How to eat healthy
31 Healthy Foods That Give You Energy
Want to banish tiredness and increase your energy levels throughout the day? The answer lies in what you eat. There are a number of energy-boosting healthy foods out there to help you increase your productivity and keep up with your day to day activities. Let’s take a look at what should be on your plate.
Foods that give you energy
- Brown rice & pasta
- Brown bread
- Sweet potatoes
- Greek yoghurt
- Nuts & seeds
- Goji berries
- Dark chocolate
- Green tea
- Yerba maté
- Olive oil
- Milk or soya milk1
What does a healthy diet look like?
We’ve all heard about the importance of a ‘healthy diet’, but what’s actually recommended?
- Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- Drink a minimum of six glasses of water a day (2 Litres)
- Have a portion of wholegrain, starchy carbohydrates with each meal (e.g. bread, rice, pasta)
- Choose low-sugar dairy or dairy alternatives
- Eat small amounts of unsaturated fats
- Eat more protein (e.g. meat, fish, beans, pulses). Have two portions of fish every week (1 of which should be oily)2
A healthy, balanced diet is an essential ingredient when it comes to keeping energy levels up.
A closer look at healthy foods that give you energy
If you’re prone to feeling tired and run down during the day, your diet may well be the culprit. We’ve all heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’, so let’s ensure we’re fuelling our bodies with the right kinds of foods.
Eat carbohydrates for slow-release energy
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for your body. Your body converts carbs to glucose, which fuels the body’s cells.3
Slow-release carbohydrates are essential for keeping energy levels stable for prolonged periods of time. Opt for wholegrains where possible, as high-sugar options will spike your blood sugar, then cause you to crash and feel tired later.
Brown rice, pasta & bread
Undoubtedly staples when it comes to energy-fuelling carbs, wholegrains such as brown rice, pasta and bread should form the basis of many meals. They keep blood sugar levels stable, meaning you’re less likely to reach for high-calorie, high-sugar quick fixes.
They’re also packed with fiber, helping you to stay feeling full, and therefore recommended for weight loss.4 If you’re looking to reduce appetite and hunger, eating more fiber is a must.
You can’t really go wrong when it comes to oats, a whole grain packed with key minerals and vitamins, as well as fibre. This low-glycemic carbohydrate provides lasting energy, without causing a sugar crash.
Nutritious, versatile, gluten-free and high in protein, quinoa is a superfood that will help with blood sugar control.5
Potatoes & sweet potatoes
Thanks to the likes of the ketogenic diet, potatoes have been demonised among the diet industry – for no good reason. They’re fat-free, extremely filling, delicious and can aid in weight loss.6
Get your fruits and vegetables in
Fruits and vegetables are packed with fibre and contain essential nutrients and minerals. A diet high in them can help protect you against heart disease, cancer and diabetes.7 It’s recommended to eat a variety of them (at least five portions a day) to ensure you get enough vitamins. These will keep you going throughout the day, while helping you stay fuller for longer.
The humble banana is one of the best foods to eat when it comes to giving you sustained energy, as they’re a complex carb packed with potassium. The fibre content aids the slow digestion of its natural sugars.8
Fibre, nutrients and antioxidants in one – apples are great for providing long-lasting energy.
Beetroots, or beets, are an extremely healthy root vegetable, packed with dietary fibre and minerals. They also contain nitrates, proven to enhance physical performance during high-intensity exercise. They increase stamina and boost oxygen use, resulting in a better overall performance.9
The likes of spinach and kale are also household names when it comes to energy boosting foods. This is thanks to the fact they’re packed with nutrients such as iron, calcium and potassium.
Strawberries can be added to many meals, or they’re great as a snack. They contain phenols, essential antioxidants that help the body create energy.
Avocados are a well-established superfood containing nutrients, fiber and protein to sustain energy levels throughout the day.
