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11 Foods that Naturally Give You Energy
11 Foods That Naturally Give You Energy
We know how busy your life can be. Balancing a career, a family, and a healthy lifestyle can be exhausting. For many, a lack of sleep and an overwhelming amount of responsibilities can lead to burnout—and that’s something we’d like to avoid!
When sleepiness strikes, it’s tempting to reach for a sugary soda or coffee concoction to spike your energy levels. While these treats may help you feel a temporary alertness, they’re also prone to causing an unpleasant crash later. However, there are other edible (or drinkable) options available to both satiate your hunger and keep your energy levels sky high.
Though there are dozens of options out there, we’ve compiled 11 of our top picks. All of these energizing foods are nutritious, delicious, and give you the boost you need—naturally.
- An A-peel-ing Treat: Bananas
Is it just us, or are bananas nature’s most perfect fruit? Not only are they super healthy, they’re also incredibly versatile: bananas are a perfect natural sweetener and thickener, and can even be used as an egg substitute in baking.
Due to their high levels of vitamin B6, potassium, and carbohydrates, bananas are a perfect choice for giving yourself a healthy dose of natural energy.
Looking for some ways to incorporate bananas into your daily diet? We love blending them into smoothies—they provide a silky, creamy texture and gentle sweetness that can’t be matched. Bananas are also excellent frozen—they make a fantastic healthy alternative to popsicles or ice cream. Finally, we love a whole banana spread with almond or peanut butter—yum!
- (Brown) Rice is Nice!
Rice wears many, many hats. Depending on your preference, you can consume this beloved product in a variety of ways: steamed whole, crushed into flours and cooked into noodles, cracked and stewed into a porridge, or soaked in water and enjoyed as a beverage. Many cultures around the world rely on rice as a staple ingredient and revolve their meals around the tasty grain.
Aside from taste and versatility, rice contains another noteworthy asset: it’s an energizing superstar. In particular, brown rice is especially helpful for boosting the power of your mind and body; it’s packed with vitamins and minerals that help banish that dreaded feeling of exhaustion. In fact, one cup of cooked brown rice contains a hefty 3.5 grams of fiber—and that’s not all. It’s loaded with the mineral manganese (it contains around an impressive 88% per serving), which aids your enzymes in the process of breaking down carbs and proteins, thus producing energy. Furthermore, brown rice has a significantly low glycemic index count, which allows your body to maintain regular blood sugar levels, hence keeping your energy consistent all day.
When it comes to cooking and serving brown rice, the possibilities are practically endless. For hot summer days, we like to use the chewy, flavorful grains to make a cold rice salad. Chopped raw vegetables (like cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes,) chilled brown rice, some nuts, and a mountain of fresh herbs go beautifully together with a big squeeze of lemon juice and olive oil. It’s delicious, refreshing, and will keep you going all day.
- The Magic of Water
So, it’s not exactly a food, per se, but we couldn’t write this list and forget to include it. After all, this hydrating life force is, among other things, the key to feeling alert, energized, and ready to take on responsibilities.
Have you ever been dehydrated? The symptoms and side effects can be pretty nasty—and go well beyond the feeling of thirst. It can make your lips, eyes, and mouthfeeluncomfortably dry, cause lightheadedness or dizzy spells, or even wipe your energy levels.
By drinking plenty of water, you’re far less likely to fall victim to the exhaustion that comes with dehydration. This especially applies when you’ve been sweating—either from a great workout session, or a sunny day on the beach.
For some, only drinking water can begin to feel a little boring. We recommend infusing jugs of h20 with your favorite fruits—simply slice and dice your produce of choice, and leave it soaking overnight in your fridge. In the morning, you can strain it right into your water bottle. Whether you choose split strawberries, citrus wedges, torn mint leaves, or even cucumber slices, you’ll be left with a fragrant and tasty drink—naturally!
- Nutty Delight: Quinoa
Quinoa may have only gained popularity in the US over the past decade or so, but it’s a staple crop in Peru, where it’s been cultivated for thousands of years.It’s beloved for its toothsome and nutty flavor, as well as its chewy-soft texture, and can be served at any temperature.
In terms of energy, quinoa packs a serious punch. After all, this tasty seed is loaded with protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins. It’s high in carbohydrates, which is notorious for causing sluggishness, but since it has a low glycemic index, the starches are absorbed at a slower pace—hence keeping energy levels consistent.
Some of our favorite uses for quinoa? It’s commonly used in grain-based salad—try it in your next tabouli! Sometimes, we swap it out for pasta and bathe it in our favorite pestos and marinaras. It can also be purchased and consumed as a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour— and it makes delightfully crispy cookies.
- Hot, Warm, or Cold: Porridge is “Just Right”
When Goldilocks tucked into the three bears’ bowls of porridge, she was actually doing herself quite a solid. After all, oats are a fantastic source of energy—likely, the bites she took gave her the boost she needed to get the heck out of dodge when the bears returned home.
What Goldie probably didn’t know was that oats contain all sorts of energizing vitamins and minerals, like iron, manganese, and vitamin B6. These components help one’s body to produce energy. But that’s not where the only reason a bowl of oats can be so fortifying. The product also contains beta-glucan, a type of fiber that enables your blood to absorb glucose at a slower rate.
If a steaming bowl of porridge isn’t your ideal meal, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy this special grain. It can be mixed with your favorite dried fruits and nuts and enjoyed with yogurt as a granola, baked into your favorite healthy cookie recipe, or soaked overnight in milk (and your favorite toppings) to make bircher muesli.
