Struggling to get through the day can make for a long one, not to mention zap your creative energy at work and spark for life. The foods we eat have an incredible effect on our energy levels, making it a top priority that we choose options that will serve us well. Calories are essentially just measurements of energy, so we need to be sure to eat foods that have a high quality dose of calories, instead of worrying about counting them and hitting a certain number. Your body prefers high quality whole foods it can use and break down to give you the energy, not empty calories from processed foods that don’t do much except make you feel tired, stressed, and even worse … still hungry after you eat! Our bodies welcome whole foods by digesting them easily, helping us feel more alive naturally. They also boost our immune health, which in turns gives us more ongoing energy.
Avoid Common Energy Zappers…
While sugar and excess caffeine might perk you up for a few hours, true energy is balanced like a steady stream. No crazy ups and downs, no wanting to crash and burn at 3 p.m., and even better sleep as well. To help you achieve this natural energy and combat fatigue, fill your plate up with whole, plant-based foods. Animal-based foods and processed foods require more work from the body just to break them down, so either reduce your consumption of them, or eliminate them as an even better option. You’ll likely find you’ll wake up more refreshed, more enthused to take on your day, and generally feel better all over.
Here are 10 of the best foods to start with:
1. Chia Seeds
Known as an ancient warrior food, these seeds are versatile in use and easy to add anywhere. They’re packed with iron, magnesium, and amino acids to energize and sustain you. Chia seeds also contain good levels of B vitamins and calcium that both fight stress that can lead to fatigue. You can use them ground or whole; start your day off with a cup of oatmeal or a smoothie and 1 tablespoon of the whole or ground seeds. We also like them in chia pudding if you’d like to try a healthier take on dairy-based puddings.
Cacao is higher in iron than meat per serving, and it’s also a good source of B vitamins, protein, fiber, and zinc. Cacao even is thought to be the highest source of magnesium found in foods across the world, which is one of, if not the most, important mineral to support your energy needs. Magnesium supports your metabolism, fights stress that leads to fatigue, helps fight sugar cravings and blood sugar swings, and also plays a part in over 400 enzymatic functions in the body. Cacao can be enjoyed anywhere you would use cocoa, just try to use it raw to obtain the most benefits. A cacao smoothie, energy bar, pudding, or porridge all make great options.
3. Sweet Potatoes
They may be a humble root vegetable, but these gorgeous tubers are filled with B vitamins, magnesium, and complex carbs. Sweet potatoes are also very easy to digest so they won’t cause any energy-zapping digestive distress. Because they’re so nutrient dense and have quality fiber, their sugars are released very slowly into the bloodstream, helping them give you an even stream of energy. The complex carbs and tryptophan (an amino acid) found in sweet potatoes also help boost serotonin production in the body to fight off depression and stress-related fatigue. They even boost over half your daily vitamin C needs. Vitamin C helps your body absorb and use iron from your meals better, which is essential to staying energized. Enjoy them raw or cooked, just don’t leave them out!
This caramel-flavored golden yellow powder is one of the best foods to support your energy in such a small serving. Said to be a superfood, maca is basically just a root vegetable from Peru. It’s a natural adaptogen so it helps your body deal with stress of all forms and improves hormonal function. Since your hormones can play a major part in your fatigue levels and overall ability to deal with stress, adding this superfood to your day is a great way to see improvements quickly. Try a tablespoon of maca in your smoothies, oatmeal, raw puddings, and energy bars and bites. To beat all, maca is one of the best sources of plant-based amino acids, boosting nearly every single one of the essential 20 that you need every day. Have it first thing in the day or in the afternoon when you need a boost. Its delicious flavor is a true winner for sure!
Spinach is a great source of plant-based iron, magnesium, B vitamins, and protein. It also contains a large dose of vitamin C to help with iron absorption and let’s be honest – it’s delicious! Slightly sweet, a little buttery (if you can call a green that), and rich in satisfying textures of all kinds, it’s no wonder this is a favorite green among many. Use it in some of our favorite ways, including smoothies, soups, sauces, raw wraps, juice with it, or make a savory breakfast entree with it. Another benefit of spinach is that it contains high levels of chlorophyll to fight off inflammation that can lead to fatigue. Not too shabby for a little bitty leaf! (And yes, if you’re wondering, kale is also packed with many of these same benefits, so feel free to eat both for ultimate leafy green goodness!)
