It’s time to energize

Explore these 10 best foods to keep you going all day long.
If it's long-lasting fuel you're after, steel-cut oats with berries is the ideal way to start your day. (For Spectrum Health Beat)
If it’s long-lasting fuel you’re after, steel-cut oats with berries is the ideal way to start your day. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

In today’s sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated, under-exercised society, there is a relentless demand for more energy. The energy drink sales in the U.S. are evidence of that.

And yet, we’re still tired.

So where do we go from here? Good nutritional intake. That’s right—a healthy diet can help keep you energized all day.

By eating just one or two high-energy foods every two to four hours, you can sustain your energy levels for a much longer period.

Here are the Top 10 foods to fuel long-lasting energy:

1. Old fashioned or steel-cut oats

Oats are a good source of complex carbohydrates, soluble fiber and protein. Eating oatmeal may also improve your cholesterol. Avoid flavored oatmeal packets because they have added sugar or sugar substitutes. Instead, flavor your oatmeal yourself with fruit, berries and nuts.

2. Brown rice

Rice is inexpensive, and it’s versatile in its culinary uses. Whole grains such as brown rice will provide complex carbohydrates for energy while also providing healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein.

3. Potatoes

Potatoes provide complex carbohydrates and are good sources of fiber (keep the skin on) and potassium. Sweet potatoes and yellow-, red- or purple-skinned potatoes are the best choices.

Given that 98 percent of Americans eat a potassium-deficient diet, the importance of potatoes can’t be overstated—they have double the potassium of bananas. So eat those potatoes.

4. Beans

Beans are good sources of complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals. They are one of nature’s perfect foods.

5. Plain Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt provides a lot of protein and simple carbohydrates in the form of lactose. Choose a plain, low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt to avoid sugar substitutes, and add healthy carbohydrates and fats yourself—fruits, berries and nuts.

6. Fresh fruit

Fresh fruits have simple carbohydrates for quick energy, as well as fiber and antioxidants that decrease the glycemic index. Choose fruits as snacks throughout the day, and be sure to eat at least two servings daily.

7. Berries

Berries get their own category because of their unique blend of low caloric, high fiber and high antioxidant content. Try to eat berries every day.

8. Nuts

Nuts provide healthy, unrefined fats, and they’re a good sources of protein and fiber. They make easy snacks and have a long shelf life. Nuts are high in calories, so a handful once a day is enough.

9. Leafy greens

A low energy level can sometimes correspond to a lack of important nutrients such as omega-3, iron, B vitamins, zinc and magnesium. Leafy greens are good sources of these nutrients, as well as a source of antioxidants. Have a salad every day, or alternatively, put these greens in your smoothie.

10. Water

Dehydration contributes to poor energy levels. Try to drink at least 64 ounces of water daily. That’s about 2 liters. If you’re a large man or you exercise regularly, you may need to drink 3 to 4 liters of water each day.

Gregory Stacey, MA, RD, has been a registered dietitian at Spectrum Health Blodgett Hospital for three years, with a focus on acute care clinical nutrition. He obtained his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Western Michigan University. Gregory has a personal interest in health, wellness and sports performance nutrition.

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