There are times when we all need a little pick-me-up to get through the afternoon slump. It’s easy to reach for a cup of coffee or grab a can of the latest energy drink. However, those selections can do more harm than good. In fact, refined foods, added sugar and poor nutrition are often the cause of lethargy.
Long-term energy doesn’t come from over-caffeination. Often, if you see the word “energy” on a product’s label, it’s loaded with sugar, caffeine and other chemicals that we recommend avoiding. Knowing that Monday mornings and late-night work schedules do exist, we’ve done a little research on foods that will give you energy. Here’s 13 of the best foods for more energy. Reach for these, instead of a soda or processed snack food, the next time you need a boost.
In a 2.5-ounce serving of cooked salmon, you’ll find about 20 grams of protein, 8 grams of fat and 160 calories. The fish is also rich in vitamins B12, B6 and niacin. It contains 500 international units (IUs) of vitamin D. Eating a serving of salmon will help you stabilize your blood sugar, with the unsaturated fats. The B vitamins are an excellent natural source of energy. Of course, there are numerous other reasons to add a few servings of fish to your weekly diet. However, it doesn’t hurt that enjoying salmon can help you get out of second gear and jump on the day’s “to do” list.
Serving suggestion: Enjoy smoked salmon with goat cheese, dill and a gluten-free cracker for breakfast to start the day off right.
2. Hot Peppers
Most hot peppers also contain an assortment of B vitamins, vitamin A, E and potassium. All of these things and the naturally occurring capsaicin will increase energy and help improve your mood. Adding peppers to your diet can give you a natural boost of energy when you need it most.
Serving suggestion: Homemade salsa is a great way to get hot peppers into your diet. Peppers also go well in salads and on sandwiches. If you don’t like spicy foods, pickled peppers are a good option.
Feeling hungry and tired? Try a serving of popcorn to help you get back into the swing of things. Popcorn is high in carbohydrates and fiber. Your body needs the carbs for energy. Then, the fiber helps keep energy levels stable and prevents the blood sugar crash often associated with high carbohydrate snacks. That fiber also keeps you full for a while.
Serving suggestion: Skip the microwave bags and pop your corn on the stove top with a little olive oil ― not extra virgin olive oil. Add in some herbs and seasoning just after all the kernels have popped and enjoy.
4. Leafy Greens
We’re pretty sure Popeye was onto something when he ingested massive amounts of spinach to gain his unusual strength and stamina. Turns out, spinach and other leafy greens are high in iron, which promotes red blood cell circulation and helps you feel more alert. Some evidence suggests eating leafy greens will also improve concentration.
Serving suggestion: A salad is a good way to enjoy your leafy greens. However, when you’re pressed for time, a green smoothie is the way to go. Toss spinach, green apples, celery and kiwi into your blender with a little ice and voila! You’ve got a natural energy drink that will get the job done.
University of Cincinnati researchers have found a link between blueberry consumption and brain health. They gave older adults blueberries and found that they scored higher on memory tests than those who were given placebo. Blueberries are also loaded with antioxidants, which help restore energy and give your whole body a boost. Blueberries have a very low glycemic load at around 10. So they won’t give you the quick high, followed by a sugar crash.
Serving suggestion: Blueberries alone are a perfect snack. However, they are also fantastic on top of Greek yogurt, in a mix of fruit and seeds or blended with ice for a refreshing drink.
A friend of mine recently adopted a vegan diet for health reasons. After a few weeks, she began feeling tired. She tried adding eggs back into her diet, and her energy seemed to come back. Why? Eggs are full of B vitamins and a large range of amino acids. Both of these elements will help you feel more energetic and alert. Eggs also contain high-quality protein that will keep your energy levels steady for a few hours.
Serving suggestion: Make a plate full of deviled eggs to store in the refrigerator for a quick energy snack. They’ll stay fresh under refrigeration for about five days.
7. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, provide a crunchy little snack that’s more than satisfying. Pumpkin seeds contain B vitamins as well as iron, zinc, magnesium and beta-carotene. These little superfoods also pack in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and fiber. Those B vitamins are great for increasing energy while the fats will help you stay energized for an extended time.
Serving suggestion: A handful of pumpkin seeds is a pretty delicious snack by itself. But, pumpkin seeds are also excellent atop a salad or combined with fresh berries.
