Too often, we choose food based on cravings and convenience, giving little thought to how our choices affect our body. Fortunately, being conscious of the nutrition packed within each meal can help us seek foods that benefit us – especially ones that give us energy.
Our bodies can be viewed as highly evolved machines that need quality fuel to perform our best. Just like how a car sputters and stalls with watered down gasoline, the human body becomes sluggish when fed food lacking essential nutrients. According to nutritionist Nicolette Pace, MS, RD, CDE, CDN, “We find that fatigue generally is coupled to foods that are nutrient-poor.”
In stark contrast to being fatigued, filling up with foods containing protein, healthful fats, complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals helps people achieve a steady flow of vibrant energy. Five of the top foods for fighting fatigue and feeling energetic include:
- Steel-Cut Oats – A perfect example of a complex carbohydrate, steel-cut oats are digested slowly, breaking down over time instead of all at once. Steel-cut oats contain the inner portion of the oat kernel, which has been cut, usually into two or three pieces, instead of milled or rolled. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, steel-cut oats are rich in B vitamins, calcium, iron, protein and fiber. Each of these nutrients helps provide a steady stream of energy.
- Non-Fat, Plain Greek Yogurt – Research suggests that an imbalance in microorganisms in the digestive tract is partially to blame for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Swedish researchers tested the effects of eating yogurt rich in probiotics (beneficial microorganisms) twice a day for a month. They found that participants reported improvements in their fatigue symptoms. High in protein and calcium, and easy to digest, Greek yogurt has enough carbohydrates to be a valuable source of slow-release energy. In addition, it is rich in potassium, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and phosphorus. Each of these nutrients contributes to the creation of a steady stream of energy.
- Pumpkin Seeds (pepitas) – A handful of raw pepitas or dry roasted pumpkin seeds are great sources of protein, healthy fats and fiber, manganese, iron, copper, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. Each of these nutrients helps to either nourish the brain (aiding alertness) and/or provide the body’s cells with a steady stream of energy.
- Eggs – In the January/February 2009 edition of the journal Nutrition Today, researchers reviewed 25 studies on protein and concluded that the protein in eggs makes a valuable contribution to muscle strength, helps to satisfy hunger and provides a source of steady, sustained energy. Eggs are rich in protein and nutrients including thiamin, riboflavin, folate, vitamin B12 and B6 (the B vitamins that are essential for energy production) and leucine, each of which contributes to a steady stream of energy.
- Quinoa – A grain that contains more protein than any other grain or rice, quinoa is considered to be a complete source of protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. Quinoa has nearly twice as much fiber as most other grains, has iron, magnesium, vitamin B2 and manganese – all necessary components of energy production.
Eating the wrong foods can cause fatigue, but eating the right ones has the opposite effect. A diet that contains steel-cut oats, non-fat, plain Greek yogurt, pepitas, eggs and quinoa is a virtual nutrition powerhouse. It lends many opportunities to manufacture and store enough energy to power through each and every day.