When you feel yourself slowing down midday, snacks can be a great source for a pick-me-up. Easy to find, easy to buy, and easy to have close at hand, food is one of the most simple ways of boosting your energy. [Read: Recharge Now! – 15 Ways to Feel Energized]
Of course you want to make sure that you choose the right kinds of food. Some choices, such as coffee and candy, seem obvious choices for a sugary, caffeinated burst of adrenaline. But the effects of coffee will keep you strung out rather than energized, and sugar-shots like candy will only burn you out.
What you need is food that is nutritional and going to give you a long-lasting energy and focus.
Picking the right food is about choosing healthy, nutritious options and eating them in well-balanced proportions. Skip the fast food drive-thru and opt instead of farmer’s markets or your local grocery store. [Read: You Are What You Eat – 7 Dangers of Fast Food]
So here are ten wholesome food choices that will keep you alert all day.
- Nuts and seeds. Most nuts are a good source of energy-boosting protein and also magnesium, which plays a big part in converting sugar to energy and increasing blood flow to the brain. Almonds also help regulate protein intake and contain riboflavin, a vitamin that helps in oxygen-based energy construction. Walnuts have been proven to better help you handle stress by raising your serotonin levels. And if you are looking for some selenium, a mineral believed to improve mood, Brazil nuts are a good source. Some seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, are also good sources of energy-rich minerals like calcium, iron, Vitamin K, and magnesium.
- Whole grains. Along with protein, complex carbohydrates are another great way to get the natural energy and metabolism boost you need. Brown rice, for instance, contains the energy-enhancer manganese. The fiber and B Vitamins in oatmeal make it a powerhouse choice for breakfast. Quinoa is low in sodium and cholesterol and high in dietary fiber, iron, and phosphorous. Whole wheat pasta, wheat bread, and couscous are also other great whole grain options.
- Fresh fruits. Everyone knows that an apple a day keeps the sleepiness away. Fruit is a delicious way to ingest natural antioxidants as well as sugars like glucose and fructose, which the body will metabolize into energy. Apples contain the mighty antioxidants polyphenol and flavonoid. Blueberries can reduce inflammation, increase the flow of oxygen to your brain, and aid your focus and concentration. Bananas are high in potassium, which helps slow down digestion and control normal blood pressure. Fruits are also great because they can be combined in so many different ways (smoothies, on your cereal, fruit salad, etc).
- Leafy greens. Iron is important for producing proteins that transport and store oxygen in the body, and without it we would be greatly lacking in energy. Luckily natural leafy greens like lettuce, spinach, broccoli, and collard greens are superb sources of iron. Some vegetables, like celery, are also a good source of fiber and Vitamins B and C. As an added benefit, celery is also known to have diuretic propensities and anti-inflammatory properties. Veggie smoothies are also becoming very popular options for energy and make a great mid afternoon snack.
- Lean meats and fish. Lean meats like chicken, turkey, pork, and beef are excellent sources of protein that also contain two additional benefits: Vitamin B-12 (which helps with depression and insomnia) and tyrosine (which boosts brain chemicals to make you feel more awake and alert). Lean steak is also a good source of the body-fuel creatine. Salmon has a wealth of energy-converting properties like protein, riboflavin, niacin, and Vitamin B6. This fatty fish has also become very prevalent in healthy diets because of its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which has many benefits for a strong heart.
- Lentils and legumes. Legumes such as lentils, beans, and peas are high in protein, magnesium, iron, and potassium. They are also low in cholesterol and fat, making them a very healthy source of energy with no side effects. Everything from chickpeas to black beans will help steady blood glucose levels and are a great source of fiber. Because fiber aids digestion and slows it down, legumes are a outstanding choice for long-lasting energy.
- Yogurt. Yogurt is an inexpensive choice when you need energy right before a workout or to jump start your day. Choose from any one of hundreds of flavors and you will receive a large amount of magnesium and calcium. Opt for Greek or low-fat yogurt and the amount of protein you consume will multiply. Yogurt is also a good source of probiotics, which, along with empowering you with energy, aid your body in keeping a strong immune system.
- Eggs. An egg may be small, but it contains what is probably the most protein out of any other food on this list. Whether they are cooked scrambled, fried, omelet-style, or sunny side up, eggs are the number one choice for an energy-fueled breakfast. The essential amino acids, iron, and choline also work to ensure that your brain is functioning properly and at the top of its game throughout the day.
- Dark chocolate. Finally, you say, something on this list I can get excited about. Chocolate might not seem like the healthiest choice, but you have got to satisfy your sweet tooth cravings sometime, and out of all of the desserts it has the most benefits. Besides the obvious caffeine, dark chocolate is also rich in the compound flavanol. Flavanol helps increase the blood flow to your brain, which in turn will improve your mental focus and fight brain fatigue. Additionally, dark chocolate contains antioxidants, iron, and magnesium. So chocoholics rejoice!
- Water. You might be tired of hearing about the magical properties of water, but do not disregard them. Next to oxygen, water is our lifeblood. Everyone from dieticians to doctors to personal fitness trainers recommend large amounts of water on a daily basis. The main thing is that it will keep you hydrated, which among other benefits will save you from the sluggishness that comes from dehydration. Dehydration cuts into your energy levels and metabolism, affecting the energy of both your body and your brain. You should start the day with a glass of water because your body becomes dehydrated during sleep. Also, if you are tired of drinking glass after glass of tap water all day, try switching things up with coconut water (a good source of potassium and electrolytes) or lemon water (for a hint of Vitamin C).