Bananas are an ideal snack when you need a little more energy than you have. One banana has about 1.5 grams of protein and plenty of complex carbohydrates. A banana also contains 3.5 grams of fiber to keep you full. Another thing a banana contains is the essential amino acid called tyrosine. Tyrosine helps the brain’s neurotransmitters to increase your alertness and help you focus.
Serving suggestion: Bananas are excellent for on-the-go snacking. However, when you’re at home, consider serving a banana with sunflower seed butter spread on top.
The old saying is true, “An apple a day keeps your boss from telling you to stop nodding off at your desk.” Whereas a sugary snack will result in a quick high and a hard crash, apples and other fruits contain fructose. Fructose has to go through a metabolic process to become glucose that your body will use for fuel. Because of the time it takes for the fructose to metabolize, you won’t feel that quick rush of sugar. Rather, it will be a steady increase. And the energy you do get from an apple will sustain you for longer than something with refined sugar in it. Apples are also rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants to give you a little pep to your step.
Serving suggestion: Slice apples and serve them with sunflower seed butter for dipping.
Need some energy to get yard work done in the heat? Try replenishing with a few slices of watermelon. It’s loaded with vitamin B6 and B1 and also contains potassium and magnesium which have been shown to increase energy levels.
Serving suggestion: Watermelon is excellent served cubed or right off the rind. But it’s also very good served blended with ice on a hot day.
Oh yes, the wonderful benefits of cocoa. While an average chocolate bar would fail to provide sustaining energy for you, pure cocoa will give you a delicious boost. In fact, cocoa contains theobromine, a stimulant that gives you energy without the jitters from caffeine. Some say a cup of hot cocoa can provide roughly the same amount of energy as a cup of coffee. Drinking cocoa has also been shown to reduce anxiety and improve mental alertness.
Serving suggestion: For a hot drink, mix a couple of tablespoons of ground cocoa powder with about a quarter cup of nondairy milk. Add three more cups of the milk and heat at medium-low, while stirring until it’s nice and hot. Add just a little coconut sugar to give it a slight sweetness. If you prefer a cold drink, blend up some cocoa powder with frozen bananas and nondairy milk to enjoy a chocolate smoothie.
12. Sweet Potato
High in B vitamins, magnesium and potassium, the sweet potato is an excellent choice of complex carbohydrates for providing sustained energy. Sweet potatoes are also a great choice for fuel before you exercise. Because they are high in potassium, they will help balance your electrolytes and keep your blood sugar levels steady through the workout.
Serving suggestion: Cube and steam sweet potatoes and combine them with black beans ― another energy powerhouse ― red onion, cilantro, tomato and lime for an unforgettable Southwest-style potato salad. It’s great served hot or cold.
When it comes to classifying foods, honey is in a category all its own. Is it a sweetener? Yes. A food? Yes. A healing salve for wounds? Yes. An effective cough syrup? Yes. Honey contains natural sugars and enzymes with amino acids and trace amounts of antioxidants. It’s great for a quick jolt of energy to get you through the day. Athletic coaches often recommend a spoonful of honey before training and workouts because of its energizing properties. A cool side note: microorganisms will not grow in honey, so sealed honey will not spoil even after hundreds of years in storage.
Serving suggestion: Pair honey with a higher protein food for longer lasting energy. Honey drizzled over Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or with pumpkin seeds is an excellent choice. Another fun snack is a honey and cinnamon kettle corn. Pop popcorn on the stove. Once it is finished popping, immediately dump it into a serving bowl. While the pan is still hot (but with the stove burner off) squeeze a bit of honey into the pan. It will caramelize and bubble up. Add a few dashes of cinnamon to the caramelized honey, a little salt and some nutritional yeast if you have it. Then, add the popped corn back into the pan and stir the sweet, caramelized mixture to coat the popped corn. This homemade kettle corn is healthful, delicious and a terrific energizing snack.
High-quality foods with complex carbohydrates can be an effective energy source and a great addition to your meal plan. The next time you feel sluggish, try one of these 13 foods instead of a nap or a latte. These excellent foods will provide fuel to keep you alert and awake throughout your busy days.
If you want to trim down your body, get younger, increase your metabolism and energy and heal your pain, then check out the Best Foods That Rapidly Slim & Heal in 7 Days.