The Best Superfoods to Naturally Increase Energy
Are you struggling with feeling sluggish? Do you experience an afternoon slump in your energy level? Do you wake up feeling tired? While you may assume that you are sleeping well or that you are doing everything right for your health, your diet could be causing you to feel chronically tired or leading to your lack of pep.
Your energy levels are controlled within the cells of your body. Your digestive system breaks down the food you eat into its most essential parts, which are carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, as well as the various chemicals, minerals, and micronutrients that are found in your food. Each of these compounds and molecules is sent through your bloodstream, where they are captured by various cells in the body that need them to perform their work.
When you eat too much of one category, like fat, and not enough of another, like protein, your cells do not have all that they need to do their jobs. Carbohydrates are the driving force behind energy. When you digest food, carbs are immediately turned into their most basic form, which is sugar. Eating a lot of carbs results in very high levels of sugar in the body, and whatever sugars your cells cannot use at the moment is left to be stored. Your body converts this excess sugar into fat.
When you consume easily digestible carbohydrates, such as refined sugars and grains, the digestion process is rapid, resulting in a sudden rise in blood sugar levels, followed by a sudden “crash” when your body responds with high levels of insulin to reduce this excess sugar. Eating more complex carbs, including whole grains with natural fibers, means that digestion takes much longer and provides a steadier release of energy to your cells, giving you more consistent fuel.
Cells that lack the proper minerals, vitamins, and other micronutrients may also perform slowly or not at all, which can influence your energy level. Eating a wide variety of whole foods that are primarily plant-based ensures you get all the nutrients your body needs for optimal energy and health.
Balancing Energy with Superfoods
The foods that are going to help you maintain proper energy levels consistently throughout your day, then, are those that have lots of healthy, high-fiber carbs, ones with lots of micronutrients, and those that are low in east sources of energy that get burned very quickly but leave you feeling tired.
Whole fruits not only provide natural sugars for energy, but they are also excellent sources of dietary fiber, which give you lasting energy release. Fruits also contain a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals your cells need to function. Great fruits to eat for energy include:
- Goji berries
Fruit should be eaten whole or in its most natural form. Processing, cooking, and juicing fruit removes the beneficial fibers and concentrates the sugar levels, which can cause spikes in your blood sugar that result in fatigue later.
Your body and brain need fat to perform well, and certain types of fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, are lacking in most diets. Eating natural sources of healthy fats can combat fatigue as well as improve brain function, which can help you feel more energetic, as well.
Nuts and seeds are useful sources of healthy fats in moderation. They also contain fiber, which controls the release of energy over a more extended period. Seeds like chia, flax, and pumpkin are also rich in protein as well as omega-3s, making them nutritionally dense foods. Fatty acids help you store energy for later use as well as promote cellular function. Nuts that are good options for energy include almonds, walnuts, and cashews, which are also high in antioxidants, which are necessary for energy, too.
Certain types of fish are also good sources of omega-3s, especially those from cold water areas. Fish are also rich in other nutrients your body needs. Salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines are all examples of reliable sources of healthy fats.
Finally, avocados are a rich source of not only healthy fats but fiber and other nutrients. Avocadoes are high in B vitamins, which are used by the mitochondria of your cells to produce energy.
Grains that are minimally processed are best for getting reliable, slow-released energy that will not spike blood glucose levels. These complex carbohydrates are high in fiber and often still contain their bran, outer husk, or shell, which makes them harder to break down in the digestive process. The slower they are to digest, the slower you get the energy stored inside released into your system. Reliable sources of whole grains include:
- Brown rice
- Steel-cut oats
Lean proteins from plant sources are also high in fiber as well as nutrients that your body needs for energy. Lean protein from lentils, peas, beans, and other legumes provide important macronutrients while also delivering a slower release of energy. Beans are digested very slowly, which provides less fluctuation in blood sugar levels. And all these plants are also rich in minerals like magnesium, selenium, potassium, iron, and zinc. Excellent plant-based protein sources include:
- Black beans
- Kidney beans
- Split peas
- Black-eyed peas
- Pinto beans
Perhaps not a superfood that most people think too much about, water is essential for life as well as for energy. Without water, you will become tired and sluggish very quickly. Your body is at least 60 percent water, and if you do not replenish your stores throughout the day, your body and your mind will lack the energy it needs to function.
Eating to maintain your energy levels does not have to be complicated. Most of the foods on our list are simple plants that require minimal preparation. Eating a wide range of healthy foods provides your body with plenty of the macro- and micronutrients it needs to help you function well and feel energized all day long.