Foods That Give You Energy
I went to the bookstore at a local University the other day, and I was overwhelmed by the amount of energy drink products that were lining the shelves at the checkout. Hundreds of bottles of 5-hour energy in every flavor you can imagine. Red bulls, Monsters, and so on. College students have late study nights, early classes, and often an active social life, so sleep can be a fleeting commodity during those years. Energy drink companies know that fact, very well, and that is why their presence is so overwhelming at campus bookstores.
Let me tell you why this upsets me: energy drinks are a serious health hazard, and as mentioned above, they frequently target teenagers and young adults, who don’t know how bad they are. Energy drinks have alarming amounts of caffeine and sugar, which can artificially increase energy levels in the body. The side effects of these energy drinks include insomnia, irregular heartbeats, seizures, and an increased risk of heart attack. When mixed with alcohol, the combination can be fatal.
Instead of relying on energy drinks to make it through the day, there is a MUCH healthier option! The food we put into our bodies, and how our bodies process and digest foods have a direct and significant impact on our energy levels. By eating healthy, natural foods, we can create the same effect as the energy drinks, but without any side effects (plus, you’ll feel great!). I have compiled a list of 10 natural foods that give you energy:
The yolks in eggs are rich in B-vitamins and Vitamin D. These vitamins help convert food into energy, and help you maintain strong bones. Eggs are a great addition to breakfast, due to their high protein content. They contain all 9 essential amino acids. Eggs help build and repair body tissue and cells,they help fight off infections, and keep your body fluids in balance.
USDA Guidelines recommend that women (19 and over) who workout less than 30 minutes daily, should consume between 5 and 5.5 ounces of protein daily. Men (19 and over) who workout less than 30 minutes daily should consume between 5.5 and 6.5 ounces of protein.
Hydration is crucial to maintaining good energy levels. Water transports all of the nutrients in the blood that are used for energy. Water also helps carry out waste that builds up in our bodies, and depletes our energy. Water helps regulate body temperature, and helps the body metabolize food that is converted to energy. It is recommended that most people drink 8-10 cups a day.
All fruits contain natural sugars that can increase your energy levels. Fruits also contain vital nutrients and vitamins that our bodies need to thrive. In addition to helping fight off fatigue, fruits are high in antioxidants, lower cholesterol, they keep digestion regular, lower your risk of high blood pressure and stroke, and they have many other benefits. Inhaling the scent of some citrus fruits can help boost energy levels as well. If you’re having a sluggish afternoon, peel an orange and inhale the uplifting scent before eating.
The latest dietary guidelines recommend that a 2,000 calorie diet should include 2 cups of fruit a day.
Almonds have monounsaturated fats that provide omega-3s and omega-6s, which help keep the mind alert. They are a good source of protein and healthy fats that balance blood sugar levels. An added bonus: almonds can reduce the risk of heart disease.
If you’re feeling tired or hungry between meals, grab a handful of almonds for a pick-me-up.
Coffee is a natural source of caffeine, which can increase the number of fatty acids in the bloodstream, giving your body more energy. Other added benefits include lowering the risk of Type II Diabetes, Alzheimers and Parkinsons, it may help with weight loss, and it can help fight off depression.
The benefits of drinking coffee are for moderate use only, so it is recommended to keep your daily cups of joe at 3 cups or less.
Depleted iron levels can leave you feeling tired. Green vegetables like broccoli, spinach and other dark leafy greens are full of iron. Vegetables are another great source of vital nutrients, which can improve your overall health.
The latest dietary guidelines recommend that a 2,000 calorie diet should include 2.5 cups of vegetables a day.
Good news for chocolate lovers, chocolate can give you energy! Studies have shown that bioactive compounds like tyramine and phenlethylamine can elevate your energy levels. Chocolate may also help aid in digestion, improve longevity and anemia. Chocolate has high amounts of cancer-fighting antioxidants. When picking out chocolate, opt for a darker chocolate, which contains higher amounts of antioxidants. Remember to enjoy in moderation.
In addition to being high in fiber and Vitamin B, oats are low on the glycemic index, which delivers a steady stream of energy to your body. The nutrients in oats help turn carbs into energy.
Adding a bowl of oatmeal to your breakfast is a healthy way to start the day. Opt to make your own fresh oats, and enhance them by adding fresh chopped fruit and raw honey.
Your body’s main source of fuel comes from carbohydrates, so it makes sense that whole grains, which contain carbs, are a great source for energy. Pick healthy grains, such as whole wheat pasta, quinoa, couscous, and brown rice.
USDA Guidelines suggest that someone following a 2,000 calorie diet should have 6 ounces of grains each day, and that half of those should be whole grains. 1 ounce is about 1/2 cup of rice or pasta, or one slice of bread.
Spicy Herbs & Peppers
Eating peppers and spicy herbs can speed up your metabolism (great for weight loss) with very few calories. Spicy foods are also an energy infuser and mood elevator. Peppers and herbs are easily incorporated into a vast array of dishes, making it an easy addition to one’s diet.
A good way to think about food and energy is to remember: Garbage-In-Garbage-Out. If you put unhealthy processed foods and drinks into your body, you will feel tired, sluggish, and bad overall. This type of food is not what our bodies were built to survive (much less thrive) on.
However, if you put healthy, good natural food into your body, fresh fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, and lean meats, you will feel great!
It’s important to remember that sleep is a critical element in maintaining natural energy levels, which cannot be faked by energy drinks or eating healthy. Bottom line, your body has to have rest to function properly. An average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep a night, while teenagers and children need 9-11 (toddlers and infants need even more).
Sleeping is a necessary part of maintaining healthy bodies and minds, and it has some tremendous benefits:
- Strengthens memories and facilitates learning
- Increases lifespan
- Increases creativity
- Reduces Inflammation
- Reduces fatigue, which increases overall productivity and effectiveness in life
- Improves grades and athletic performance
- Helps the body maintain an optimal weight
- Helps you keep focus
- Lowers stress levels
- Reduces the risk of depression
So, remember to give your body enough sleep to recover and regenerate, and put good, healthy fuel into it. Those two things will help you maintain good energy levels, and will help you feel great!
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