Eat For Energy
Feel like taking a nap when you should be tackling a growing to-do list? If your solution to a wave of the "nod-offs" is another cup of strong coffee (maybe a jelly-filled doughnut, too), it's time to change your snack habits and eat to stay wide-eyed awake. Shun the short-lived caffeine-sugar high, put our energy-upping tips into play, and nosh these five high-energy foods.
Quick tips for long-lasting energy
Think before you drink
You know that caffeine gives you a jolt, but it's a stimulant that won't provide lasting energy. In fact, guzzle too much of it, and you'll feel exhausted and jittery, ready to crash on the couch. Good old-fashioned water is the best thirst-quencher to keep you hydrated and nourished; it transports oxygen to your cells, removes waste, and protects your joints and organs.
To resist grabbing convenient but energy-sapping edibles, plan ahead and have the good stuff within reach at home, in the car or at work, so you won't need those empty calories from a vending machine or fast-food drive-thru.
Watch your iron
If fatigue is a daily problem for you, you may be deficient in key energy-upping vitamins and minerals, iron in particular. Iron-deficiency anemia is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in North America. Not being able to shake the lethargy blues is a signal to see your doctor and rule out anemia or other health issues. To get more iron in your diet, nosh on nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables, red meats and whole grains.
Balance your meals and snacks
In addition to eating every three to four hours to keep your blood sugar levels up, compose your meals with a balance of complex carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats. Studies show the best energy-boosting snacks combine carbs, protein and fat, which will keep you feeling full and give you sustained energy. With this power combo in mind, here are the top five energy-revving foods to work into your diet.
Top 5 energy-boosting foods
1. Macadamia nuts
These luscious nuts provide protein, fat, fiber, iron, magnesium and antioxidants. Yes, they certainly taste rich and sweet, but they are a true power nut. Snack on a handful, or add a few to a green or fruit salad. Try macadamia nut butter on whole-grain crackers or whirl it into your next breakfast smoothie.
2. Edamame or soybeans
These trendy Asian edibles contain a balance of carbs, protein and good fat, so your body burns them slowly and you avoid a slump. For a plant food, edamame is quite high in iron -- just 1/2 cup gives you as much as a 4-ounce chicken breast. Boil unshelled edamame in salted water and squeeze the bean out of the pods with your fingers, or buy the shelled soybeans and pop them in your mouth. You can find edamame, fresh and frozen, in some supermarkets, natural food stores and Asian markets.
Definitely a feel-good fish, salmon is a superfood loaded with energy-promoting protein, muscle-building amino acids, and brain- and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which also help the body reduce inflammation to soothe body aches and pains. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of fish per week.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) rates kale as the top all-around vegetable, over nearly 85 other vegetables. One cup of cooked kale contains more than 10 times the daily recommended vitamin K, a nutrient that helps blood-clotting platelets to form, along with a substantial amount of other vitamins and minerals. Boil kale in salted water or saute the leafy green with garlic, lemon and a little olive oil. Top kale with a hard-cooked egg and an olive oil and vinegar dressing to add protein and healthy fat to keep you motoring along for hours.
5. Wild blueberries
Wild blueberries are packed full of antioxidants for good health. Researchers say that wild berries are more potent than farmed because they're smaller and more nutrient-dense; plus, because growing in the wild gives them more challenges (such as UV light and insects), they produce potent bioactive compounds in defense. While many fruits give you a natural sugar rush, wild blueberries rank low on the glycemic index, so they don't trigger blood sugar spikes. For the protein and fat power combo, make your own trail mix with dried blueberries and almonds, or try a homemade smoothie in the blender with yogurt, milk, blueberries and honey.
More energy-boosting food tips
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