Natural, Healthy Energy: 3 Foods to Eat and 3 Foods to Avoid
Who isn’t in search of more energy! We have so much we need to and want to get done, and all too often we try to gain this energy through means that aren’t ultimately healthy. We rely on copious amounts of caffeine through energy drinks, coffee and soda, and try to stimulate ourselves with refined carbohydrates and sugar.
The problem with quick fixes for getting extra energy is they always damage our health in the long run. Excessive caffeine intake is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and those with excess caffeine intake may experience more headaches, nervousness and irritability.
Eating lots of refined carbohydrates and sugar to try to get energy is also not ideal. An excess of these items can increase risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and more.
So what can we do, from a dietary perspective, to attain and maintain healthy, natural energy? Here are 3 foods/drinks to avoid and 3 foods/drinks to eat
Foods to Avoid:
- Excessive caffeine
As stated above, too much caffeine can harm your health. Not only that, but it can, in the long run, zap your energy by overstimulating your system and unnaturally affecting your quality of sleep. Instead, reduce your caffeine to as minimal as possible, such as to only one cup of coffee per day, or switching from coffee to green tea. Many people find that after the withdrawal phase of reducing or eliminating caffeine, they have more energy, and certainly more consistent energy, without the side effects.
- Excessive refined carbohydrates and sugar
Again, many people turn to sweets and refined carbohydrates for energy, but similarly to excess caffeine, this can zap your energy in the long run, creating an ugly cycle. The junkier the food you eat, the more your body must expend energy to digest it. This leaves you more tired and needing more stimulation to correct it. To get energy, instead choose a smoothie containing fruit or eat some fruit whole. Fruit is a far healthier source of carbohydrates than refined sugar, and comes with lots of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
It might surprise you that meat is in this list of foods to avoid or reduce if you want steady energy! This is because meat is one of the most challenging things for your body to digest, and takes a great deal of your body’s daily energy to process. Reduce your meat intake as much as possible, and instead increase easier to digest, lighter plant-based proteins, such as chia and flax seeds, vegan protein powder, tempeh, tofu and edamame, beans and lentils, and protein-rich whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat and oats.
Foods to Eat:
Many people don’t know that a lack of energy can be a sign that you are dehydrated. For me, when I am low in energy, the very first thing I ask myself is, “Have I had enough water by this time of day? Am I dehydrated?” It is amazing how when you maintain good hydration, your energy can be far more consistent. Remember that caffeinated beverages will dehydrate you, and so do not count towards your hydration goals. A commonly recommended guideline is to drink half your body weight in ounces per day, however some people need more or less than this depending on their weight and their activity level or how much they sweat.
- Green Juice and Green Smoothies
Your leafy greens and green veggies are your best friend when it comes to natural, healthy energy! Juices and smoothies are fantastic way to get them in your body because they are convenient to carry around with you or go pick up and go, and they are very easy for your body to digest. Opt for juices and smoothies with leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and parsley, and other green product like celery and cucumber.
- Omega-rich seeds: chia, flax and hemp
Omega-rich seeds like chia, flax and hemp seeds are a great source of sustained energy. They are high in protein and the omegas are amazing for brain power. Try them in a smoothie, smoothie bowl, sprinkled onto salads or incorporated into salad dressings.
Experiment with these suggestions and give the changes a few weeks to fully take effect. And don’t neglect the fact that no amount of good nutrition will be able to fully compensate for simply not getting enough hours of sleep. So, prioritize your sleep and try these nutrition suggestions!