What are the best foods to eat for energy?
SOURCE: Medical News Today
AUTHOR: Written by Jon Johnson, Medically reviewed by Katherine Marengo LDN, R.D.
All food provides the body with energy, but this energy can vary greatly. Some foods, such as sugars and refined carbs, give the body a quick jolt of energy. However, more often, the body needs more sustainable energy from ingredients such as fruits, grains, and legumes.
The list we give here focuses on foods and drinks that provide more stable energy throughout the day.
The following fruits may help boost energy:
Bananas may be the best quick snack for sustained energy. While bananas are a good natural source of sugar, they are also rich in fibers that help slow the digestion of that sugar. Bananas contain helpful nutrients that make the body feel full of energy.
A study in the journal PLoS One notes that eating a banana before a long bicycle ride helps performance and endurance just as much as a carbohydrate drink. While most people are not cycling each day, bananas may still provide energy.
Avocados are a well-rounded fruit in terms of health values and nutrients.
As a study in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition notes, they contain nutrients, protein, and fiber that may help sustain energy levels throughout the day.
They also contain good fats that may increase energy levels, and make fat-soluble nutrients more available in the body.
3. Goji Berries
Goji berries are small, reddish berries containing many nutrients and important anti-aging and antioxidant properties, as a review in Drug Design, Development and Therapy notes. The specific antioxidants have many possible benefits, including giving the body more energy.
Dried goji berries make a great addition to a trail mix, and many people add a few to a water bottle to drink throughout the day.
Apples may be another simple snack to give the body lasting energy. Along with fiber and nutrients, a study in the journal Horticulture Research notes that apples are high in antioxidants called flavonoids, which may help fight against oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.
As a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry notes, strawberries are a good source of minerals, vitamin C, and folates. They also contain phenols, which are essential antioxidants that may help the body create energy at the cellular level.
People can add strawberries to many dishes, and a handful may also be an easy snack to add to a diet.
Most people enjoy oranges for their taste, which comes from the antioxidant vitamin C. Vitamin C may help reduce oxidative stress in the body and prevent fatigue.
A study in the journal Antioxidants notes that young adult male students who have higher levels of vitamin C may also have better mood and may be less likely to experience confusion, anger, or depression.
7. Dark berries
Berries, including blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, may be a good energy boosting food when the body is craving something sweet.
Dark berries tend to be higher in natural antioxidants than lighter-colored ones, which may reduce inflammation and fatigue in the body. They also tend to have less sugar than sweeter fruits, while still satisfying a craving for a sweet taste.
The following animal products may help boost energy:
8. Fatty fish
Fish, in general, is an excellent and light source of protein and B vitamins that may give the body sustained energy throughout the day.
Fatty cold-water fish, such as salmon, sardines, and tuna, tend to be higher in omega-3 fatty acids.
As a study in the journal Nutrients notes, omega-3 fatty acids may improve brain function and reduce inflammation in the body, which may be a cause of fatigue in some people.
9. Beef liver
Beef liver may be one of the best meat sources for vitamin B-12, which keeps the body feeling full of energy.
While many cuts of meat contain vitamin B-12, the difference is that beef liver has a large amount. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a 3-ounce cut of beef flank steak contains about 1.5 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B-12.
The same cut of beef liver contains 60 mcg of vitamin B-12, according to the USDA.
Yogurt may also be a source of energy. As the USDA show, natural yogurt is rich in protein, fats, and simple carbohydrates, which provide energy to the body.
Yogurt is also very easy to eat on the go, which makes it a great alternative to vending machine food.
Eggs provide the body with plenty of protein and nutrients for sustainable energy. As the USDA note, one large hard-boiled egg contains about 6 grams (g) of protein and 5 g of fat, as well as vitamins and minerals to help keep the body energized and feeling full for longer than other snacks.
The following vegetables are good options for energy:
12. Yams and sweet potatoes
Yams and sweet potatoes are beneficial sources of carbohydrates, which provide energy. Yet sweet potatoes are also high in fiber, which may help slow the body’s absorption of these carbohydrates. This may make them a good option for sustained energy throughout the day.
As a study in the journal Food Science and Biotechnology notes, beets may provide the body with a great source of antioxidants and nutrients that help improve blood flow and energy. People can consume beets as dried beetroot chips, cooked beets or as a bottle of beetroot juice.
14. Dark leafy greens
Dark, leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and collard greens are nutrient dense and contain filling proteins, as well as nutrients and antioxidants.
Greens may be difficult to digest raw for some people, so breaking them down by cooking them with a bit of vinegar or lemon juice may help.
15. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate may be an easy way to increase energy. Rich, dark chocolate usually has much less sugar than milk chocolate. Less sugar means less immediate energy, but more cocoa content means more of the benefits of cocoa, including helpful antioxidants such as flavonoids.
A study in the journal Archives of the Turkish Society of Cardiology notes that dark chocolate may benefit the cardiovascular system by helping more blood pump around the body. This blood carries fresh oxygen, which may also make a person feel more awake and alert.
The following grains may help with energy:
A bowl of whole-grain oatmeal may be a great way to provide the body with energy. Oats are rich in fiber, and they may enable the body to feel fuller for longer than other breakfast choices.
As a study in The Journal of Nutrition notes, whole-grain oats are also a source of essential minerals, vitamins, and phenolic compounds, all of which may help energize the body.
Popcorn is rich in carbohydrates. However, it also contains fiber to help slow the digestion. Popcorn may make a person feel full for longer than other carbohydrates.
As a study in Nutrition Journal notes, people who ate popcorn rather than potato chips felt fuller from the snack. This may be helpful for dieters, as popcorn usually contains fewer calories than potato chips.
Quinoa is a seed, but most people treat it as a grain. Quinoa is high in protein, carbohydrates, and fiber. The combination of amino acids and slow-release carbohydrates may make for sustainable energy rather than a short burst of glucose from other grains.
19. Brown rice
One of the benefits of brown rice may be that it retains much of the fiber from the husk. The husk is not there in white rice, which may cause the body to absorb the carbohydrate content quickly. This may lead to a spike and then a crash in energy levels. By having the husk, brown rice may help slow the digestion of these carbohydrates, therefore, releasing energy more slowly.
Beans and legumes
The following beans and legumes may help with energy:
Whether roasted soybeans or young edamame beans in the pod, soybeans contain protein with a wide variety of amino acids, as well as magnesium and potassium, according to the USDA.
Lentils are a relatively cheap form of protein and fiber, which may make them a great option for people on a budget.
The USDA note that 1 cup of lentils contains about 18 g of protein, 40 g of carbs, 15 g of fiber, and less than 4 g of sugar.
The fiber may help to manage the digestion of the carbs, keeping the body full and providing a source of sustained energy.
Many nuts contain a blend of protein, fats, and some carbohydrates to provide energy throughout the day. Nuts are typically also rich sources of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, or phosphorous.
Nuts are usually high in essential fatty acids. As a study in the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition notes, these fatty acids may help reduce inflammation, which may also reduce fatigue.
Nuts are high in calories, as well, so people should be careful not to eat too many
23. Peanut butter
Peanut butter is typically rich in protein, fats, and fiber, and may help a person feel full for longer after eating it. This may cut the need for constant snacking, which may also leave a person feeling drained as their body has to digest continuously.
Many seeds, such as pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds, are rich sources of fatty acids and fiber, which may translate to more energy. Seeds are also easy to carry and make a great addition to a quick trail mix.
The following drinks can help boost energy:
Water is the most crucial energizing ingredient on this list. Water is vital for every cell in the body to work correctly.
While most people think of dehydration as an extreme scenario, the body may become partially dehydrated if a person goes all morning without water.
Maintaining energy can be as simple as carrying a water bottle around and sipping it throughout the day to stay properly hydrated.
Coffee is a recognizable energy booster. The caffeine in coffee makes the body and mind feel alert and may make people more productive.
Coffee also contains antioxidants called polyphenols, which may reduce oxidative stress in the cells and help the body function better.
Coffee is a stimulant, however, so people should consume it in moderation. Too much coffee may lead to energy loss as the body withdraws from the caffeine.
27. Green tea
Green tea still contains small amounts of caffeine, but it also has compounds that may help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. The result may be a smoother transition than coffee to a more awake and energetic state.
28. Yerba mate
Yerba maté is a drink native to South America. Drinking the herb as a tea provides the body with similar stimulating effects as tea or coffee.
Yerba maté contains many active nutrients, antioxidants, and amino acids. People who drink yerba maté say it provides a much smoother form of energy by comparison to the jolt of energy from coffee.
As a study in the journal Nutrients notes, yerba ate may also improve mood and help people feel full, even after exercise, which may be helpful for those looking to lose weight while maintaining their energy levels.
Foods to avoid
While most foods provide energy, the ones above focus on sustained energy. Foods to try to avoid may include:
• fast foods or fried foods
• added sugars
• packaged snacks and candy bars
• baked sweets such as cakes and cupcakes
While this list is not exhaustive, the idea behind finding energy boosting foods is to consume a varied, balanced diet. Vitamins, fiber, fats, and proteins are all essential for energy, but it is crucial to find a balance between them.
People should try to choose a varied diet containing many different, nutritious foods that give the body sustained energy.