Oats are a powerful food to boost energy and are a food anyone can afford. This grain is a nutritional goldmine when it comes to having a large variety of nutrients in such a small serving. Rolled oats contain over 300 milligrams of magnesium to give you energy per 1/3 cup, along with 7 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, over 300 milligrams of potassium for healthy blood sugar, and 8 percent of your daily iron needs. They’re also very low on the glycemic index compared to other grains like rice, corn, and wheat. Enjoy gluten-free oats if you’re a gluten-free eater, and try them out in other ways besides just porridge to work them into your diet. Or, enjoy any of our favorite oatmeal recipes if you happen to love them for breakfast!
Rich in healthy fats, specifically a certain type of fat used by the liver for energy production (medium chain triglycerides), coconut can boost your physical energy and mental energy. The key is to consume it raw and cold-pressed to retain the most benefits and to enjoy its raw flavor. Expeller-pressed oils are not only heated at higher temperatures but are also generally more chemical-tasting in flavor. Though the nutritional amounts are the same in both types on a food label, anytime you choose a type of healthy fat, you should always choose cold-pressed or raw versions to obtain the most anti-inflammatory and health benefits.
Coconut also contain B vitamins, amino acids, magnesium, tryptophan and potassium to keep you energized too. Try this trick: next time you feel an afternoon slump, take a spoonful of raw coconut butter (or two!). Different than coconut oil, it retains all the benefits of coconut since it’s the whole meat ground raw into a creamy buttery spread. Coconut butter is amazing at giving you a little natural buzz, killing sugar cravings and will boost your mental outlook to help fight off fatigue all day long. You can also use it in a smoothie, oatmeal or other dishes first thing in the morning.
8. Pumpkin Seeds
Just a handful of these super seeds is a great way to combat afternoon fatigue and stress. Pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of magnesium, iron and protein you can eat. They’re also full of the amino acid tryptophan that helps fight stress. Enjoy a small handful of raw pumpkin seeds in the afternoon as a snack next time you have a sugar craving or need for caffeine. Let these little anti-inflammatory seeds power you through the day! See more benefits of pumpkin seeds here to bolster your health and try them out in some of these delicious raw energizing Larchmont bars!
Not to be confused with blue green algae (which its often called because they’re similar), spirulina is higher in protein and amino acids than any other sea algae out there. True spirulina boosts a large dose of iron, B vitamins, magnesium, and is a complete protein. It’s high antioxidant and nutritional content help fight stress, low energy and bring balance to the body. Around a tablespoon (3 teaspoons) will give you 150 percent of your daily vitamin B12 needs, 90 percent of your daily iron needs and 6 grams of protein (in the powder form, not tablets). Buy from quality sources to be sure to avoid contaminants and use it in smoothies where it can easily be masked in taste with a banana, date, berries or some healthy sweetener.
Bananas are a unique fruit when it comes to promoting energy. If you avoid them for their sugar content, you’re missing out. These fruits are full of soluble fiber that slows down the release of sugars into the bloodstream. Because they’re high in magnesium and B vitamins, they also help stabilize your blood sugar and promote a relaxed state of mind. Bananas provide a constant stream of energy, which is one reason so many athletes eat them before a workout. They’re also starchy by nature so they take longer to digest than most fruits to help keep you fuller longer. Choose slightly spotted bananas which are easier to digest (the green and bright yellow ones can cause indigestion and bloating). Eat them alone and enjoy them first thing in the day so you can utilize their natural sugars and complex carbs to burn through them for energy. See how to use them to replace dairy here!
Other good foods for energy include: raw cashews, raw almonds, figs, dates, raisins, apples, oranges, carrots, avocados, goji berries, hemp seed, wild rice, quinoa, and most all leafy green vegetables. These foods are packed with magnesium, B vitamins, amino acids and/or natural sugars and complex carbs to provide your body and mind with what it needs. Skip those afternoon javas and try out these ideas instead!
Lead Image Source: Jennifer/Flickr