People are always looking for ways to boost energy. The energy drink business makes countless dollars of profit each year off of these people, and these products can be dangerous. There are better ways to increase energy levels, and unlike overly caffeinated and sugary drinks, these are actually good for you.
1. Whole Grains
Whole grains are a great source of energy because they contain lots of fiber. These complex carbohydrates provide a steady supply of energy without the spikes in blood sugar caused by simple carbohydrates which usually comes in the form of refined white flour or sugar. Whole grains are also a good source of B vitamins, which also provide energy and lower stress levels. In addition, whole grains elevate serotonin levels in the body, helping to boost energy while boosting mood, making them great for those who suffer from depression as well.
Nuts have a variety of compounds in them that increase energy. They are a great source of omega 3, omega 6 and monounsaturated fat, which is good for the heart. Nuts are rich in selenium and magnesium, which are essential for converting sugar into energy the body can use as well as vitamin E. Selenium, like other vitamins and minerals help boost mood and can help combat depression. Nuts are easy to overeat, however, so portion control is important. A typical, single serving of nuts is roughly one ounce, or about 12 almonds or walnuts.
3. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate contains a few different substances that boost energy. A study out of the University of Nottingham found that chocolate can help increase energy levels by boosting blood flow to key areas of the brain for up to three hours. In addition, chocolate has been shown to have a number of other benefits as well. Chocolate does contain a small amount of caffeine as well as another stimulant called theobromine, which is what makes chocolate toxic to dogs, in addition to the flavanols that the study found to be beneficial. The rule with chocolate is the darker the better because it contains more of the beneficial compounds and less sugar.
Bananas are a great pick me up because they contain easily digested carbohydrates that the body can use for energy. In fact, they are one of the few fruits that contain both complex and simple carbohydrates. They also contain potassium, a necessary electrolyte which is often lost during strenuous activity due to excessive sweating. Without potassium, which does not stay in the body very long after consumption, the body can't maintain normal functions.
There is a good reason that dates have been a popular snack since biblical times. One serving (five or six dates) of these little power packed fruits contain a whole host of health benefits. They are high in fiber, which helps prevent blood sugar spikes and helps prevent heart disease, they are loaded with potassium which is essential for muscles and the nervous system and they are full of B-complex vitamins which help with energy metabolism and mood elevation. Just be sure to remove the pits or buy them with the pits removed.
6. Lean Meat
Lean meats are a great source of protein and the amino acid tyrosine. This amino acid is boosts dopamine and norepinephrine, two brain chemicals responsible for alertness. Protein is essential for healthy muscles and meat also contains vitamin B12, which helps combat insomnia and depression. Lean meat also helps the body feel full longer, since it takes longer to digest protein. The trick is to watch the fat content of the meat, because meat does contain saturated fat.
Perhaps one of the healthiest sources of protein available, salmon is a fish loaded in beneficial fats. Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids have been shown to improve heart health and boost mood, which may help boost energy levels. However, pregnant women and children should be careful when eating salmon that is wild caught. Large ocean dwelling fish that eat smaller fish, such as salmon, have been shown to have elevated levels of mercury, so these groups of individuals shouldn't consume more than two 4-ounce servings per week.
8. Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy green vegetables, like spinach, have a number of health benefits in addition to helping boost energy. Leafy green vegetables are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids as well as folate. Folate is essential to a whole host of bodily functions, most notably for the rapid division of cells neurological functions, which is why pregnant women are advised to take a folate or folic acid supplement. Folate has also been shown to reduce the risk of depression as well.
9. Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils are great for energy because they are high in fiber and protein. The fiber helps the body feel full longer and keeps blood sugar spikes and crashes at bay. They are also a very healthy form of protein, essential for muscle development. Most foods that are high in fiber do produce gas when consumed. This can be avoided by rinsing canned beans well. If using dried beans or lentils, soak them using any method and then discard the soaking water and rinse well. Over time, as the body adjusts to the increased intake of fiber, gassiness will subside.
Tea is a great alternative to coffee because, while it does contain a small amount of caffeine, tea has also been shown to reduce stress, a major energy sapper. Tea contains the amino acid L-theanine, which also helps people feel more alert, as well as improving memory and reaction time.
These 10 foods don't increase energy by overloading the body with potentially harmful and habit forming stimulants. They increase energy by improving the overall health of the body, and better health is good for everyone.