips. However, not all carbohydrates were created equal, which is why I am sharing a list of the 8 most nourishing, energy-boosting foods worth adding to your diet.
DARK LEAFY GREENS
Think about spinach, kale, and collard greens. They not only provide many of the B vitamins that are critical for energy and serotonin production, but also offer a whole host of other vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals to help restore energy and boost productivity.
This precious fruit is rich in fibre and contains moderate levels of sugar compared to other fruits, making the release of energy more balanced.
A good pair will be with something high in protein like nut butter, to help you feel full for longer.
We talked about the benefits of beets in previous articles, but the highlight in this case goes to the increase in nitric oxide production given by the consumption of these vegetables.
Nitric Oxide helps increase blood flow by relaxing blood vessels. Hence, more proactivity and sharper thinking. The power meal? A salad with dark greens, apples and beets.
Legumes like black beans, are one of Mother Nature's best sources of iron.
As a component of haemoglobin in the blood, iron is the key oxygen-carrier in the body. When iron levels drop, the tissues are oxygen-starved, resulting in fatigue, poor concentration, and disturbed sleep.
Beans also help keep your mood on an even keel, they are almost fat-free but high in protein, water, and fibre: the magic combo for feeling full and satisfied on a few calories. They also are very low on the glycemic index, so they help regulate blood sugar, as well as appetite.
OMEGA-3 RICH FOODS
Fats help to absorb important nutrients, like vitamins A and D, and also provide the essentials needed for hormone production (this also includes the hormones that help us feel alert and awake).
Key is the fact that fats (along with protein) also help to stabilise and balance energy and blood sugar levels to keep us full and focused for longer. The trick is to eat healthy fats, like those found in oily fish like salmon and mackerel, or in foods like walnuts, avocado and chia seeds. Try to make a salad with some wild salmon, olives, seeds and some lettuce or romaine for a light and healthy meal.
Believe it or not, home-made guacamole can be extra energising! Mix half avocado with half of a lime’s juice, salt and pepper for a quick recipe.
Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are perfect for promoting improved energy. A single serving packs quite an energetic punch: 2 grams of fibre, almost 9 grams of protein, and 14 grams of beneficial oils (omega-3 and monounsaturated).
To boot, they're a great combination of Zinc (20%DV) and most of all, Magnesium (40%)."
And don't forget that quinoa is also technically a seed and it’s a mealtime staple when you want to boost energy levels since it's a source of complete plant-based protein, as well as fibre. This offers far more prolonged, sustained energy delivery than any refined grains, quinoa is also gluten-free, so it sits in sensitive digestive systems.
It’s true, we crave carbohydrates when feeling blue, since these are the very foods that boost levels of the feel-good brain chemical, serotonin.
Whole wheat is much better, since it also stabilises blood sugar levels, while refined grains can send you on a blood sugar roller coaster, leaving you grumpy, and hungry.
When it comes to incorporating whole grains into your diet I recommend starting with oatmeal as a staple since it contains a fibre called beta-glucan that keeps blood sugar in the healthy range.
COCOA AND CHOCOLATE
Yes, chocolate is on the list. Raw dark chocolate is an amazing source of magnesium. The flavonols in chocolate are shown to boost nitric oxide levels in the blood and that correlates to improved energy and blood.
Since cocoa naturally contains caffeine, it helps to enjoy it earlier in the day and away from bedtime so as not to disrupt sleep.
I personally love mine in the middle of the afternoon, a couple of small squares with a fresh apple, since the antioxidants in apples work synergistically with those in cocoa.