Forget Caffeine: Natural Foods That Give Energy
To stay productive throughout your busy day — at work, at home, with the kids, and at the gym — you may need a midday pick-me-up, but coffee risks keeping you awake at night.
We asked two nutritionists for their tips on boosting energy in healthy, natural ways. Sally Kuzemchak, from Ohio, works with food companies and is the author of the Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide. Rovenia M. Brock, Ph.D., better known as “Dr. Ro,” has helped private clients and TV audiences (such as ” The Dr. Oz Show”) with their nutrition questions. She also wrote Lose Your Final 15.
They agree a balanced, plant-based diet is the most likely to result in increased energy.
Here are their food picks to naturally increase energy:
Nuts and seeds (think almonds and pumpkin seeds)
Thanks to both protein and fiber, these little snacks can help keep blood sugar stable, avoiding spikes you’d get from a sugary midday snack. Bonus: They also have magnesium, which, working with adenosine triphosphate (ATP), helps regulate glucose levels. Kuzemchak says women who are low in magnesium burn through more oxygen during physical activity than those who get enough. That means they tire out more quickly.
Celery, watermelon and cucumbers
Being dehydrated can wreak havoc on your energy levels. “When you’re low on fluids, your blood volume decreases. That means your heart has to work harder, which can make you feel tired,” Kuzemchak explains. These water-rich fruits and vegetables are comprised of 90 percent water by weight, so they help fend off dehydration. Spinach is another veggie that is high in water content, with fatigue-fighting iron, too. (See below for details on why that matters.)
Lean beef is a great source of iron, “a mineral that transports energy-boosting oxygen around your body,” Kuzemchak adds. “Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen to every cell in the body for producing energy. If you’re not taking in enough iron, those red blood cells can’t carry as much oxygen, which can cause fatigue and weakness.” She notes that some women may be low in iron, sometimes due to menstruation or dieting.
Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries
These fruits contain sugar that your body converts to energy without a lot of calories. The fiber in the berries helps your body sustain energy, as fiber keeps blood glucose levels from rising and crashing.
Whole grains can help you metabolize energy by giving you needed vitamin B. Vitamin B helps your body convert the foods you eat into ATP, the aforementioned organic compound that helps prevent glucose levels from spiking. A bowl of rolled oats (not instant) also has soluble fiber and protein.
This snack dip has what Ro calls “the trifecta for energy: high protein, omega 3 (good) fats, and fiber,” which provide energy and sustain it. She recommends adding a little chopped red bell pepper and a few peppermint leaves for an added punch. The mint’s aroma activates the trigeminal nerve, which can make you more alert. The chickpeas used to make hummus have iron, which the vitamin C in the pepper helps break down to be more readily absorbed.
“Switching from highly processed, high-sugar foods to a healthier diet can help some people feel less sluggish and more energized,” Kuzemchak notes.
To balance out all the goodness you’re adding to your diet, check that you’re not eating any of these sleep-sapping foods.
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Photo by Artur Rutkowski