- Hummus: The Perfect Dip
Hummus is a Jack (City) of all trades if you ask us. It can be eaten on practically any occasion—as a midday office pick me up, garnished with silky tahini sauce and olive oil as a starter, or slathered atop grilled meals or baked falafels, piled into a pocket of fluffy pita, and nestled amongst chopped salads. It’s creamy, full of flavor, and goes with a grand array of dishes. Is there anything else to say?
As it turns out, yes. The traditional components of hummus—garbanzo beans, tahini paste, lemon juice, and olive oil—are all especially energizing foods! Chickpeas, the star ingredient of hummus, is comprised of fiber and energizing complex carbs, while tahini and olive oil are packed with healthy fats, and assist your body in absorbing carbs at a slower rate. (This is handy for avoiding spikes in your blood sugar levels—never pleasant.)
- Oranges: A Citrus Kiss
There’s a reason so many people choose orange juice as their breakfast beverage of choice. Not only does the orange contain a spectacularly sunshiney flavor (and color,) it’s well known for being a rich source of vitamin C—eating just one will satisfy your Daily Required Intake by over 100%.
It’s vitamin C content may get all the fame and glory, but oranges contain quite a few healthy, boosting elements. They’re packed with antioxidants, which research has shown can potentially tackle the exhaustion that comes from oxidative stress.
If fruit juice isn’t your first choice, oranges can be enjoyed in plenty of ways. They’re beautiful in salad dressings, make for a fun marinade for barbecues, can be churned into fabulous sorbets, and of course, can be enjoyed whole.
- Cool Beans
Delicious, nutritious beans are a spectacular source of plant-based protein and are used in countless ways across the globe. Without beans or legumes, we would have no tofu, no peanut butter, and no soy sauce—just to name a few.
Despite the many differences in flavor, appearance, and cultivation climate, all beans tend to be on the same page, nutritionally. Generally, they are protein, carb, and fiber-rich, and are a strong source of antioxidants, which are both energizing and anti-inflammatory.
When you consume beans, your body digests them slowly. Because of this, your blood sugar doesn’t spike or drop— they remain stable for hours, thus giving you a steadier, more consistent level of energy.
With recipes for beans spanning the globe, it’s fun to find uses for beans that speak directly to you. Plenty of soups, stews, salads, and casseroles use beans as their main ingredient, and they’re also delicious on their own.
- The Virtues of Green Tea
Even if you’ve never had a sip of green tea before, it’s likely you’re aware of its many health benefits. After all, green tea is extolled as being one of the healthiest food or drink items out there—a simple browse through a supplement or health food store will find dozens of products that boast it as their top ingredient.
When it comes to finding natural sources of energy, green tea is your new best friend. After all, it contains actual caffeine—though only about half as much as coffee, which makes it a gentler option.In fact, the L-theanine found in green tea actually can temper the negative effects that are often associated with caffeine—y’know, jitters, anxiety, and the other reasons one might find themselves reading about foods that naturally give you energy!
Green tea can be consumed hot or iced, and it’s especially nice with some local honey. Nowadays, many coffee shops and cafes hawk tasty— and Instagram-worthy— “matcha lattes,” which rely on specially-grown green tea leaves which have been ground and dried.
- Sweet, Sweet, Sweet Potato
No offense to regular old spuds, but we’re totally team sweet potato. After all, sweet potatoes don’t just taste amazing— they’re another all-natural energizing superstar.
For starters, they are absolutely loaded with vitamin A—one single (mid-sized) sweet potato contains more than four times the Required Daily Intake for the stuff. Aside from the staggeringly high vitamin count, sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, complex carbs, and manganese.They can be digested at a slow pace—which, as we’ve learned, allows your energy levels to stay stable throughout the day. Furthermore, the high levels of manganese present make for a more straightforward nutrient breakdown.
Sweet potatoes are so tasty and brilliantly hued, it’s tempting to use them in any recipe that calls for plain white spuds. They puree beautifully into soups, and can even make a fun dip or spread. They also add a deep flavor and rich, moist texture to cakes and muffins.
- Leafy Greens: The Rumors are True!
Leafy greens are famous for being healthy, and we can’t refute that. They are healthy. They’re also great for keeping you alert, aware, and ready to tackle your day.
Because of the high levels of vitamins(A, K, C, and E,) potassium, calcium, and magnesium, leafy greens like spinach and kale are hailed as being some of the best foods a person can eat. They’re antioxidant-rich, fibrous, and filled with folic acid. All of these aspects make for a healthy plate and lots of energy. However, there’s one particular element that gives roughage an extra energizing kick: iron. Though it doesn’t contain as much iron as the creators of Popeye might have thought, dark leafy greens still are packed with the stuff. As it is, fatigue is perhaps the most recognizable symptom of an iron deficiency. By consuming iron-rich foods, you are adding your red blood cells in their delivery of oxygen in your body. In short: it’s going to perk you up. 
Whether you enjoy them slow cooked alongside barbecue, cooked into a tasty curry, blended into green juice, or tossed in a hearty salad, these leaves will be an asset to your day.
At Jack City Fitness, health and nutrition are a part of daily life. We love working with our partners on choosing natural and delicious foods to enhance their energy and feel their very best, whether they’re at the gym or just going about their daily errands. We offer nutritional and fitness coaching, group classes,and more. Get in touch today to see why we’re the #1 fitness center in Boise!