Spring hasn’t quite sprung and winter feels like it may never end. To add to the dreary weather, we’re still dealing with the effects of a global pandemic that has left many feeling socially isolated, anxious or stressed.
If you’re feeling tapped out, tired and sluggish, there are many ways to turn it around, including exercise, time spent outdoors, and of course, the old standby — coffee.
According to Julie Enga, dietitian at Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, one of easiest ways to boost energy levels is good nutrition.
Choose carbs wisely
“All too often, when we feel low on energy, we reach for caffeine, packaged snacks and sweets,” says Enga. “But they often leave us feeling jittery or even more fatigued.”
According to Enga, the key to stable energy levels is complex carbohydrates . “Complex carbs are more difficult to digest. Therefore, it takes longer to raise blood sugar levels,” she adds. “You don’t get a spike in blood sugar. It’s more like a steady supply,” adds Enga.
“Refined carbs, on the other hand, are easier for the body to break down. This causes a sudden spike and drop in blood sugar, which can zap energy,” according to Enga.
Avoid energy zappers
Refined carbs — added sugars and processed grains — are found in most packaged, processed foods. This includes white flour, rice and bread, along with pastries, pastas, sodas, snacks, sweets and sugary breakfast cereals.
“You want a continuous release of energy throughout the day,” says Enga, “So fuel your diet with foods rich in complex carbs, which include most whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.”
20 fatigue-fighting superfoods
Boost your energy reserves with these nutrient-rich foods:
- Avocados are full of healthy fats, fiber and potassium. Slice it onto salads or sandwiches. Because of their high fat content, limit your serving to a half an avocado per day.
- Almonds are high in calcium, vitamin E, protein and fiber. While they're healthy, almonds are also high in fat and calories, so limit to one or two handfuls a day.
- Bananas contain natural sugar and a generous helping of fiber to prevent sugar spikes.
- Berries are chock full of antioxidants and fiber. They make for a delicious topping on oatmeal, yogurt or cottage cheese.
- Chia seeds provide a daily dose of fiber and protein. Sprinkle on hot cereal or yogurt, or add them to your smoothie.
- Eggs have more nutrients per calorie than most foods, plus six grams of protein. Enjoy one or two per day, poached, boiled or pan-fried.
- Kale has a wide array of antioxidants, vitamins and fiber. Sauté it with garlic for a side or add to soups and salads.
- Salmon is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, with an ample supply of B-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids and protein.
- Spinach is low in calories and impressively high in vitamins and protein. Add it to quiches, toss in salads and blend into smoothies.
- Beets are nutrient dense and full of folate and antioxidants. Roast them and add to salads or prepare as a side dish.
- Oats are one of the best sources of slow-releasing energy to fuel your morning, plus they include B-vitamins and fiber.
- Green tea has small amount of caffeine without the jittery side effects, plus a whole host of antioxidants.
- Quinoa is a protein and fiber-packed, nutrient-dense grain. It's great in main dishes or as a side dish.
- Cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar and is packed with antioxidants. Sprinkle on cereals, coffee and tea, or add to savory stews and curries.
- Bell peppers provide a healthy dose of vitamins A and C, potassium, fiber and iron. Snack on solo slices or toss into scrambles, salads and soups.
- Sweet potatoes are loaded with beta carotene and a rich source of vitamin A.
- Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are great sources of fiber and protein, and particularly effective at reducing blood sugar.
- Walnuts are high in protein and healthy fats, such as omega-3s. They add a satisfying crunch to salads, oatmeal and trail mix.
- Turmeric is a yellow spice with a warm, earthy flavor. Made from the root of a plant, it helps balance blood sugar and ease inflammation. It can be used to flavor grains, curries and stews.
- Dark chocolate, as long as it is contains 70 percent cocoa or higher, is loaded with nutrients and antioxidants. The more cocoa and less sugar, the more bitter and the more health benefits it has.
Five food-related energy tips
- Hydrate. Dehydration causes poor sleep and fatigue, so keep a bottle of water nearby and drink up.
- Avoid overeating (and undereating). Eating too many or too few calories can lower your energy levels.
- Get protein at each meal. Your body can absorb only so much protein at once, so spread your intake throughout the day, aiming for 25 to 30 grams at each meal.
- Snack smart. Eat a nutritious afternoon or morning snack, such as a handful of almonds or an apple with nut butter, to avoid energy dips.
- Watch the caffeine. The Food and Drug Administration recommends keeping your intake below 400 mg per day (that’s about four or five 8-ounce cups of coffee). Avoid caffeine after 3 p.m.
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