Whole natural foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, trump processed so-called “energy” food and drinks any day of the week. Frequently, the latter are full of sugar and calories, causing energy highs and lows that fluctuate throughout the day, rather than maintaining a steady, unvarying energy stream.
To sustain energy, eat a balanced diet of complex carbohydrates, proteins and fats, which break down more slowly in the body, releasing a sustained source of energy. Avocado on whole grain toast is a good example, as is oatmeal topped with nuts or fresh fruit and a cup of low-fat milk to start your day. Foods like this will keep you going for the long haul, as will a diet rich in plant foods, including beans, peas, lentils, nuts, and seeds.
Keep the Momentum Going. Eat high-energy snacks throughout the day, such as fresh fruits, nuts, seeds, or hummus, made from chickpeas or beans and served with vegetables. Peanut butter on a whole grain cracker or spread on a slice of apple is a great energy booster—and convenient, too.
The Power of Plants. Plant foods contain hundreds of bioactive compounds—vitamins, antioxidants and other phytochemicals—that, when consumed, interact with cells, enzymes, hormones, and DNA, and play a role in controlling gene expression and cell changes, according to a report from the Institute of Food Technologists.
Density Counts. For optimum dietary benefits, fill up on foods that are less dense—that is, that contain fewer calories for their weight than more energy-dense foods, such as high-fat meat or cookies. These include high-volume fruits and vegetables—green salads, vegetable soups, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, melon, berries, and oranges.
Superfoods. These foods offer benefits beyond just providing energy to fuel your body. They include proteins, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beverages, and some flavor additions, such as healthy fats, herbs, spices, and chocolate (yes, dark chocolate).
But all foods must be part of a mindful, healthful daily eating pattern that includes plant proteins, fatty fish, beans, lentils, peas, and nuts and seeds, as well as lots of water to stay hydrated.
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