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How To Eat For Energy (You Might Not Even Need Caffeine)

Feb 15, 2011
Coffee, tea and chocolate all contain a stimulant called caffeine which can provide a physical and mental boost that many of us have come to rely on and enjoy.  For most people, caffeine in moderation is perfectly fine and may even offer health benefits when found naturally-occurring in plants.  Everyone's body is different and for some who are sensitive, caffeine may best be avoided due to potential negative effects such as heart palpitations, anxiety, tremors, racing thoughts, and insomnia.

While there are no foods that mimic the energy boost that caffeine offers, there are definitely other ways of obtaining energy from your diet.  Calories are our body's source of energy and any food that contains calories (which is basically everything!) can technically be called an "energy" food.  This just goes to show that all those "energy bars" you see are really just providing calories.   It is the quality of those calories that counts.  They should be coming from whole food sources rather than protein isolates and other highly processed ingredients.
Calories from carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for our body and our brain.  However, while all carbohydrates supply energy, there are a specific type that you want to focus on for sustained energy and another sort to avoid because of the energy crash that they cause.

The carbohydrates to eat for longer lasting energy without the highs and lows are from foods that contain fiber.  Examples of these include whole grains, beans and legumes, fruits, and vegetables.  Try a peanut butter and banana sandwich on sprouted whole grain toast or a bowl of quinoa with black beans and vegetables.  These types of foods provide fiber which slows the release of carbohydrates into your body so that your energy levels are properly balanced.

Foods made with large amounts of sugar (think: candies, sodas) and processed grains (think: white bread, white rice, most crackers, cookies, muffins, cakes, bagels, pastas) have no fiber and although they provide carbohydrates, they are quickly released into your bloodstream due to lack of fiber.  What goes up must come down, and you will feel like you are on a horrible roller coaster ride of energy highs and lows.  These are the carbohydrates you want to avoid. Unfortunately, Americans consume the majority of their calories from these types of refined carbohydrates.  It's no wonder so many people are complaining of having no energy! 

Because of their detrimental effect on health, the term "carbohydrates" has become synonymous with "fattening."  This is simply another nutritional myth.  There are good carbohydrates that provide nutrition and balanced energy levels and there are bad carbohydrates that provide nothing but empty calories that lead to energy crashes.  To state it as plainly as possible:  Good Carbs= whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and Bad Carbs= white sugar, white flour, white bread, white rice.  

Check out the following for some more examples of healthy snacks to eat for energy:  
•    Oatmeal with sunflower seeds and raspberries
•    Whole wheat pita pocket filled with sprouts, hummus, and sun-dried tomatoes
•    Baked sweet potato topped with lentils, chopped steamed spinach, and salsa
•    Baked corn chips with bean dip and guacamole
•    Lara Bars

Corinne Goff is a Registered Dietitian who is absolutely passionate about food, health, and nutrition. Corinne has a BA in Psychology from Salve Regina University and a BS in Nutrition from the University of Rhode Island. As a nutritionist, her objective is to help people reach their health goals by offering a personalized holistic approach to wellness that incorporates natural foods and lifestyle changes. She works together with her clients to develop daily improvements that they feel comfortable with and that are realistic. She believes that the focus on wholesome, nutrient-rich, real food, is the greatest possible way to become healthier, have more energy, decrease chances of chronic disease, and feel your best. For more information, please visit her website at RI Nutrition Housecalls.com.

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