The antioxidants in goji berries have been proven to provide energy, enhance athletic performance and ability to focus.10
Fill up on protein
Protein is proven to reduce appetite and hunger levels, while increasing muscle mass.11 For this reason, it’s recommended to eat a high-protein diet, particularly if you’re trying to lose weight. High-protein foods can also give you energy all day, such as:
Low in calories and high in protein, eggs can form the basis of many healthy meals. They’re also rich in choline, an essential nutrient that boosts metabolism and energy levels.12
Higher in protein than regular yoghurt, greek yoghurt packs plenty of B12, a vitamin that is necessary for energy and healthy brain function. Vegetarians can often be deficient in B12, as it’s commonly found in meat, so greek yoghurt is a good meat-free alternative to traditional sources.13
High in both fibre and protein, this legume is a frontrunner when it comes to healthy fuel for the body. Lentils are a superfood proven to help ward off disease, prevent blood sugar spikes and keep your energy on track.14
Fun fact: beans can boost your brain power by helping your cells produce energy, packed with vitamin B. Black beans, chickpeas and kidney beans are just some of your options. Their plant-based protein and fibre will keep your body going for an extended period of time.15
Edamame beans in particular are extremely high in protein, while also proven to lower cholesterol without raising blood sugars.16
Another worthy mention are soybeans, mainly made up of protein while being low in carbs and sugar, meaning they won’t cause a spike in blood sugar after a meal.
Fish, particularly oily or fatty fish, is good to incorporate into your healthy eating regime. Salmon is one of the healthiest, a source of lean protein that keeps you feeling fuller for longer. Its omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to promote heart and brain health.17
Cod, plaice, sardines and haddock are also examples of seafood superfoods.
When we think of ‘energy’ we tend to think ‘carbs’. While it’s true our body derives most of its energy from carbohydrates, we shouldn’t rely on these alone; that will make you feel less energetic. Chicken has a good combination of protein and fat, helping to keep you revved up throughout the day.
Chicken also contains B vitamins, which help convert carbs into energy. It also contains potassium, which has all the components the body needs to make energy.18
It’s not all about fish and meat – tofu is a household name when it comes to protein, while being an excellent source of amino acids, iron, calcium and other micronutrients19 needed to fuel your body throughout the day.
The healthiest diets aren’t ‘fat free’
While saturated and trans fats can be bad for your health, linked to obesity and high cholesterol levels,21 you shouldn’t avoid fat altogether. Some help promote good health and keep you feeling energised for longer, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
These can be found in:
Nuts and seeds
While it’s important to control portions here, as nuts can be very high in calories, they’re a great snack and packed with nutrients. It’s useful to count calories here to make sure you’re not overeating.
Hummus has a low Glycemic Index, so may help control blood sugar levels, preventing energy crashes. Some studies have shown that the low GI diet may result in weight loss, reduced blood sugar levels, and lower the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.22
Dark chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, both of which will boost your energy levels.23 Generally, the darker the chocolate, the less sugar it has – meaning you’re less likely to crash later.
Healthy food can be flavourful – in fact it should be! Olive oil is a healthier alternative to sunflower oil (for example), packed with antioxidants and containing strong anti-inflammatory properties.24
Meet the real energy drinks
Many products out there claim to be ‘energy drinks’ but in reality, they’re just packed with sugar and aren’t good for your health at all.
Instead of paying attention to marketing gimmicks, here are the real frontrunners that will quench your thirst while giving you an energy boost.
Studies have proven that many people have more stable energy and are much more productive when they drink green tea. Caffeine isn’t the only brain-booster found within one cup. It also contains L-theanine, which improves brain function.25
For many of us, coffee and energy mean the same thing. This isn’t without reason, as caffeine is proven to help people feel less tired and improve energy levels.26 It also contains plenty of antioxidants and beneficial nutrients that lower the risk of certain diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.
By staying hydrated, you stay energised – so make sure you’re getting your 6-8 glasses a day. Dehydration leads to fatigue, as it impacts the flow of oxygen to the brain. This in turn will make you feel tired and less alert.27
Yerba maté is a herbal tea rich in nutrients, containing around 85 mg of caffeine per cup.28 While this is less than coffee, it’s more than a cup of tea. Therefore, it can increase your energy levels and make you feel more awake.
Want to start eating healthily?
Healthy eating isn’t about following a rulebook, or getting things ‘perfect’. It’s about building healthy habits that you follow for the majority of the time. Small changes can make a big difference in the long run.