Eating for Energy Requires a High Energy Diet, Not a Quick Sugar Fix
The human body is a well-functioning machine that can convert food into energy very efficiently. When it comes to eating for energy, however, there is no quick fix. “High glycemic” foods, or foods that cause a rapid spike in blood sugar after eating them, may ultimately cause an energy crash within a few hours of eating them by triggering an exaggerated insulin response. The rush of insulin after eating results in blood sugar levels that can be even lower than before eating to begin with, leaving you feeling sluggish, tired…and hungry again.
To produce sustained energy levels, the food you choose should provide a gradual and steady release of energy. Mixed meals that contain a balanced amount of complex carbohydrates (instead of simple sugars), protein, healthy fat and fiber are metabolized in such a way to promote gradual absorption–and a slower and more sustained rise in blood sugar levels. As a result, you’ll feel fuller for longer, and benefit from a sustained feeling of physical energy and mental focus.
So what are some examples of energy-providing foods that deliver longer, more sustained energy levels?
- The sweet potato, which produces more edible energy than most food crops, is the prototypical energy super food. This popular root vegetable is high in complex carbohydrates, in the form of slower-releasing starch, required to store and sustain energy, while its B vitamins help the body to more efficiently turn carbohydrates into energy. Naturally sweet, it also is very high in vitamin A, in the form of the beta carotene, as well as vitamin C, minerals, iron and dietary fiber, which helps to slow stomach emptying and increase blood sugar levels more slowly.
- Healthy eating should include fruits. Unlike foods high in refined sugars, fruits contain energy-conserving complex carbohydrates and fiber. Among the higher fiber fruits include berries, melon and pears.
- Nuts and beans are an essential component of any energy diet. Nuts like almonds and cashews contain both protein and healthy monounsaturated fats that contribute to post-meal satiety. And beans of all sorts are excellent sources of protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber, providing a steady energy boost for hours after eating. If you’re feeling sluggish at 3pm, a cup of lentil or split pea soup, or a small chickpea salad can easily carry you through till that late dinner you’ve got scheduled.
- Low-fat dairy products are great sources of protein and a small amount of carbohydrate that can give you energy and help you feel satisfied. Good sources of low-fat dairy include plain yogurt topped with a handful of nuts or berries (try plain Greek yogurt for an double-dose of high-quality protein), reduced fat cheese with a handful of whole grain crackers, or a cup of skim milk with a small cup of whole grain cereal.