When it comes to getting that midday energy boost, energy bars and drinks aren’t always ideal. Energy bars are often little more than a source of calories, and energy drinks full of caffeine can cause unwanted side effects such as irritability, anxiety and withdrawal fatigue. In many cases, snacking on fruits and vegetables between meals can give you the extra energy boost you need until your next meal.
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Compared with many foods, bananas are relatively low in calories, but they are rich in antioxidants and healthy carbohydrates, which break down into blood sugar for fuel. Bananas happen to be low in fiber and are easily digestible, which means their sugar enters your body quickly for a rapid energy boost. Because bananas tend to break down quickly by themselves, their energy benefits might dwindle faster if you don’t include them with a protein or healthy fat. Dip your banana in peanut butter for a well-rounded, extended energy boost.
Not getting enough iron from foods might cause a condition called anemia, which means your body tissues aren’t receiving as much oxygen as they should be getting. The end result: constant fatigue. Spinach is a rich source of iron, containing about 3.2 g of iron when a half cup of it is boiled and drained, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. This makes up approximately 20 percent of your daily iron needs. You will easily meet your iron needs if you have 1 cup of boiled spinach a day and add in other iron-rich foods such as oysters, clams, lentils and pumpkin seeds.
Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits are rich in vitamin C, which offers your body some major benefits when it comes to energy. First, vitamin C plays a role in helping your body form amino acids, which are precursors to chemicals that regulate your energy levels. One of the first major signs of a vitamin C deficiency is fatigue, according to Merck Manuals. Also, including a vitamin C-rich fruit with your spinach or other iron-rich food will enhance your body’s ability to absorb the iron, according to Health Services at Columbia University. For instance, you could eat a warm spinach salad topped with sunflower seeds and fresh wedges of oranges to get a full iron boost out of your meal. Other sources of vitamin C include kiwi, strawberries and bell peppers.
Complex carbohydrates are made up of long sugar molecule chains that generally break down slowly in your body, according to the Franklin Institute. Starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes are considered complex carbohydrates, and they not only provide you with long-lasting energy, but also help keep you energized and reduce feelings of hunger in between meals. They also happen to be chock-full of other important energy nutrients such as vitamin C. If you’re planning to put in a long workout, baking a sweet potato and topping it with some no-sugar-added applesauce is a sweet way to build up energy stores.
- “Reader’s Digest”: Four Safe Energy-Boosting Foods and Drinks
- Harvard Health Publications: Are There Energy Boosting Foods?
- Health Services at Columbia University; "Iron, Calcium and Constipation, Oh My"; 1997
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron -- What is it?
- “Natural Health” Magazine; "5 Best Energy Foods"; R. Merkhofer
- University of Missouri Extension: Energy Rich Foods for Athletes
- Franklin Institute: Nourish – Carbohydrates Fuel Your Brain
- Merck Manuals: Vitamin C